When the world changes, one of the most significant things that could happen is that your computer will no longer work and/or you will no longer have access to the internet. For many, many people (me included) this will be a huge lifestyle change. My life is stored on my computer, and over the past year there have probably been less than a handful of days when I haven’t accessed the internet. That includes vacations. On most days, I access the internet many, many times.
I suppose I should be more clear here — any and all digital devices may not work. I’m not just talking about your desktop or your laptop, I’m also talking about your tablet, your iPad and your smart phone. By the way, if none of those things work, it’s also likely that your car, your clocks, cable or satellite TV, your ebook reader, and all other electronic devices won’t work either.
So start your prepping efforts by committing to maintaining some manual records.
Start a notebook. Keep your most critical information in it. Yes, it’s important to learn the necessary skills and practice using them…but my guess is that you live in the same world as me — a busy, busy, busy one. I don’t have time to learn all the skills I want to learn, let alone practice them regularly. And things we don’t practice we don’t remember. Repetition is the key to learning. And when we’re under stress, we remember even less. So start a notebook.
Going Back to Pencil & Paper
OK, not really, but it will feel like it. Your goal is to have a notebook that reasonably mirrors your electronic records. The key word there is reasonably. We don’t want you killing tree every time you make a minor update to your digital records. But it does make sense to print out information periodically or when you make significant changes to them. So buy a notebook, fill it with useful information and commit to keeping it reasonably up to date. (Our guess is that once started, your notebook will blossom to a series of notebooks or even a whole drawer in your filing cabinet.)
What You’ll Need:
- A 3″ 3-ring binder or a series of smaller binders. I personally prefer multiple smaller binders.
- A set of dividers
- Clear plastic sheet protectors
- A little time to get started – an hour will give you a good start, two will get you further.
- Our Table of Contents can be downloaded here.
Contents of Your Notebook
Your notebook should include information about the preparations you’ve made as well as instructions that will help you live in a world that has drastically changed. For example, having a wonderful pantry of dehydrated food stored won’t be very helpful if you don’t know how to cook with it. You’ll want to include recipes for cooking with your dehydrated food. Imagine that the world of googling is gone. What information do you still want at your fingertips?
Everyone’s notebook will be different just as each of us has different books on our bookshelves. Here are the contents we recommend for getting started:
Personal Information – This section will hold personal identification that you don’t carry every day as well as financial and key contact information. Be sure to include:
- Things like birth certificates and passports here or include a note here about where you keep them. (We keep those things in what we call our “Grab-N-Go” (GNG) folder, so our notebook only reminds us where the GNG folder is.)
- A copy of the most significant documents for everyone in your family – driver’s license, social security card, other licenses that may be applicable (for example, a concealed carry license, a medical license, etc.)
- A list of all bank accounts and credit cards.
- Insurance information
- Key contact phone numbers and addresses (we include emails because you never know when you might get short-term access to the internet from a location or program that doesn’t have access to your contacts info.)
- In this area, you might want a separate sheet of paper for each person in your family. Include the following information:
- A list of the prescription drugs taken regularly.
- Dietary restrictions, if any.
- Nutrition supplements taken regularly.
- A copy of their living will and/or healthcare power of attorney (or a note about where it’s kept). This could help you avoid very difficult situations in an emergency.
- Basic first aid instructions or a reference where to find the information (such as the “Boy Scout Handbook” you have on your bookshelf”).
Food Preps – Be sure to include:
- A list of the food you have stored. You’ll want to maintain a record of the long-term storage food purchases you make. Most people will keep those records on their computer. Periodically or when you make major purchases, simply print out a new summary for your notebook.
- Recipes for using your long term storage food unless you’re familiar with cooking with the food you’ve stored. Even if you know how to cook with your food without recipes, having them in the notebook could be a big help because in a disaster you may not be available to do the cooking. You may be injured or stuck in some other location. Do those left at home a favor by having recipes that will help them use the food you’ve stored.
- Gardening/farming helps. We’ve started gardening, but we don’t yet know when is the best time to plant each item in our garden or how long we can expect before harvesting. If you’ve stored heritage seeds, you can include their location.
Prepper How To’s – There are so many things you’ll want to know how to do if the world ceases to exist as it is today. For example, if we lose gas and/or electricity for an extended period of time, I’m going to want to know how to build a rocket stove since I haven’t made one yet. I also want to build a solar oven but haven’t done it yet. Those instructions go in the How To’s section. You might also want to include recipes for things you typically buy but may need to make in a disaster (such as soap, candles, etc.). This section could get really blown out and may become several notebooks of their own, but start with just one section in your first notebook.
Resources – This section answers the question “What people or organizations or places might provide me with what I can’t provide myself during an emergency?” Your needs might be for locally grown food, water, people willing to barter, medical attention, or any of a number of other things. These may be people and organizations you can easily name off the top of your head today. In an emergency you may be rattled. The notebook becomes your brain’s assistant. Here’s the lists we suggest you start with:
- List of people with skills you may need in an emergency. Include contact information.
- List of key websites you can access for information or help. If you have internet access you don’t want to waste precious time, power or accessibility doing google searches for that site you always visited for info.
- List of key local and national organizations and contact information.
- List of people with whom you can barter for needed supplies or services.
- List of local resources such as natural springs or farms.
Just Get It Started!
