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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Handle with CareIn my last blog I wrote about three developmental stages that every prepper goes through: Ignorance, Awareness, and Action. Ignorance is bliss, but it can get you killed. Awareness is enlightening, but it can also be frightening, at least as it applies to awareness of threats. Awareness can either paralyze you or propel you to action.

For those who become preppers, the Action stage comes next. The Action stage – that’s the one that’s a real doozy. Prepping is based on the premise that something bad is going to happen. When that bad thing happens, how well you’ve prepared ahead of time will largely determine how well you’ll be able to ride it out. And so you keep plugging away at it, storing products that you hope you’ll never need and learning new skills to be ready to face potential future challenges. The Action stage never ends.

At some point, all this activity begins to wear you down and you discover Stage Four in the life of a prepper — Prepper fatigue. If you’ve been prepping for a while, chances are good that you’ve experienced prepper fatigue to one degree or another.

I haven’t been prepping for all that long, but it’s already happened to me. There are times when I just get tired of it. The fatigue comes from three different directions — mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.

  • There’s often a flush of excitement with some new aspect of prepping, but it can easily become overwhelming. There is so much to learn, so much to do, so much to buy, and so much to maintain (both supplies and skills). It can wear you down. I enjoy learning new things…but continually pursuing new skills is mentally exhausting. I work in the computer industry and used to love it when software was upgraded or I got a new computer. Nowadays, I’m more likely to feel tired at the thought of the upgrade than I am to be excited. It’s the same with prepping sometimes.
  • Prepping can be emotionally exhausting. Preppers are continually being torn between pessimism and hope. I’m a Boomer. I grew up in an era of optimism. “Every day, in every way, things are getting better and better” — or so we thought. We enjoyed a standard of living that was higher than anywhere else in the world, or at any time in human history. I grew up watching Star Trek, seeing a future where all the races got along just fine and money was never an issue. But that future got derailed. Things aren’t getting better. They’ve been bad for a while now and the prospects for the future are even worse. We’ve lost all expectation of things being better for our kids than they were for us. Pessimism has settled in, and it’s a heavy burden to bear. Pessimism is always at the forefront of my mind as I prep. I’m prepping for a global economic collapse. It’s hard to find a silver lining on that dark cloud.
  • Prepping can be physically exhausting, too. If you’re new to it, it’s something that’s been added to your already full schedule. Your prepper fatigue might be caused by an overly-full schedule with not enough time for rest built in.

So how do you deal with prepper fatigue? Here are some tips:

  1. Take a break! Yes, you can take a break from prepping. Walk away from it for a few days or weeks or even months. Don’t read about it, don’t do anything related to it and don’t talk about it. Just enjoy your vacation from prepping. I wouldn’t worry that you won’t come back to it. The awareness that motivated you to start prepping in the first place will continue to serve you well and draw you back into it when your batteries get recharged by your time off.
  2. If your prepper fatigue is caused by learning too many new things, go back to one thing you already know and enjoy for a while. For example, is food what you enjoy? Review your food preps and experiment with some new food storage recipes. Practice cooking some of your recipes off the grid. Spend this month’s prepping budget on more long-term storage food.
  3. Sometimes our prepper fatigue comes from trying to fight the war on too many fronts all at once. Have you been doing a little bit of everything for the past year or more? While there are times when a scattergun approach is appropriate, it truly can make you feel fragmented and a little bit crazy. Take a break for a while as you focus specifically on learning and implementing just one new thing. Learning and accomplishing something new can be refreshing. Spend a period of time pursuing a different aspect of prepping — maybe ham radio, or making your own clothing, or hydroponic gardening. Drop everything else and bring laser beam focus to one task for a few weeks or months, and experience a sense of renewal.
  4. Enjoy your accomplishments. In prepping, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of always looking at what you haven’t prepared for or what area of your preps is lacking. Stop! Look at how far you’ve come in the time you’ve been prepping. You have so much more to do, but sometimes you need to stop looking at that and make a list of the many things you’ve already done. I still lack many skills, but I’ve also gained skills that will help me when the world falls apart.
  5. Work on establishing a prepper community. Prepping with a friend is not only more fun, it’s strategically wise. You can’t learn everything. You can’t do everything that needs to be done all by yourself. Join forces with a friend who shares your prepping philosophy.

