I just bought a new rifle. I could cut to the chase and just tell you what I bought, but I like letting you in on my thought processes regarding why I bought the one I did. There will be a bunny trail or two along the way. Here goes.
One of my first steps into prepping was the purchase of a handgun for home defense. When I started prepping, in addition to storing water, food, and other basic necessities, I reluctantly came to the realization that when the going gets rough I’ll need to be able to discourage others from taking the supplies I’ve invested in. If (when) things get ugly, I might need to be able to defend my life or the lives of others. So I got some training and bought my first handgun, a full-sized Springfield Armory XD in .40-caliber.
Yeah, my “first” handgun. The mighty XD-40 is a great gun for home defense, but a bit on the large size for concealed personal defense, so it was back to the store to buy another. (Sandy wrote a really excellent piece on this site some time ago called “How Many Handguns Do We Need?” which chronicles her side of that chapter in our lives. It’s a good read.) Needless to say, I’ve gotten a couple of other handguns since then, and if I don’t make it out to the range to practice at least twice a month, I start to get cranky.
For those of you who have the proper mindset (a combination of maturity, self-control, wisdom, and determination to use a gun if the situation warrants it) I strongly recommend that you get training, get a handgun that is appropriate for you (different strokes for different folks — there is no one “best” overall handgun), and get lots of regular practice. In that order.
But the question arises, is a handgun enough gun? While it’s a good option for home defense and your only option for concealed carry, a handgun is not a “one size fits all” solution to my prepping needs. If you can become a reliable marksman at 30 feet with a handgun, you’ve done well. When you need to extend your reach further than that, you need a long gun.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and we hope that you will enter your email address in the block near the top left corner to subscribe), you know that we approach prepping in stages. Once you’ve met your basic needs in any of the many areas of prepping, you’re ready to step up to the next stage. These stages won’t be the same for everyone. If you’ve grown up in a rural area and been a hunter for most of your life, you probably have a nice selection of rifles and shotguns. That would be Stage One for you, and moving into handguns could be your Stage Two. Being a “townie” who has never hunted a day in my life, my firearm acquisition stages came in the reverse order. For the past several months I’ve been in the process of learning about and clarifying my values regarding long guns. I found a couple of very popular options.
The Gold Standard
Many people consider a 12-gauge pump action shotgun to be the premium home defense piece. Just the sound of it being racked will give any reasonable, prudent bad guy second thoughts about their intended course of action. It holds anywhere from 5 to 14 shells at a time, and it’s good for hunting, too, as shells can be loaded with anything from granular birdshot to solid lead slugs. One downside of shotguns is that they aren’t good at longer distances. Because shot pellets spread out as distance increases, the effective range using shot is only about 25 yards. Solid slugs are good to about 100 yards. This might be a good, logical, and appropriate Stage Two gun choice for you, but we already have a Mossberg 20-gauge shotgun. It’s a nice little gun and a decent option for home defense, but it only holds three cartridges in the magazine and one in the chamber (3 + 1). I want more ammo capacity than that and I wasn’t sold on the idea of a second shotgun. I had a rifle in mind.
A Real Crowd Pleaser
For many, the choice among rifles is almost a no-brainer. Get an AR-15 and you’re good to go. ARs are hugely popular and, like the shotgun, they hold multiple rounds. 30-round magazines are standard equipment on most ARs. (Thirty rounds for an AR is not high-capacity – it’s standard capacity.) I’ve only shot an AR one time and it was fun. That’s not my highest criteria for a gun, but why would I want one that I don’t like to shoot? There are a lot of advantages to an AR-15. They’re light, easy to maneuver with, holds a lot of rounds, and are endlessly customizable. Just like you may know a computer guy who builds his own PCs from parts and pieces that he cobbles together, there are a lot of people who build their own ARs the same way. And let’s face it — ARs look bad-ass. Cradle one of these babies in your arms and you’ll look like you’re ready to go commando.