Don’t wait until you have everything you need for your notebook, just get it started. Once it’s started, you can add to it, delete from it, etc. For example, in the recipes section, just put the first 5 recipes you find into your notebook. Don’t wait until you’ve evaluated them or you may never get them into your notebook. I’ve spent too long saying “Well, I don’t want to put the recipe in my notebook until I’ve tried it.” That’s foolish thinking. Just put it in. When you get around to trying it, you can always change or delete it. But if a disaster occurs before then, you’ll have something in your notebook!
Download our Prepper Notebook Table of Contents here. It will help you get started. We’ve provided it as both a PDF and a customizable Word file.
This is not something you create and then put in a drawer. It is a living, breathing document. Update it often.
I am an ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripture refers to it as the Gospel of peace (Romans 10:15, Ephesians 6:15). I am called, as are all believers, to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). God has made it clear to me that my purpose in life, through writing, preaching and teaching, is to create an environment in which people can grab hold of the grace God has for them each day. I blog regularly pursuing that purpose at www.ApprehendingGrace.com. While I am not a pastor, I preach about three times a month urging myself and others to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbor as they love themselves.
When I began to consider using lethal force to defend myself or a loved one against someone threatening to do severe bodily harm, headlines like this ran through my mind: “Assailant Killed by Local Minister.” I wasn’t very comfortable with that headline. Of course, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with any headline that said I had killed someone. The more I thought about it, the more I realized some of my friends who would have a whole lot more trouble with it than others. While I am generalizing, I’ve found that my “suburban” friends would be less accepting than my “country” friends. In the country (which I currently live on the outskirts of), protecting oneself and one’s property is much more accepted.
But I didn’t want to base my position on what my friends and others would think. I needed to answer this question for myself: “Is it OK for a Christian to use lethal force in self defense?”
If you choose to own guns for self defense, get training. We say that in nearly every blog about guns. What doesn’t get said as often is this: If you choose to own guns for self defense, be sure you are emotionally prepared to use them. Any hesitation caused by uncertainty when facing an assailant can give him an opportunity to do you great harm. Yes, you must hesitate to be absolutely sure of your target and what is beyond it, but you must not hesitate about the ethics of your action in that last moment. That means you must wrestle with it now, before you are in the situation. Experts agree: If you can’t shoot to kill, don’t carry a gun.
Questions to Consider
I’m going to ask some questions for you to consider and I’ll tell you the answers I’ve come up with. Please know that in no way am I casting judgment on you if your answer is different from mine. I’m just providing the questions as points for you to consider. Additionally, I’m consistently using a male pronoun to refer to the assailant. I am not saying that all assailants are men. I’m simply avoiding using the clumsy construction of he/she and him/her. So, on to the points to consider:
- Emotionally, can I shoot someone who is intent on harming me? Yes, I believe I can. If the situation is one of my life or his, I believe I have the instinct and will to live that allows and enables me to shoot an assailant. That may not be the answer all of you come up with. If your answer is “no,” let me ask a secondary question: Emotionally, can you shoot someone who is intent on harming your spouse, parents or children? Many who say they cannot save their own life say they can save other family members. If you can save your child’s life, can you voluntarily allow that child to grow up without you in their life? To choose not to save yourself can mean that your parents lose a child, your spouse becomes a widow/widower and your children lose a parent.
- Is protecting myself from death or bodily harm, consistent with my Christian faith? There are many ways to approach this question and this is by no means a full Biblical treatment of the subject. Let me start by asking some similar questions.
- Is it a sin for a policeman to kill someone who has a gun pointed at me? If the answer to that is “no,” – that is, a policeman can protect my life – how can it be a sin for me to protect my own life or the life of a loved one?
- Do I have a moral obligation to protect those whom God has placed under my protection, for example, my children? Again, if the answer to that is “yes,” how can it not be a sin for me to kill someone intent on killing them but a sin to kill someone intent on killing me?
When faced with a decision about whether or not to kill someone intent on taking my life, it’s important to frame the situation properly. I didn’t set up the situation – I didn’t decide that someone should die. Rather, I decided that I would not be a victim. In the normal course of life, that is not a sin. In the normal course of life, we are not called to die simply because someone wants to kill us. There may be times in our lives when we are called upon to sacrifice our life for the good of the Gospel. That is a different situation and assumes that God has called us to such a purpose.
Dealing with Difficult Scriptures
The following passage follows a heading that reads “Teaching About Revenge” in my New Living Translation of the Bible. The heading in my King James Version reads “He Exhorts us to Suffer Wrong.”
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Matthew 5:38-42 (NIV)
One important thing to note at the onset is that Jesus isn’t dealing with the possibility of death in any of these situations.
- In verses 38 Jesus is referring to the Old Testament law, which was often practiced without grace and forgiveness. Yes, you have the right to take someone’s eye if they gouge yours out.
- But when being insulted (which is what verse 39 refers to – a slap on the cheek was an extreme insult in the culture), we’re to let that to roll off our backs. We’re not to retaliate against the evil person who insults us.
- Perhaps someone wants to sue you (verse 40). Let him – in fact, settle out of court by giving him more than he wants.
- In New Testament times, Roman soldiers had the right to force a Jew to carry their load for up to a mile. You can imagine that the Jews deeply resented this. Again, this passage falls under the topic of revenge or suffering wrong. Jesus tells them to accept the rule of law and go beyond what is required (verses 41-42).
Each of these situations deals with where our heart is – are we being appropriately loving and submissive. None of them deal with threat of bodily harm or death.
There is a lot of killing in the Bible, and much of it is at the expressed command of God. I am not implying that God is telling me or you or anyone else to kill someone. I am saying that God allows killing of the unrighteous. If someone has approached me threatening to kill or maim me, that person has chosen to be the unrighteous. I am not the one who has made a decision that someone would die today. Rather, I am deciding that I will do my best to live.