Don’t let prepper fatigue kill your prepping effort. Take a break or change up what you’re doing to re-invigorate your passion for preparing yourself and your loved ones for that unknown emergency.

Grief counselors often talk about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Sounds like grief beats you into submission. What a buzzkill.

My experience with prepping suggests that there are predictable stages in the life of a prepper, too:

First is ignorance. There is trouble brewing all around us, threatening our security and our way of life, but in this stage we’re blissfully oblivious to the potential dangers and what we should be doing about them.

The second stage is awareness. It can creep up gradually or come upon us like a flood, but at some point we come to the awareness of the threats all around us, whether they be personal, national, global, environmental, political, economic, or all of the above. Awareness is a good thing, but when it comes, it can scare the crap out of you.

This leads to stage three. There are a number of different responses to awareness. The big three are denial (this could never really happen; our government will rescue us), fatalism (oh well, whatever will be will be; there’s nothing I can do about it), or action. The first two of these responses don’t lead to prepping. Quite the opposite. They lead to intentional unpreparedness, working under the belief (or wishful thinking) that IF anything bad were to actually happen, someone else would step in and take care of you. As if living in a FEMA camp for months is an appealing solution.

So for those who have become preppers, the only choice in stage three is to begin to take action. What actions are taken and to what degree they are pursued will be different from one person to another, based largely on what their starting point is. We all have a unique set of experiences, skills, knowledge, and motivation that defines our starting point. For those who have been blessed to grow up on a farm with lots of land for growing crops and raising animals, there won’t be much of a learning curve. They’ve grown up in a culture of self-sufficiency and sustainability.

At the other end of the spectrum is me: a die-hard, convenience-loving, city kid who doesn’t know which end of a hammer you’re supposed to hold on to. Folks like me have a hard row to hoe when it comes to prepping. I’ve come to awareness, but part of that awareness is an evaluation of how deep a hole I have to climb out of to become prepared to ride out an extended emergency. This blog is aimed at people like me, those who are total greenhorns in most of the areas necessary to becoming prepared. Folks who need someone who’s a step or two ahead of them in preparedness to help them get started.

Gettin’ Busy

So what does the action phase look like in the newly minted prepper? For the more self-sufficient ones it’s a matter of filling in the gaps in their already significantly prepared lifestyle. But for folks like me, it can be overwhelming. Now I have a couple of things going for me. I have the ability to see the Big Picture, I’m a life-long learner, and I’ve been blessed with a wife who has worked as a project management consultant to some of the largest companies in America. So while being overwhelmed was my immediate reaction to awareness, it soon became an exhilarating journey of discovery – boldly going where I had never gone before. I developed a burning interest in things that have never so much as been a blip on my radar before. I’m interested in solar power and gardening and self defense and ham radio and a whole lot more. Still overwhelming? Sure, but often it’s overwhelming with things that I want to do, not that I have to do. Having an interest and a purpose takes the drudgery out of work.

I admit that I’m still often overwhelmed when I get into a new aspect of prepping. What do I really need? How do I begin? What should my highest priorities be?  When you find yourself in this situation, break your action into categories. You can use our “Prepper Topics” menu as a guide. Then, identify tasks in each area that represent your next steps and prioritize them. (That’s what my project managing wife helps me do.)

What’s Next?

In the weeks and months to come, we want to help you map out your specific plan for preparedness as well. In addition to providing tools like checklists and baby step recommendations that will get you headed in the right direction, we’ll be starting an email prepper school. (We’re working on a catchy name for it – got any ideas?) The weekly email-subscription will help you focus on one prepper task each week that will move you toward your goal of becoming more prepared for an emergency.

We do a lot of reading and research here. It’s what I like to do. I might not be able to fix a broken tractor (yet), but I’ve been given the ability to absorb a lot of information and pass it on to others. This site exists first of all to sound the alarm of the potential threats that surround us, but most importantly to offer hope to those who might become overwhelmed or lost in the sea of details. Who among us is as fully prepared as they would like to be? I’m guessing none. But we can all take some kind of steps to become a little more prepared than we are right now. Let us know what your challenges are and we will strive to provide our best guidance in those areas.