And that’s why I stayed away from the AR (or as gun enthusiasts call them, an MSR — modern sporting rifle). People are afraid of ARs. Not just the guns themselves, but also those who use them. As the gun control culture picks up steam, there is a continual cry for an all-out ban on these types of guns. Some states are passing this kind of legislature right now. Places like New York, Connecticut, Illinois, and California are unfriendly environments for people who own ARs.
Do I care what other people think of me and what I do? You bet I do! I want to have as much control over how people evaluate me as I possibly can. Sometimes I want to send the message that I’m not a guy that you want to mess with. But other times (probably most of the time) I want people to grossly under-estimate me. I don’t want to telegraph what I know, what I have, or what I’m capable of doing. That’s part of OPSEC (operations security). We don’t practice a lot of OPSEC here at TADPrepper because our mission is to get the word out that we need to get ready for hard and potentially dangerous times to come, and that means being open and transparent about sharing information that we would much rather keep private. But just as I carry a handgun concealed so as to not alarm anyone or let those around me know that I’m equipped to stop a threat, I want a rifle that would fly under the radar as well as possible while still meeting my needs.
I wanted a rifle with more effective range than I could get with a handgun. I wanted a rifle that held a decent number of rounds of ammo. I wanted a rifle that met multiple purposes — suitable for both defense and hunting, usable by both Sandy and me, fairly economical to shoot, easy to reload the ammo, and that didn’t scream “bad-ass commando (wannabe)” to anyone who saw it. So where do you find something that meets all those criteria? I found mine 122 years in the past.
Here’s something that I’ve found to be a general (but not entirely universal) rule of thumb about prepping. The solution to many of your prepping issues is to go as old school and low-tech as you can get. If the electricity goes off, you don’t want all of your preps to be computer-controlled. You want to be able to thrive in semi-primitive conditions. For me, that meant no gun that looks like it was used on the set of Battlestar Galactica. I went for an antique, a cowboy gun designed by John Moses Browning (the most brilliant gun designer of all time, IMHO) way back in 1892. I chose a lever-action rifle made by Rossi, a clone of the classic Winchester Model 92.
When I arrived at this conclusion there were still some decisions to be made, most notably which of the calibers that it’s available in would I like. I was initially drawn to the .357, with the hopes and dreams of someday pairing it up with an excellent .357 revolver. Seemed like a good idea at the time, with one notable problem. You can’t find them anywhere. I asked for one at my favorite gun shop and the man laughed in my face. He said they get a shipment of them once in a while, but they sell out in no time. I found none of them at any of the big online gun dealers, either. Time to go to Plan B.
Plan B wasn’t a bad option. I was getting excited about it. It was the venerable .30-30, the cartridge credited with harvesting more deer and elk in North America than any other round. Some of the reloading forums also said it was an ideal round for beginners to start with. And availability wasn’t an issue. Every store that sells lever-action rifles carries it in .30-30.
With my mind firmly made up, I made the pilgrimage to a gun shop about an hour’s drive from my house. I had never bought from them before, but I had visited once and was greatly impressed with their inventory. They have things that you only see in magazines but are never available in any other gun shop I’ve been in. And their prices are rock bottom. What’s not to love? Sure, they had the lever-action .30-30 that I had decided upon, but there was another little beauty in the rack, a .44 Magnum with a stainless steel barrel. I love stainless steel guns. Love ‘em. I know that they’re not as discrete as a blue barrel, but I love ‘em just the same. And they don’t rust.
Plan C — or was it Plan A?
I was just about to call an audible and buy the .44 when something caught the corner of my eye. It’s not easy for me to read those little tags they have on guns from my side of the counter, but I could have sworn that one of them a few slots over from the .44 said .357 Magnum. Naw. Couldn’t be. You can’t get them anywhere, as the past six months of Internet window shopping had abundantly proven to me.
But there it was. Brand new. Calling to me. “I saved myself for you, Phil. Take me home with you.”