I believe that God has a call on everyone’s life. We each have a choice whether or not we will pursue God’s calling. I am pursuing it to the best of my ability and with His grace.
Am I Trusting God?
A final argument that I had to address – if I chose to carry a gun for self defense, was I truly trusting my life to God? I can absolutely say “yes.” A million different things can happen during a confrontation that can affect the outcome. (OK, maybe not a million. Perhaps only 27,000.) If God is using some assailant to end my life because my numbered days have been fulfilled, then having a gun on my belt won’t make a difference in the outcome. Similarly, my gun might jam or I might freeze and I may still make it out alive. But I believe that I have a responsibility to care for myself and my family to the best of my ability while trusting God with the outcomes. I trust God to provide for my needs yet I go to work every day to pay for food, clothing and shelter. I trust God for my life and health, yet I pay for health insurance and I visit a doctor when needed. I also wear heavy clothes in the winter and try to avoid tainted food.
Yes, I’m trusting God. And I have a gun within arm’s reach as I sit here writing. And I pray I never have to use it.
American Blackout, a two-hour made-for-TV movie, aired on National Geographic Channel this past Sunday night. It was a dramatization of what could happen in the ten days following a nationwide electrical grid failure caused by a cyber attack. This is a very real threat. Just Google “power grid cyber attack” and look at all the hits you get. Things like this report from Bloomberg.com: Power Grid Cyber Attack Seen Leaving Millions in the Dark for Months
I found the movie to be reasonably realistic. I think it downplayed violence, but it certainly didn’t eliminate it altogether. It followed a number of people through the circumstances the blackout left them in, including a prepper family, some urban apartment dwellers, and a group of college students. Seeing how each of them dealt with the emergency provided a good learning experience. Here are some of my lessons learned from American Blackout:
- Emergencies can happen suddenly. We’ve been seeing an economic catastrophe heading our way for years and have been given lots of time to at least begin to prepare for it. With other disasters, like hurricanes, you only have a couple of days advanced warning. Certainly enough time to bug out if you choose to do so and get to a place of safety. But there are some calamites, such as blackouts and earthquakes or getting laid off from your job, that can hit you with no notice. You can’t always count on having the luxury of forewarning. You can’t start prepping when you’re up to your neck in alligators. Whatever you have prepped when one of these sudden emergencies hits is all that you’re going to have. This movie drove that point home for me. I’m doing OK in some prepping categories, but hugely deficient in other key areas. I need to apply myself to filling in some of those gaps, because something might happen with no warning.
- You don’t want to be in a city when it happens. City dwellers must get very tired of hearing this from their county cousins, but it’s true. It boils down to supply and demand. During a crisis in a city, the scale is going to be tipped way over on the demand side, far beyond the ability to supply. The needs will be overwhelming. Which leads to the next lesson learned…
- Things can get very bad in a very short time. People become desperate quickly. I work as a clerk in a rural hospital. I have to ask people a lot of very personal questions and I have to try to collect any co-payments that are owed at the time of service. I’ve never gotten used to the number of people who are unemployed, or even the number of working people who can’t pay their co-payment tonight because they don’t get paid until Friday. For years I’ve heard that a lot of people are one paycheck away from poverty or homelessness. I see evidence of it all the time at my job. Right now there’s a huge safety net in the form of Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare. All of that comes from our bankrupt government by means of tax paying workers. What happens if it all dries up suddenly? Take a look at these recent news articles:
Food Bank CEO warns of riots over major food stamp cuts
Walmart customers riot when unable to use EBT cards
Like I said, things can get very bad, very quickly. Be prepared.
- The likelihood of collateral accidents rises sharply, with much greater impact. American Blackout showed a lot of traffic accidents due to all the traffic signals being out of service as a result of the power outage. Losing your means of transportation during an emergency takes a lot of options off the table for you and puts you in a position of being more dependent on others at a very bad time. The movie illustrated the heightened danger of house fires because people were lighting their homes with candles. Having your house catch on fire can wipe out all of your preps and make your homeless and penniless in an instant. The movie showed one guy who only had an electric can opener, now completely useless with the power being out. He was trying to puncture the top of a can of food with a butcher knife and (predictably) cut a gash in his hand. It’s bad enough to get in a car wreck or have a house fire when you can count on your insurance company to jump in and make you whole again, but if you take them out of the equation, you’re screwed. Having a significant personal injury can be terrible even when you can get quick medical assistance, but if every hospital is overwhelmed with major trauma cases, you’re on your own. Accidents happen during the best of times. If they happen during the worst of times, even a relatively minor event might have disproportionate consequences. How are you equipped to deal with such things?
- 911 won’t respond to your call for help. In a full-blown emergency, your house fire or medical emergency or home invasion won’t get the kind of attention from the authorities that you normally would. They will already be deluged with addressing public safety issues. It won’t take the bad guys long to figure out that the cops can’t roll for every victim who needs help. You’re going to have to fend for yourself in every way. How well are you prepared to deal with your own medical, fire, and security vulnerabilities?
Did I “enjoy” American Blackout? No. There was nothing enjoyable about it. But I hope I learned something from it.
If you missed it this past Sunday, you still have a couple more opportunities to watch or record it. National Geographic Channel is going to rebroadcast American Blackout this coming Sunday, Nov.3 at 10am, and again on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 3pm. Take notes. There may be a quiz when you least expect it.