We’re all in this together. Let’s commit to becoming a community of foresight, hope, and readiness.

We’ve seen several blogs over the past year titled “Top 100 Items to Disappear First.” I spent an afternoon recently comparing these lists and found them to be remarkably similar. That makes sense, of course, but none of the lists identified a source for their information (I like to know where information is coming from).

The list is clearly in the public domain, so I’ve taken the various lists and created our own version. Generally, I’ve maintained the list as it appeared in many articles. However, you’ll see that I ended up with only the “Top 94 Items to Disappear First.” That’s because there were places in their lists where it just made sense to combine items or reorder them.

For example, in most of the lists I reviewed, “cookstove fuel” was number 6 or 7 but “cookstoves” was number 20 or 21. OK, I can understand that stores would run out of fuel before running out of cookstoves because a number of people would already have the stove and they would be buying more fuel. Still, from a prepper list perspective, if you don’t have a stove, you don’t need the fuel, so my list puts cookstoves and fuel together at number 6. So my list isn’t strictly in the order that items would disappear. Deal with it. (I’m sure the first items to disappear would vary from one region to another anyway.) Better yet, read this list with an eye toward what you have and what you need to buy. Then start making your list!

A word, though, about being overwhelmed: Don’t be! I am easily overwhelmed by long lists and too many options, so I considered breaking this into four articles. Obviously I didn’t. It seemed that continuity would be lost. So let me offer some advice: Take the list and work through it as much as you can without being overwhelmed. Then make a plan of things you need to buy or learn. Then work your plan. When you’re nearing the end of your plan, come back to the list and make a second plan. You can do it!

Here’s my list of the top 94 items to disappear first in the event of a widespread emergency:

  1. Generators – Everyone has this at the top of their list, and they’re great for short-term emergencies. Remember, though, that you have to feed them – and that means storing plenty of fuel (and stabilizer) in a safe environment. It also means protecting the generator and the fuel in a long-term situation.
  2. Water – See our blog here to determine how much you’ll need.
  3. Water filters/purifiers
  4. Seasoned firewood
  5. Lamp oil, wicks, lamps, and lanterns – Buy clear oil while it’s available. If that becomes scarce, stockpile any oil you can get. Don’t forget to buy extra lantern mantles or your lanterns become useless.
  6. Camp or cookstove and fuel – Several sites say it’s “impossible to stockpile too much fuel.”
  7. Personal protection gear – Guns, ammunition, pepper spray, knives, and whatever else you might use.
  8. Manually-operated kitchen tools – Can openers, whisks, etc.
  9. Honey, syrups, white and brown sugar – Sugar virtually stores forever (if you’re careful to store it well so that no bugs get into it) and is much less expensive than honey and syrups, but the latter contain more vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes and other good things. Honey can also be used medicinally to combat some viruses, bacteria and fungus, and is great for a sore throat.
  10. Rice, dried beans and wheat – These can be stored for more than 20 years if stored properly, so stock up now.
  11. Vegetable oil for cooking – Sautéing food in a little bit of oil is an alternative to using water to boil your food, and water is usually the most critical need in an emergency.
  12. Charcoal and lighter fluid
  13. Water containers – Both small and large, including some of food grade for drinking water.
  14. Propane heaters and related accessories – Propane tanks will immediately become scarce. You’ll also need propane heads that allow you to heat an area.
  15. Hand-operated grain grinder
  16.  Survival guide book – We would include in this category printed copies of all kinds of how-to books, including cookbooks for using your stored food.
  17. Other lighting sources and accessories – Flashlights and batteries, hurricane lamps
  18. Fishing supplies – Pole/line, hooks, bobbers, etc.
  19. Baby supplies – Diapers, formula, powder, creams, aspirin
  20. Laundry supplies – Basin, washboard, wringer, laundry detergent
  21. Vitamins – See our recent blog on this topic here.
  22. Thermal underwear
  23. Feminine hygiene, hair care, and skin care products
  24. Hand tools – Saws, axes, hatchets, wedges, hand drill
  25. Aluminum foil – Buy both regular and heavy duty because you’ll want to use it for more than you think. That also makes it a valuable item for bartering.
  26. Gasoline containers
  27. Garbage bags – Several sites say it’s impossible to have too many.
  28. Paper products – Toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels. I’d say it’s impossible to have too much of these, especially toilet paper.
  29. Milk – Powdered and condensed (infant formula, if that’s relevant for you or you want to barter with it)
  30. Garden seeds – They must be non-hybrid and we recommend that you begin to learn about gardening now. Start with a small plot or “container gardening” if you’ve never gardened before. Don’t wait until your life depends on being able to grow your food to learn how to do it.
  31. Work clothes – Gloves, boots, heavy jeans, belts, durable shirts, outdoor jacket
  32. Everyday clothes – These won’t include your dresses and suits. Jeans and shirts will be the order of the day.
  33. Coleman’s pump repair kit
  34. Fire extinguishers and large boxes of baking soda – One for every room, because you’ll be using alternate light sources.
  35. First aid kits – It’d be great if you took a first aid course so you know what you want to stock in your kit and know how to use the items.
  36. Canned tuna–Purchase some packed in oil.
  37. Garlic, spices, vinegar, and baking supplies
  38. Batteries – More than you think and a variety of sizes. And this is a good time to consider getting rechargeable batteries with a small solar-powered recharger.
  39. Big dogs and plenty of dog food
  40. Flour, yeast and salt
  41. Matches, matches, matches – The best kind are those that you can light by striking anywhere. Boxed, wooden matches will be the first to be gone from the shelves. Find a way to keep them dry.
  42. Writing paper, notebooks journals, diaries and scrapbooks, pens and pencils – Some of the lists added solar calculators here. I’ll probably just do math with the pen and paper and save my money for other solar items.
  43. Insulated ice chests – Insulation works both ways. You can use a well-insulated ice chest to keep things cold or to prevent things from freezing in cold weather.
  44. Flashlights, torches, light sticks, “# 76 Dietz” lanterns (look it up)
  45. Cast iron cookware
  46. Plastic garbage cans – They’re great for storage and transporting (if they have wheels).
  47. Personal hygiene items – Deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, nail trimmers, shaving supplies.
  48. Duct tape – Again, you can never have too much.
  49. Insect repellents, sun screen – OK, sunscreen wasn’t on anyone’s list, but I’ve added it here. You’ll probably spend more time outside than you do now. You don’t want to deal with a sunburn along with everything else.
  50. Tarps, stakes, twine, nails, rope, spikes
  51. Candles – Another one of those “more than you think you need” items.
  52. Backpacks, duffel bags
  53. Garden tools and supplies
  54. Scissors, fabrics and sewing supplies
  55. Canned fruits, vegetables, soups and stews – We call this “grocery store prepping.” Read our blog about it here.
  56. Bleach – Plain, not scented, 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite.
  57. Canning supplies – Jars, lids, wax
  58. Knives and sharpening tools – Files, stones and/or steel
  59. Bicycles, tires, tubes, pumps, chains, locks
  60. Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, mats
  61. Carbon monoxide alarm – Be sure it’s battery-powered and that you have batteries.
  62. Board games, cards, dice – You won’t be playing Xbox or Wii.
  63. D-con rat poison, roach killer
  64. Mouse traps, ant traps, cockroach magnets, fly paper
  65. Paper plates and cups, plastic utensils – Buy these in quantity when they’re on sale.
  66. Baby wipes, oils, waterless and antibacterial soap – The waterless soap will keep you from using precious water.
  67. Rain gear – Coats, rubberized boots, hats, etc.
  68. Hand pumps and siphons – For both water and fuels.
  69. Soy sauce, vinegar, bouillon, gravy, and soup bases
  70. Reading glasses
  71. Chocolate, cocoa, tang, punch – Use to flavor water.
  72. “Survival-in-a-Can” – It’s a sardine-sized can that is water and air tight that has a mini-survival kit stored in it.
  73. Woolen clothing – Scarves, earmuffs, mittens, sweaters
  74. Boy Scout Handbook along with the Leaders Catalog
  75. Window insulation kit(s)
  76. Snack foods such as graham crackers, saltine crackers, pretzels, trail mix
  77. Popcorn, peanut butter, nuts
  78. Socks, underwear, T-shirts, etc.
  79. Lumber (all types and sizes)
  80. Wagons and carts
  81. Cots and inflatable mattresses
  82. Screen patches, glue, nails, screws, nuts & bolts
  83. Tea
  84. Coffee
  85. Cigarettes
  86. Wine/liquor – For medicinal purposes, bartering, and bribing.
  87. Paraffin wax
  88. Chewing gum and candies
  89. Atomizers – For cooling and bathing.
  90. Hats
  91. Cloth Rags
  92. Goats
  93. Chickens
  94. Chocolate in all forms – OK, I added this to the list. The women in your life will love you for it. Trust me on this.