No stainless steel barrel, but it was $80 less than the .44, it holds four more rounds than the .30-30 (10 + 1 versus 6 + 1), it’s cheaper to shoot, and easier to reload. The action was so smooth I could cycle it with just one finger and the trigger was fantastic. And here’s the kicker — the shop owner said that it’s illegal to hunt deer in the great state of Ohio with a .30-30 because it’s too high-powered, but they’ve recently changed the law to say that you can hunt deer with a .357. I don’t know if I will ever set foot in the woods with this gun, but I wasn’t going to let this Holy Grail moment slip away from me. The .357 went home with me that day.
I haven’t fired it yet, for all the same reasons that we haven’t posted a new blog on this site for the past three weeks — our life has exploded a bit and we’ve been swamped, but soon I’ll get it to the range…and hopefully, often. I’ll let you know how it goes when I do.
I don’t know about you, but where we live, we had a LONG, COLD winter. The weather’s starting to get nicer, but it’s been too long since we’ve been able to get out to our outdoor range. Sure, we could have gone to an indoor range, but that holds almost as much appeal to me as going to the outdoor range in 10°F weather. I’ve been told by a number of instructors that you should get some kind of practice at least once a week and I wasn’t about to make weekly treks to either an indoor or outdoor range between November and March. That left me with a problem. What to do?
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation for any of a number of reasons (perhaps you’re short on money or ammo, or your schedule just doesn’t allow time for the range this week, or you’re laid up with an injury), the answer to your dilemma and mine is dry fire training.
What is Dry Fire Training?
Dry firing is when you go through the motions of firing your gun, but with no ammo in it. If done properly, it helps reinforce the muscle memory you’re building up to be able to draw your weapon, get it on target, and squeeze off an accurate shot in a minimum amount of time. It can be especially helpful for new shooters as they learn the proper stance and become comfortable handling their gun without the possibility of the bang and recoil you get when you pull the trigger.
“Without the possibility?” Well, that’s the key. Safety first. Dry firing can be very dangerous unless you focus on safety first and always. An overwhelming majority of gun accidents occurred because the gun handler thought the gun was unloaded when in fact, it had at least one bullet in it. So let’s talk safety.
Safety First (and Always)
Dry firing can be completely safe if you follow a precise set of steps every time – every time – you begin and end a dry firing session. While we’ll add to this list, first let’s review our six rules of gun safety and discuss how they apply to dry firing.
Rule 1 – Get enough training to be proficient and keep your skills current.
Before dry firing, be sure you know how to use your weapon properly. You should especially know how to check your weapon to be sure it is unloaded with no bullet in the chamber or magazine.
Beyond that, consider dry firing to be a critical part of your training. Dry firing will help you learn and reinforce of the fundamentals of shooting. The fact that it lets you do that without an explosion occurring at the end of every trigger pull helps you develop a smooth trigger pull, avoiding or helping to eliminate a flinch.
Rule 2 – Never mix guns with drugs or alcohol.
While this would seem to be irrelevant when dry firing, you should view your dry firing session as real fire arms training. Any practice performed with a real gun has the potential to be deadly, and drugs or alcohol have no place in that effort. Guns and drugs or alcohol should never mix — even if you believe the gun isn’t loaded, because drugs and alcohol keep you from thinking clearly, and you don’t want to find yourself with a loaded gun that you believed to be empty. Which leads us to the next rule.
Rule 3 – Always assume all guns are loaded, and act accordingly.
Any time you pick up your handgun you should assume it’s loaded. That means your first step in dry firing will be to check your gun (both the chamber and the magazine) and unload your gun. Kathy Jackson of CorneredCat.com (a site I love) suggests that you also put the bullets in a different room. It’s an extra step to ensure your safety. You’re not going to reload and then take an extra dry fire practice shot by accident when you have to go to another room to get your bullets.