People become preppers for many different reasons. Phil outlined some of them in this blog. Regardless of your reasons for prepping, “scenario thinking” can open your eyes to new situations you need to address, identify holes in your planning, or just help you re-prioritize where you are in your efforts. Here are just a couple of examples. As you read through each of them, pause to put yourself in the situation and consider what your actions would be.
- Early in the day you learn of a major storm being projected to hit your area within the next four hours. Do you bug out or bug in? What should you have in your car to help make your plan work? Is there anything you’d take time to stop at the store for? What do you wish you had purchased yesterday? If any stores are still open, what is the first thing you will try to buy?
- You are out running errands when you learn that a nationwide trucker strike has just been announced and experts anticipate that it could last for months. Realizing that there will be a run on all the stores immediately, what three things do you stop to pick up before you go home? When the strike begins, what will you wish you had done the day before to prepare for it?
- You are going about your normal day when an earthquake occurs in your area. Your home suffers some damage, but is livable. However, clean water and electrical power will not be available for up to a month. Do you have a plan for gathering your children from their schools and meeting your spouse somewhere? What’s the first thing you’d do when you meet up with your spouse? What are the first actions you will take once everyone is home safely?
- In the space of one week the stock market crashes, the country’s financial rating is degraded significantly, most government workers are furloughed, and a huge number of private sector workers are laid off. The experts are predicting a three to five year economic catastrophe throughout the US. How long do you think you will be able to last in that economy? Will your job be secure? How will you pay your family’s bills over the coming five years? What will you wish you had done before the crisis to prepare for it?
These are just four made-up scenarios. You can do a better job of making up scenarios that are consistent with the vulnerabilities of your locale and what you think is happening in the world. What do you anticipate could happen? What should you be doing now to prepare for it?
Preparing and training are important. Extremely important. But we tend to do them in an isolated environment – separating the two activities from real-life situations. For example, I have purchased and trained in using weapons for self-defense. Most of my training, however, has been at the shooting range shooting from a standing position at an unmoving target. That’s not likely to be how it will happen in real life, should I ever have the need to protect myself. To remedy that, I’ve taken some “action shooting” training. That brings me closer to real life, offering the opportunity to shoot while moving and shoot from behind cover. Still, it doesn’t bring it into my own life.
That’s where “scenario thinking” comes in. Scenario thinking prepares you to defend yourself in situations you are likely to face. In this article, I’m dealing with defending yourself at home.
If you have weapons for the purpose of protecting your life and the lives of those you love, invest in training. Not just once, but regularly. To ignore this important step is foolish. At best, it means you’ve simply wasted your money on your weapons. At worst, it puts you in a position of trusting something that you honestly can’t use effectively. After you’ve gotten some practical training, take the next step and imagine yourself using the weapons. Then run through practice drills.
It all starts by running through scenarios in your mind –
- Where are you most likely to be at various times throughout the day if a home invasion happens?
- What is the first thing you’ll do?
- What is the next thing you’ll do?
- What happens after that?
- Where should your self defense equipment (guns or other items) be located? How should they be prepped?
- What escape routes do you have?
- What safe places do you have?
- Where are your telephones for calling 911?
Here is some of my scenario thinking. If a home invasion happens, I will most likely be in one of three places in my house:
- If I’m in the basement working, I will grab the gun I have secured near my desk and make sure the safety is off and a round is chambered. Then I’ll look for cover. I have several options identified and will choose based on the noises I am hearing upstairs. Then I will call 911. After that, my actions will be determined by what happens next. This whole scenario is relatively easy to practice and is the best option for me.
- If I’m in my TV chair on the first floor, I’m in the most vulnerable place, so that’s where I need to be most carefully prepared. I will probably have my laptop on my lap and the intruder will most likely enter through the front door – which puts him between me and a good escape route. It’s hard to practice throwing your laptop on the floor and grabbing a weapon. I need to break the instincts to freeze and to treat my laptop with care. I’ll grab a weapon, and then depending on where the intruder has entered, attempt to run to safety upstairs or downstairs. If that’s not possible, maybe I can get to the sliding glass door in the kitchen. Otherwise, I’ll be forced to protect myself from the living room. I have a phone next to my chair, but I may not be able to call 911 until the bad guy is down. (Yes, if you have a gun for self defense, you must reconcile yourself to being able to take the bad guy down.)
- If I’m upstairs, my actions would be similar to the actions I take in the basement. If not in my bedroom, I would run to that room. Then I would grab a gun and make sure it’s ready to fire. Because our bedroom door doesn’t lock, I have several pieces of relatively lightweight furniture that I can quickly knock over in front of the door. No, they’re not going to stop anyone from entering, but they are going to slow them down and give me more time to prepare. I’m going to call 911. I’m going to address the bad guy using my command voice (from way back in my military days), telling him that I have a gun and I will shoot him. I will tell him I’ve called 911 and he should leave immediately. My actions after that are determined by what happens next, but I’m on the phone with 911 (stay on the line with them – they record all of their calls) and in as safe a place as I can be.
Thinking through these situations has helped me define the actions I will take and the order in which I’ll take them. I’ve evaluated and practiced my options before a break-in occurs so that if one does, I’m not in a place where I have to make decisions on the spot under great stress. I’m simply working through the checklist I have in my head.