So there’s my list! How are you doing? I was pleased that we are well into having many of the items. Others, however, we still need to deal with. (As of this writing, I’m still goat-less – and I’m OK with that.) Are there things you think should be on our list that haven’t made it? Comment below or on Facebook.

I have to confess. I’m not much of a knife guy. That’s subject to change, of course. Two years ago, if you had told me that I would become a gun guy, I would have been very skeptical. So there’s hope that my interest in blades will develop.

I’ve owned a couple of pocket knives at various times in my life. It wasn’t my idea really. Other people told me that I needed one. And besides, it seemed like carrying a pocket knife was an appropriately manly kind of thing to do. But I so rarely needed to use one that I stopped carrying them. I use knives in the kitchen to cook with, in the dining room to eat with, and for opening the occasional mail order package. So why do I need a knife?

I’ve come to realize that I need a knife because it is one of the basic tools of a well-prepared individual. Because there are so many specialize uses for knives, I will undoubtedly be acquiring more to meet these different needs over time. My starting point was with car rescue knives. A car rescue knife is an affordable piece of emergency equipment designed to help you get out of your car if you have a wreck and are stuck inside. I saw a bunch of them at a tradeshow a couple of months ago and bought one as an impulse purchase. I paid about $20 for mine, but I could have gotten it for half that much on or gotten a really decent one for a little more than what I paid for mine. I keep it in a little compartment in my car up near the rearview mirror that was intended for storing sunglasses. It’s the ideal place to keep this knife — secure, out of sight, and easy to access. I’ve never used it for its intended purpose, but I’m glad I have it. It’s kind of like my fire extinguisher. I’ve never used it, but if I ever need one I’ll be glad I have it.


Anatomy of a Rescue Knife

The features of this knife that make it a good choice for car rescue are:

  • Easy opening. I wanted something that I could open with just one hand — what is commonly called an “assisted opening” knife. A push-button operated switchblade opens easily with one hand, but they’re illegal. My knife’s legal assistance comes in the form of a little thumb stud near the back end of the blade. The stud provides adequate leverage to open the blade with a nudge from my thumbnail and a flick of my wrist. Since getting this knife, I encountered a couple of old-school, long-time pocket knife carriers who showed me their knives. Apparently, neither of them knew what the new-fangled thumb studs on their knives were for. I flicked one open with one hand and their eyes just about popped out of their heads. Score one for the newbie prepper! Here’s a very short YouTube video that demonstrates the proper use of a thumb stud.

Another type of assisted opening knife has a lever at the back part of the handle. Pressing down on the lever with your index finger swings the blade open, usually with the help of a spring. Here’s another short YouTube video that demonstrates this type of knife. Actually, this particular knife, made by Smith & Wesson (yes, that Smith & Wesson — who knew they made knives, too?) has both a lever and thumb stud. It’s even got a safety on it to keep it closed until you want it open. The video demonstrates all the controls. I want one of these bad boys!