Rule 4 – Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
When you know your gun is empty and you’re in the process of practicing by dry firing, you’re going to be looking for a target. It can be very tempting to point the gun towards something that you would never want to destroy. Sure, that thing (or person) makes an easy target to focus on while you practice, but if you are unwilling to destroy it, don’t point your gun at it. That’s how a lot of TVs and wall switches have met their demise.
“Why?” you ask – “I mean, I’m only dry firing, right?” Well, there are two very good reasons for not pointing your gun at anything other than a safe target:
- People make mistakes (even smart people like you and me), and if you’ve made a mistake about your gun being unloaded, you’ve just placed that person you’re pointing the gun at in a life-or-death situation. A slip of your finger (or the purposeful pulling of the trigger, because you are, after all, dry firing a gun you believe to be unloaded) may very well kill that person.
- If you let yourself get lazy about where you point your gun when you believe that it’s empty, you’ll get lazy about where you point your gun when it’s loaded. The purpose of dry firing is to develop good habits that become automatic – you are training your mind and your muscles to perform movements that will happen “automatically” in a crisis. You only want to point your gun at another person when your life or someone else’s life is on the line.
Rule 5 – Always keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are ready to shoot.
When dry firing, handle your gun properly (that is, with your finger outside the trigger guard) until you are taking aim at your target and are ready to dry fire. Again, don’t develop lazy patterns when dry firing because they will become automatic every time you pick up a gun.
Rule 6 – Know your target and what’s beyond it.
Bullets can travel through walls, ceilings, and floors. Be sure you know what’s on the other side of the wall where you’re dry firing. If you don’t know what’s beyond your target (you did put a target up, right?), don’t fire. See rules 3 and 4. Don’t just aim at something in the room where you happen to be sitting (remember rule #4). Build a safe backstop where you’ll set up a target. Then let dry fire training begin.
Will Training Without Bullets Really Improve Your Shooting?
In a word – yes! If done properly. Dry firing isn’t just pointing your gun and pulling the trigger. If you ever need to use your gun to defend yourself or someone else, your circumstances are likely to not be ideal. It might be dark. You may be woken up suddenly from a deep sleep. You might be in an awkward position. A dry firing training regimen will help you learn to deploy your weapon safely, quickly, confidently, and accurately. The goal is to make safe and effective gun handling as automatic as possible. Concentrating on each element of shooting will help you learn good habits and gain control and confidence, and those things will translate into improved shooting. Here’s what to practice when you dry fire:
- Get comfortable handling your gun. Pick it up and put it down. Do you always do both actions safely – with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and with your finger outside the trigger guard? Learn to establish a good shooting grip as you pick it up. You don’t want to fumble with your grip and need to adjust it.
- Learn to ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. As part of your dry fire practice, go through the motions of moving, changing direction, and scanning the area around you while keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction. It’s harder than it sounds. Don’t assume that you already know how to do it and that it will be automatic for you when you need to do it.
- Become adept and purposeful at flipping the safety on and off. Someday you might need to operate the safety while you’re in the dark or while you’re focused on a threat. Learn to tell if the safety is on or off by feel and learn how to operate it without looking at it.
- Practice racking your gun. Learn multiple ways to rack it — overhanded, the “slingshot” method, with either hand, and even with just one hand.
- If you are planning on carrying your gun concealed (assuming you have a permit, of course), practice taking your gun out of your holster or purse, as if you were drawing it from the concealed position. Practice this very slowly at first. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Doing it slowly will reinforce the proper method and feel so that when you need to do it quickly, you’ll be ready to get it right the first time.
- Give the same attention to learning how to re-holster your weapon. A surprising number of accidental discharges happen while guns are being returned to their holster. The trigger snags on something like the drawstring of your windbreaker and makes the gun unexpectedly go BANG! and put a hole in your leg or foot.