The process has helped me realize that my first instincts weren’t my best options. It has also helped me realize areas of vulnerability. As a result, I’ve repositioned some furniture in my bedroom. It’s helped me identify my equipment needs and where the equipment should be placed. For example, if a break-in occurs while I’m in my chair in the living room, I have little room for retreat. One option is to purchase a glass breaker and place it near our sliding glass door in the kitchen. I may be able to get there safely but not have time to unlock and open the door. The glass breaker solves that and it makes noise that may alert a neighbor.
As an aside, if you are trained, let me encourage you to carry your weapon on your body all the time in your home. Does that make you paranoid? No, it makes you capable of defending yourself wherever you happen to be should an intruder intrude –which is pretty much what intruders do). This concept took me by surprise when I first read about it on Kathy Jackson’s excellent website, www.CorneredCat.com. Her blog about carrying at home is outstanding. You can read it here. (By the way, this is an excellent site, especially for women. Spend some time there.)
There are other scenarios around your home to consider. What actions should you take when you hear or see a suspicious person outside your home? Most people are tempted to go check it out. Experts caution against this. Prepare to defend yourself should the person become an intruder, call 911 to have the police check it out, but don’t go “hunting” outside. You don’t know what you’re walking into. Call the police.
One last thing – in case you think I’m going overboard on having weapons of self defense near me when I’m in my own home, check out these FBI statistics from Patriot Crime Defense’s website:
- Every 12 seconds a home is invaded
- There are 6,646 break-ins every day
- There are over 3.5 million burglaries per year
- 13% of homes are burglarized per year
- 19.2% of rental properties are burglarized per year
- 85% of all break-ins are through the door
- 67% of all burglaries involved forcible entry
- 38% of all assaults occur during a home invasion
- 60% of all rapes occur during a home invasion
- 70% of burglaries involve residential properties
The statistics in your area may be better or worse than these, but walk around your neighborhood counting houses. When you get to 100, realize that about 15 of them will be burglarized this year. I consider that hitting too close to home to not be prepared.
The bottom line – “scenario thinking” is as important as other training you’ll receive. Spend some time thinking through how you’ll react should someone enter your home uninvited.
The Organized Prepper recently surveyed 45 prepper and survivalist experts asking this question:
“What are the 3 most important items for a new prepper to get started with?”
Here’s a summary of their findings:
|Water Storage / Water Filtration||32|
|Proper & Secure Shelter||7|
|Firearm / Protection||7|
|72 Hours Bag or Bug Out Bag||6|
|Heat Source / Fire Starter||6|
|First Aid Kit||5|
|Good Mental Attitude||6|
|Financial Plan / Budget / Emergency Fund||4|
|Medicine (OTC & Prescription)||3|
Phil is one of the experts they surveyed. You can read his answers and discussion here.
What do you think are three most important things for new preppers to get started with?
As I indicated in my last blog, I’ve decided to join the ranks of the reloaders and start making my own ammo. Since I’m starting from scratch, that means shopping for the equipment that I’ll need to get started. I’ve done a lot of research to learn which of the many options will work best for a beginner like me.
Reloading presses come in three basic configurations — single-stage, turret, and progressive. They vary in purpose, complexity, and price. The place to begin with the purchasing decision is to evaluate your needs, budget, and skill level. There’s a press that’s right for everyone, but what’s best for me might not be best for you. Here’s the rundown on each type:
Single-stage — A single-stage press, like the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme shown here, holds only one ammo case and one die at a time. Dies do the work of removing (decapping) the old primer from the case, installing a new one, resizing and shaping the case, and seating and crimping the bullet. To make handgun ammo, most reloaders use three or four dies to complete the process. With a single-stage press, since it only uses one die at a time, you would batch process your ammo; that is, you would load the first die on each case, change dies and run each case through the press to complete the second die’s function, and so on, until you complete the final stage of crimping the bullet in your cartridge. You have to pull the handle on your press four times for every round that you manufacture.
Because they only do one function at a time to only one cartridge, single-stage presses are inherently slow, but they give you the highest degree of control over the reloading process. They have traditionally been the recommended entry point for new reloaders because a single-stage press gives a beginner the opportunity to closely observe and understand what is happening with the ammo manufacturing process every step of the way. Besides beginners, single-stage presses are also a good choice for those who mainly reload rifle ammo, especially hunters. They don’t blow through as many rounds as handgunners do, so they don’t require a high output reloading press. For them, it’s more about quality than quantity of ammo. They have the luxury of taking their time to craft a small number of highly accurate rounds. Single-stage presses are also the best option for those on a low budget, with some models starting at around $100.
Turret — The next type of press is a turret press. It also works with only one round of ammo at a time, but it can have multiple dies installed, which eliminates the need to switch and reconfigure dies after each stage of the reloading process. You can do all of the stages of reloading a cartridge without removing the cartridge until it’s finished. Place the cartridge in the press and pull the handle to perform the function of the first die. To do the next step, rotate the turret to move the second die into position, then pull the handle again. Repeat the process with all of the dies until you have a completed round of ammo. You still have to pull the handle four times for every round, but you don’t have to swap out every round of ammo multiple times, and you don’t have to install and configure each die repeatedly when you move from one stage to the next. Set it and forget it.
Some turret presses accommodate as few as three dies, while others, such as the Redding T-7 shown here, can have as many as seven installed at once. With a seven-hole turret, you can have the dies for two different calibers installed and ready to go. This can be a real time saver if you typically reload two particular calibers. Skilled turret press operators can turn out up to 200 rounds of handgun ammo per hour. And you always have the option of batch processing your ammo (doing the first step on all of your rounds, then doing the second step on each of the rounds, etc.) and running your turret like a single-stage press if you so desire.