  • Partially serrated blade. Most knives have a smooth edge for the entire length of the blade. There are a wide variety of shapes of blades for various purposes (almost certainly the topic of a future blog), but a lot of knives have a blade that is smooth near the tip and serrated about halfway back toward the hilt. Best of both worlds. I’m a real two-fer kind of guy, so this design appeals to me. Quickly cutting the clothes off an injured person works best with a serrated blade, but it’s good to have a smooth blade, too.
  • Seatbelt cutter. There’s another short blade built into a recessed, angled channel on my rescue knife that is specifically designed to cut seat belts. Seatbelts are notoriously hard to cut, especially when wet. I’ve seen a couple of YouTube videos that demonstrate how poorly seatbelt cutters work, but they were doing everything wrong, so what do you expect? A decent seatbelt cutter will go through a seatbelt like a hot knife through butter if you do it the right way. To effectively cut through a seatbelt, it’s best to have considerable tension on the belt and cut it at an angle rather than perpendicularly.
  • Glass breaker. There’s a pointed metal stud on the back end of my rescue knife for breaking the window of my car if I get trapped in it. This could come in handy.
  • The right size. You always want the right tool for the job. Part of what makes a tool right for the job is its size. My new knife is at the small end of the “right size” scale for me, but it still works. With a blade length of about 3 inches, it fits my hand comfortably enough that I can exert some force with it, but is still small enough that I can store it into the sunglasses holder compartment in the roof liner of my car.

Keeping a knife in each of my vehicles has become part of our preparedness plans. It just seems like a good idea to have a tool as functional and affordable as this on hand for one of those “just in case” moments. If this sounds like a good idea to you too, there are many places online where you can shop for a versatile knife at a decent price. Here’s a suggested site for you to start your browsing.

Stay safe.

Lots of HandgunsBe sure you’ve read my title the right way. That would be, How many guns do we need?” with incredulity and frustration in your voice.

I’m writing this article primarily for our female audience. It may help men understand us, perhaps, but it’s addressed to women. (And just maybe it will help men understand how to persuade us of something that they instinctively know.)

You see, I want to spend a few minutes with our female audience talking about why you need more than one gun. Men never seem to need such an explanation or an argument for this – they’re always OK with buying another gun.

When Phil and I started buying handguns a while ago, my questions before every purchase were, “Why do we need another gun?” and “What’s the purpose for this new gun?” Any purchase that exceeds our individual spending limit (which includes all of our gun purchases) have to be agreed upon by both of us. That means hubby needs my permission to make a purchase, and vice versa.

Once I became convinced that we needed to buy a gun for personal protection, I thought we would only need one gun. I figured it would be Phil’s concealed carry gun.

Shortly thereafter I agreed that after I became more comfortable with guns, I’d want a concealed carry gun for me, too. So the logical question for me at first was, “Which is the one best gun for me to carry?” Once we had the answer to that question, that’s what I would buy.

After much reading and research, we decided that we both wanted to carry a 9mm handgun. We judge it powerful enough to serve our needs with ammunition that was more affordable than other caliber options. We weren’t confident that a .22 (even a .22 magnum) would stop a threat, and a caliber bigger than a 9mm would be too much for a novice’s everyday carry (EDC) gun. So we decided that the best choice for us would be a 9mm semi-automatic.

But then Phil began to talk to me about the wisdom of buying a .22-caliber handgun first. “It’s a better gun to learn with,” he said. “Why not learn with the gun you’re going to carry every day?” I countered. Phil explained about the cost of ammunition. It’s significantly lower for a .22 than a 9mm, so the cost-effective way for new gun owners to become proficient at handling and shooting a handgun was to buy a .22 to use for most of our practice, and a 9mm for everyday carry. And we were both adamant that we become proficient with handguns before we began carrying one. That means lots of practice.

OK, I was now at the point where I could agree to two guns — with a plan to buy a third. We’d get a .22 for cheap practice, a 9mm carry gun for Phil, and eventually another 9mm for me to carry.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our first purchase was a Smith & Wesson Model 22A, the same gun that I used to pass my concealed carry license test. We call this gun “Ray” because with its long, flat-topped barrel it looks like a ray gun. But at that trip to the gun store, Phil found another gun that he wanted, one that didn’t fit neatly into our purchasing plan. It was too big and heavy to carry as an EDC gun and it was a .40-caliber, which is larger than the 9mm size we had agreed on. So I asked him, “What do we need this gun for?” Phil was ready with a convincing sales pitch, of course. Neither of us was trained enough to begin to carry a concealed weapon, but we had both gotten to the point where we agreed that we needed to have a gun in the house to protect ourselves. We weren’t comfortable depending on a .22 for that, so this big .40-cal Springfield XD would be our “home defense” gun. Since it wouldn’t be carried concealed, we could get one that was bigger, heavier, and more powerful than what we intended to eventually carry.

“OK,” I said, “I’ll go along with that.” So we bought “Dave.” And that’s two guns.

We started going to the range at least once a week to learn how to safely and competently use our new guns. While we felt that we weren’t really qualified to carry one yet, we quickly got to the point where we wanted to go shopping for what would become our EDC guns. Fortunately, our closest gun shop had a wide selection of carry guns to choose from.

After handling what seemed like dozens of candidates, we each arrived at a decision. Phil fell in love with a sexy little Italian, the Beretta Px4 Storm compact model in 9mm.  (OK, I have to confess. Phil proofread this blog before posting. He’s the one that added the phrase “sexy little Italian” to describe his gun, not me.) Meanwhile, I found one that felt like it was custom-made for my hand — a thin and lightweight Ruger LC9. We gave our new guns names so we could talk about them in public places without alerting those around us what we were talking about. Phil’s Beretta became known as Betty and my Ruger LC9 was called Elsie.

For those of you who are keeping score, we’re up to four guns now: a practice .22 (Ray), a .40-caliber home defense gun (Dave), and two 9mm concealed carry guns (Betty and Elsie). Technically, two of them are mine, one is Phil’s and one is ours (if you’re really keeping score).

Our weekly dates at the range were a lot of fun, but they had an element of frustration to them, too.  Spending half the time at the range waiting for my turn to shoot the .22 wasn’t my idea of a good use of my time or Phil’s. After several trips to the range I was saying (much to my husband’s delight), “OK, now I see why we need a second .22.” So it was back to the gun shop where Phil selected what would be his .22 practice gun, a Ruger SR22. Gun #5. He calls it the Blackbird.

How many guns do we need? I would think five would be more than enough, especially since just a few months earlier I thought one would be sufficient.

Well, not quite.

I loved the size and shape of Elsie, but every time I shot her my index finger got pinched between the trigger and the trigger guard, so much so that it caused a blood blister. We tried all kinds of things, including having a gunsmith shave a little off the tip of the trigger. Still, I couldn’t shoot it without getting my finger pinched. That meant I couldn’t practice with her, which in my book means I can’t reliably shoot her, which sadly meant that she ultimately wasn’t a good choice for me. (In reading numerous online gun forums, Phil found only one other person that has had that problem with the LC9…and Phil does a lot of reading.)

Let the novice gun buyer beware — the first gun (or holster) that you buy for any specific purpose is likely to not meet your needs the way that you hoped. Sometimes you have to live with a gun for a while to come to find its pluses and minuses. So it was with Phil and his beloved Beretta, too. He loved to shoot Betty, but she was just too thick for him to conceal easily. So Phil inherited my Elsie as his carry gun and we went shopping for a replacement for me to carry.

Despite my issues with Elsie, I had become a real Ruger fan. They tend to be very comfortable in my hand, they have a solid feel to them, and they’re very reasonably priced. One of Phil’s female co-workers had just bought a Ruger SR9c compact 9mm. I handled one at the gun shop and really liked the feel of it, but I was determined not to buy it without trying it first. They have a range in the basement of that store, so they let me test-fire it to see if it gave me the same finger pinching problems that I had with Elsie. It didn’t, so it went home with me that day. Gun #6. We called my new 9c “Nancy.”

I bought Nancy for a carry gun, but I soon found that Nancy was quite a lot bigger and heavier than my sleek little Elsie had been. It was like carrying a brick in my purse. Wearing it on my body was out of the question. This wasn’t going to work.

I didn’t want to get rid of her, but what’s the purpose of a gun that’s too big and heavy to carry concealed? To borrow a line of reasoning from Phil, Nancy became home defense gun #2. Our house has two floors plus a basement. We spend a lot of time on each of the three levels. I decided that I didn’t want to be in the basement and need to go to the bedroom on the second floor to get a gun if someone broke into the house. We work from home in an office in our basement. Having a weapon within reach during the many hours we spend at our desks is a wise practice, so Phil found a holster designed to be mounted on the bottom of my desktop. I love it!

But this repurposing of Nancy left me once again without a carry gun. My first EDC was now Phil’s EDC and my second one was now our office defense gun.