Progressive — Progressive ammo presses are the real production machines of the reloading world. Instead of working with just one round of ammo at a time, progressive presses work with four or five cartridges simultaneously. Set a case on the shell plate in the press and pull the handle for it to work with the first die. The shell plate is then rotated for you to insert the next case onto it. If the press has the capability to automatically rotate the shell plate from one stage to the next (and most progressives do), it’s called “auto-indexing.” Pulling the handle engages the newly placed case with the first die and the first case that you placed with the second die.
As you continue to pull the handle and add cases, you soon have a cartridge in every position on the shell plate and every pull of the handle performs engages all of the cases with the dies above them, so you’re working with four of five rounds of ammo simultaneously. When a cartridge has made it through all the stages and is complete, it gets dumped out into a storage bin to make room for a new case to be inserted. After the first four or five pulls of the handle to get the shell plate fully loaded, you’re spitting out a completed round with each subsequent pull of the handle.
Completing a round of ammo with each pull of the handle makes a progressive reloading press a real speed demon. Optional attachments are available for most progressive presses that will automate the process of placing a case on the shell plate and placing a bullet on the mouth of the case just before seating it in the brass. Many reloaders say that they can turn out 500 rounds per hour with one of these tricked-out machines. That makes them ideal for high-volume handgun shooters or for anyone who has more money than time. But because they perform every stage of the reloading process to a different cartridge at the same time, they generally aren’t recommended for first-time reloading users. Obviously, a progress press is much more complex mechanically and can require some troubleshooting and tinkering to keep it running properly. If you are “mechanically challenged” a progressive might not be your best option.
So as with most things in life, there’s different strokes for different folks. You may want to jump right to a progressive, but it will cost a lot more than a single-stage or a turret, especially if you get add an automatic case feeder and bullet feeder. Changing calibers on some progressives can be expensive and complicated, too. But if you’ve got the money, need a high-volume manufacturing capacity, have a decent amount of mechanical aptitude, and are a skilled multi-tasker, why not go for it? If that doesn’t describe you, a single-stage or turret press is a better entry point.
In my next blog I’ll reveal which press I’ve decided to start with and why.
The wife and I have been shooting for over a year now and we’ve gone through a lot of rounds of ammunition. While we were first getting the hang of it, we were going to the range at least once a week to practice. It gets expensive, especially if you’re shooting anything other than a .22.
Over the course of that year, not only have we gone through a lot of ammo, we’ve also gone through an ammo shortage. I know that there have been ammo shortages in the past, but this was our first one and it has been a doozy. We’re just starting to see some relief from it in our area. Ammo is starting to line the shelves again, but the price is typically about 25% higher than it was this time last year. What was expensive before is even more expensive now.
The bottom line is that we haven’t been able to afford to shoot as often as we’d like. We almost stopped shooting altogether during the worst time of the ammo shortage because we didn’t know when, or even if, we would be able to replace the rounds that we were using. Now we’re shooting just enough to maintain our skills, but not enough to improve them.
And like I said earlier, this isn’t the first ammo shortage ever. It’s just OUR first ammo shortage. It has happened before and I can guarantee you that it will happen again. The run on guns and ammo over the past couple of years has swept a massive number of new gun owners into the market. That means increased demand for ammo in the future. One more incident like the Connecticut school shooting that triggered this most recent shortage could put us out of commission for a long time. I don’t like that. I don’t like being at the mercy of market forces. I like being the captain of my own ship. I’ve given the problem a lot of thought and it seems to me that the best way around this situation is reloading your own ammo.
Yeah, I know. It wasn’t appealing to me at first either, but the idea is growing on me. I’ve wrestled with my objections to reloading and thought you might benefit from the results of that wrestling.
- It’s dangerous. Gun owners hear a lot of bogus, uninformed safety concerns from non-gun owners. We know that guns are inherently dangerous, but there is a correct and safe way to handle, use, and store them. Surprisingly, there is a large number of gun owners who have the same kinds of uninformed concerns about reloading. “You’ll blow up your house!” As it turns out, that’s not the case. The smokeless gunpowder that is used in handgun and rifle ammunition is flammable, but not explosive. I’ve got a lot of other flammable things in my house right now and I’ve managed to not destroy anything so far. Be diligent and careful with the storage and usage of reloading components and you’ll be OK. “Your gun will explode in your hand!” Not if you following the instructions in your reloading manual and exercise proper quality control during the manufacturing process. Gun owners place blind faith and confidence in the factory ammo they buy off the shelf. Why not have the same (or greater) degree of confidence in ammo that you have made yourself and have carefully inspected through every stage of the manufacturing process? Learn about it before you do it, of course, and then do it with care.
- My insurance company will freak. This was Sandy’s major concern. Is this OK with our homeowner’s insurance or would they deny a claim because of it? (Because yes, she hasn’t completely gotten over the “We’ll blow up the house” concern, although she admits she has no rational reason to feel that way.) We’re with USAA. They’re a company that only insures military, ex-military, and their dependents. USAA is fine with it, up to me having as much as 20 pounds of gunpowder in the house. That’s enough to load 20,000 rounds of 9mm. I’m good with that. But check with your insurer to see what they say. Your mileage may vary.
- It’s expensive to get started. Maybe. You can go high-end, low-end, or something in between. I recommend the middle path for most beginners. But even with that, there’s still a considerable cash outlay to get equipped properly.
- You’ll need a reloading press of some sort and a set of dies for each caliber that you want to reload.
- You’ll also need a scale for weighing powder — one that is accurate to about one-tenth of a grain. (There are 7,000 grains to a pound, so one-tenth of a grain is 0.00001428571 pounds. Needless to say, a postage scale won’t do.)
- You’ll have to have a powder measure that reliably dispenses gunpowder in the desired quantity.
- And calipers (preferably digital) for measuring case lengths and overall cartridge lengths.
- Don’t forget a sturdy workbench to do your reloading on. And storage units that lock to keep your supplies away from children.
All of this before we get to the actual reloading components of brass, primers, powder, and bullets. Some reloading manufacturers offer beginner’s kits that have a press and most of the tools that you’ll need to get started. The kits are attractively priced and they offer one-stop shopping, but most buyers have complained that some of the items bundled in these kits aren’t adequate for their purposes, so they had to buy replacements for them, negating the “good deal” they got on the kit purchase. I haven’t bought my reloading rig yet, but I’ve got all of my desired bits and pieces wish-listed on Amazon, ready to go when I get the cash together. I may go through my list in a subsequent blog, but for now all you need to know is that I’m looking at a bottom line of about $600 to buy all the equipment that I’ll want to get started with reloading. About the same amount of money as a moderately-priced handgun or rifle. You can go considerably cheaper and get in for about $200 or considerably higher and be looking at a couple of thousand dollars.
I agree, it is a bit expensive to get started, but people do it because it’s cheaper than buying new ammo all the time. I primarily shoot 9mm handguns. My standard factory ammo is CCI Blazer Brass. To buy 1,000 rounds of this stuff (if you can find and buy that much right now) is in the neighborhood of $300 – $380. I just priced the components needed to reload 1,000 rounds of 9mm using my own once-fired brass that I’ve collected after my practice sessions. Buying primers, powder, and bullets to reload 1,000 rounds of 9mm would cost me $143. I would save about $200 over buying new factory ammo. All it would take to make up my initial equipment investment is 3,000 rounds of 9mm. It’s even better with some other calibers. I don’t have an AR-15 that shoots .223 or .308, so I’ve never bothered to price the savings from reloading those rifle calibers, but I’ve seen many postings on blogs and forums that say the savings on those are much deeper than for 9mm handgun rounds. So yes, it can be a bit spendy to get started, but if you want to have a stash that will get you through another ammo shortage, this is the cheap way to do it.
- It’s complicated. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. Consider this — a lot of people who aren’t as smart as you have been reloading their own ammo safely and successfully for a very long time. Start with a simple press and work your way up to more sophisticated equipment over time. Your investment in basic equipment won’t be wasted. You’ll either want to hang onto it for any of a multitude of good reasons, or you can sell it for almost what you bought it for. Resale values on reloading equipment are high.
I’ve overcome all of my original objections to reloading and am ready to take the plunge. As with all significant new endeavors, I’ve studied the topic a lot and have formulated some opinions about how to begin, which I’ll share with you in later postings. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from any of you who are currently reloading, considering reloading, or still have objections to reloading. Leave a comment below this blog or on our facebook page.
In Phil’s previous blog, he focused on building a community. We followed our own advice and paid a visit to a local prepper group, one that we found through one of the web links in Phil’s blog. We’ve been trying to make it to one their meetings for about nine months, but something always conflicted. The group isn’t very near our location, so in a disaster they’re not going to be the people in our community. Still, gathering with like-minded folks proved helpful and encouraging in several ways.
It reinforced our own prepping condition (or lack thereof). Among the folks that we hang with, we are the most prepared people we know. Yes, we know that our preps are inadequate and we have a wish-list of items and skills that is longer than your arm. Still, we’re ahead of just about everyone we come in contact with. Not so in this group. We were probably the least prepped people in the room. Being with these people gave us an in-person reminder that we have more to do.
It reinforced the reason we prep. We’re guessing you’re like us in that most of your friends don’t see a need to be prepping. When no one around you sees danger, it’s easy to begin to convince yourself that danger isn’t really present. Being with the people in this group reinforced that the danger is real and that there is value in prepping. We knew that before we went, but we left with a renewed sense of it.
It broadened our thinking. We do a lot of reading about prepping. Phil, especially, spends hours reading, learning, planning, and writing. Still, there’s nothing better than face-to-face conversations with other preppers. What have you done about…? How do you…? What do you think about…? What would you do if…? Wow! We never thought of it like that before. It was an eye-opening experience being with these folks.
It reinforced what we already knew. Especially about the need for community. One of the biggest reasons for community is that you can’t do it all yourself. You can’t even know it all yourself. There’s just too much. You need help. You need someone who is more advanced in some areas than you are to help you along. We met people at this group who were communications experts, security experts, gardening experts, and more. Hopefully we have something that we can contribute to the group, too, because there are things about prepping that we’ve learned along the way. But the bottom line is that we all need each other.
We met people whom we hope will become friends. Yes, they live a bit too far to become close friends, but they’re friendly (albeit cautious) people that we already have much in common with.
Even if you have a few friends that you’re prepping with, there is value in visiting a prepper group in your area (even if that’s outside your comfort zone). The new ideas you come away with are worth it. They won’t make fun of you for being a newbie – they’ll be glad someone else has started down the prepping road. If you’re not a newbie, they’ll be glad to have you share your knowledge. And if you’re somewhere in between, you have the best of both worlds – sharing a little bit of knowledge, but still being considered a newbie that they appreciate. Phil listed a few Web sources for locating prepper groups in his blog, 1 + 1 = Survival. Check it out and try to get to the next meeting! You’ll be glad you did.