The hottest selling concealed carry gun at that time was the new Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. This was touted by many gun writers and a growing legion of owners as “the perfect gun.” Perfect in every way except availability. It was almost impossible to find one to even inspect, much less buy. Our favorite gun shop (for whom we were quickly becoming their favorite customers) couldn’t keep them in stock, but one of their salesmen was using the Shield as his EDC, and he let me check it out. I think they were right. This very well may be the perfect carry gun. I placed an order for one in 9mm (it also comes in .40-cal.) and waited four months for it to arrive.

A lot can change over the course of four months. I was elated when we got the call saying that my new Shield was ready to pick up, so much so that we left work early to go get it. Gun #7. But when we got it home I was surprised, and more than a little disappointed, to see just how large it was. It was bigger than I remembered it being in the store. Upon getting it home, I realized that yes, it was nice and thin like Elsie had been, but the overall height and length were bigger than Elsie.

I’ve been struggling with how to carry a concealed handgun. I really want to wear it on my body, rather than carrying it in a purse. But it seems that women’s bodies have more curves than men’s bodies and guns have more angles than curves. In other words, carrying a concealed weapon is much easier for men than women. As much as I wanted to carry the Shield, I just couldn’t find a way that worked for me except carrying in my purse.

So in the midst of my frustration, Phil began to do some more research and talked to me about considering a .380-caliber gun. A .380 bullet is the same diameter as a 9mm, but it’s shorter and therefore a bit less powerful. I was totally against this, largely for practical reasons. I didn’t want to have to buy and stock another kind of ammo. But Phil had just read an article in a gun magazine that put forth the argument for having guns of several different calibers as a hedge against scarcity of ammo in any specific caliber. If 9mm ammo is in short supply and all you have are 9mm guns, you’re in trouble. I’m sorry, but that argument didn’t convince me. I didn’t want to buy another gun. How many guns do we need???!!! (And perhaps it’s time for Phil to quit reading…)

Well, we went shopping for ammo one day and he dragged me over to the gun case to try out some .380s.

After handling a few different brands in a wide variety of prices, I found a great one, which happened to be the least expensive of the bunch! My new gun is a Taurus 738 TCP. It’s actually small enough for me to carry concealed on my person and I can shoot it well.

That’s now five guns that have been bought for me alone! A .22, three 9mm’s, and now a .380. All are still in service, all fulfilling different purposes. I’ve opted to keep the Shield because it’s a good gun and there will be times when I choose to carry it instead of the .380. And if you’re keeping score, we’ve bought two for Phil (a .22 and a 9mm) and an additional home defense gun (.40 cal). And that makes eight!

So the bottom line is that now we’ve got a bunch of guns in four different calibers. And I still consider each purchase to have been a wise one. Each one has a specific purpose. Some have been re-purposed, but we’ve found an appropriate use for each one.

How many guns do we need? Well, you might be surprised at your answer to that question. You might need a couple for different areas of your house. You might need a couple different sizes and calibers to accommodate the different type of clothes that you wear (summer, winter, casual, dressy).

Ask a woman how many purses she needs, or how many pairs of shoes she has. We know very well that we “need” more than one purse or pair of shoes for the different ways that we dress. I’ve come to understand that it’s the same with guns. Yes, it’s possible to make do with just one, but for many gun owners — especially women! — it’s pretty hard to find one single, all-purpose gun that works well for every situation or change of clothes. Owning multiple guns in multiple sizes and calibers just makes sense.

If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be OK with that, I’d have said, “Are you kidding me? How many guns do we need???!!!”

Wait a minute. I did say that. Times change.

PS: Don’t keep your guns in a pile like the photo. Treat them with respect. The photo is just an image.

PPS: Before we bought any guns, we attended an NRA Basic Handgun Safety and Ohio Conceal Carry class which included time at a range with the instructor. If you’re new to guns, we recommend training. I’m currently participating in a Women’s Action Pistol (WAP) class and we’re signed up for an NRA Home Protection class. The WAP is at the range and gives me practical experience drawing the gun and shooting in a fast but controlled manner, shooting while moving away from the target, and other good defensive shooting practices. The Home Protection class focuses on how to handle a gun for self protection in your home.