I was listening to the radio in the car today and caught a snippet of a message by Chuck Swindoll. The title of it was “1 + 1 = Survival.” That will get a prepper’s attention! I only caught a couple of minutes of it, but it was enought to inspire this total rip-off of Chuck’s message. Thanks, Chuck.
Chuck’s was teaching from the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the “wisdom books” in the Bible. Bible scholars attribute much of Ecclesiastes to Israel’s King Solomon, who was reportedly the wisest man who ever lived. Wise, but not perfect. He screwed up a lot, but he learned from his mistakes. I’m glad he had the humility to share his mistakes and the lessons he learned from them with posterity.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation)
9 Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10 For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? 12 And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.
Trying to go it alone isn’t wise. It’s not easy, either, as you well know if you’ve been trying to do it all by yourself. America was built upon the concept of “rugged individualism,” but that doesn’t mean isolation from others. Your survivability will increase if you can find even one other like-minded person to band together with you.
Prepping can be a lonely pursuit. I recently saw a stat that said it’s estimated that somewhere around 3 million people in America are prepping for a coming emergency. Think of it — millions of preppers! It sounds like a lot, until you consider that there are over 300 million people in America right now. That reduces the stat to just 1 in 100. One percent. And how many of those are really pursuing it as actively as you are? Being a part of a prepper community, even if it’s just a community of two, can help you stay focused and fill in the gaps in your preps.
“If either falls, his companion can lift him up.”
Ecclesiastes points out the benefits of being in a mutually committed partnership. Falling can be a metaphor for a lot of things — failing, becoming discouraged, giving up, or literally being physically unable to do something by yourself. Having a committed partner to help you up when you’re down can be the difference between achieving your goals or joining the ranks of the 99% who aren’t prepared. The 99% not only won’t have the resources or inclination to help you in an emergency, they’ll be coming to you for help. And they’re also to likely be the ones who discourage you from prepping now. Having a committed partner is good, but it’s even better to be a committed partner for others. Living out that kind of character will get you through situations that you wouldn’t think possible until you’re tested.
“If two lie down together, they can keep warm.”
This isn’t about cuddling or sleeping together. This is about synergy. There is an efficiency that comes from partnership. A team of two can accomplish more than two individuals working separately could ever do. Is it possible to do a lot of things alone? Sure, but it’s much easier when you have a helping hand. It also tends to be more fun.
“If someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.”
There’s safety in numbers, even if the number is only two. We all need someone to watch our back. We all have blind spots that others see in us, but that we don’t know about. That’s why they’re called blind spots. Having a trusted partner to clue us in on what we’re not seeing is a real plus. It requires humility and a teachable spirit on our part, and it requires gentleness and tact on the part of the one bringing the correction. (Note: If gentleness and tact don’t move your partner in the right direction, try a swift kick in the pants. One or the other should do it. Different strokes for different folks.) And of course this passage could also be literally applied to the area of personal security. By myself, I could be an easy target for those with bad intentions. It’s nice to have a wingman. I’ve got to sleep sometime. I need someone to stand guard while I’m getting some shut-eye.
“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
If two is good, then finding a third like-mind, committed prepping partner is the hot-diggity bomb. One or two people still have to do it all themselves. Bring more committed folks on board and you can start to specialize. Capitalize upon one another’s strengths and expertise. Do more of the stuff that you really like to do and do it better. You’ll still have to do some nasty tasks that no one wants to do (and it will inevitably feel like you do more of them than anyone else), but being part of a unit will supercharge your preps. Shoot, you might even qualify for bulk discounts when you buy supplies.
In a subtle way, Scripture is nudging us toward inviting God to be our “third strand.” Faith can be a strong motivator. It can give you a sense of purpose that transcends the struggles of this life and reaches into eternity. It can teach you to persevere against overwhelming odds. Scripture teaches us that through faith in God, “one can put a 1,000 to flight, and two can put 10,000 to flight.”
Where are the preppers?
So how do you go about finding like-minded folks in your area? It’s not easy. I drop an occasional vague comment about something related to prepping in casual conversations (striving to maintain some degree of OPSEC and to not look like a card-carrying member of the Tinfoil Hat Society) and see if anyone takes the bait. To be quite honest, I haven’t gotten good results with that approach, but I still feel like it’s worth trying.
So how else can you hook up with like-minded folks? Here are some web sites that can help:
- PrepperGroups.com/ Prepper groups and only prepper groups. Or people who want to find or form a prepper group. There’s a box near the top left corner that says “Preppers by location”. Right under that you can click on “Select category” to open up a drop down box of locations across the U.S. and around the world.
- AmericanPreppersNetwork.net/ Besides having a forum that is a wealth of information, there is a map on the home page where you can select Prepper Meetup Groups and it will display what they have listed in your area. I didn’t find some of the groups that I located through PrepperGroups.com/ here, so I don’t know what their criteria is, but it’s worth a shot.
- Meetup.com/find/ This site isn’t just for preppers, but you might be able to find prepper groups in your area on it. Just enter your zip code and the number of miles you’re willing to travel to meet-up with folks and it will do the rest for you. They list all kinds of groups, so you can specify “prepper” in the search box to narrow it down to just those. They have lots of groups for all kinds of non-prepper related special interests, if you’re into something else. My wife and I participate in a number of meet-ups, some for business and blogging, others just for fun.
Finally, stick around. We hope to form our own virtual prepper community through this blog soon. No telling who you might meet.