- Dry firing is the key to improving your trigger pull. Your trigger pull is the most difficult aspect of shooting accurately. This is one of the reasons why shooting rifles is so much easier than handguns. Most rifles are much heavier than handguns, but they have lighter and shorter trigger pulls. That, plus their much longer sight radius, makes them a lot easier to shoot accurately. Keeping a handgun that only weighs 2 pounds on target through a 9 pound trigger pull is a real challenge. Practice gently and steadily pulling your trigger while keeping the sights on target. When shooting from a distance of 20 feet, being off-target by just one-sixteenth of an inch will cause your shot to miss your intended target by four inches!
- Do you have a flinch that sends most of your shots low and left? A shooter’s flinch isn’t a response to the noise and recoil of a shot being fired, but is the anticipation of it. We flinch during the shot, not after it. Dry firing helps you identify and overcome flinches. As you slowly pull the trigger you’ll also notice if you tend to pull the gun to the right or left, up or down. Be intentional about correcting these. The recoil from a handgun really isn’t that severe. It’s pretty similar to driving a nail into a board. Practice getting used to the recoil by laying a board in your driveway or patio and banging on it hard with a hammer. Focus on not flinching from the noise and impact.
- Practice your shooting stance. Practice picking up your weapon, holding it properly and getting into your shooting stance without a lot of fidgeting. Practice until the motion becomes natural.
- After you’ve gotten very good at your basic stance, learn and practice other stances. If you need your gun for self-defense, you might not be able to use the isosceles or Weaver stance that you use at the shooting range. You might need to shoot while moving, or from a sitting or kneeling position.
- If you ever need to use your gun for self-defense, it would be best if you could shoot from behind cover. But while cover provides good protection, shooting accurately from behind cover is incredibly difficult. If you can maintain all of the safety rules while practicing from behind cover, do it. Practice dry firing while kneeling behind a table or sofa and shooting around the side of it. Then practice it while not tipping over. (Personally, I’d like to practice it while being 25 years younger than I am.)
Yes, the weather is getting better and the range is calling me. I’ll also be training (without the cost of ammunition) between range visits by dry firing. And I’m looking forward to my range visits being more fun and on-target.
There are four rules of gun safety that are universally taught. You’ll find them on every reputable gun blog. Before I discuss those four, there are two I’d like to add, making this The Approaching Day Prepper 6 Rules of Gun Safety. Let’s get right into them.
Rule 1 – Get enough training to be proficient and keep your skills current.
If you choose to own a gun, be sure to receive proper training in how to use it. Proper training means more than the first ten-hour basic instruction course. All that a basic class will really qualify you to do is to shoot very slowly at a stationary paper target. Start there, and then take additional courses that teach you how to use your gun in realistic situations and give you practice doing it. These classes will give you training that you probably can’t get at your range, as most ranges only let you do what a basic class teaches you to do — that is, to shoot at a stationary paper target. Advanced classes will give you practice shooting while moving, from behind cover or concealment, in kneeling or prone positions, and while drawing from a holster.
Yes, I hope and pray that I never need to use a gun to protect myself or someone else, but if I do, I’m certain that those first ten hours of training weren’t nearly enough to make me competent to use one in a life-or-death situation, which is the very thing that I wanted to learn to use a gun for. On-going training and practice are essential.
Rule 2 – Never mix guns with drugs or alcohol.
Guns are lethal weapons. There is no place for the use of drugs or alcohol with handling firearms, and by “drugs” I even include over-the-counter medications. One effect of drugs and alcohol is that they impair our judgment and actions. Another effect is that they make us unaware of that impairment. Don’t risk killing or maiming yourself or another person. A few months ago, I had a range date set with Phil and a friend of ours. The friend had come a long way to go shooting us. I hadn’t taken any medications or alcohol, but was experiencing dizziness or vertigo similar to what you might experience after a few drinks. I decided to stay home. My presence on the firing line would have been a danger to me and my friends. We knew someone who had an annual Fourth of July shooting party at his house. He called it “Fireworks – Firearms – Fire Water.” A dangerous combo. We stayed home.
Rule 3 – Always assume all guns are always loaded.
Even if you know you unloaded it before you put it away, when you get it out again check to be sure it’s not loaded. Then check again. Even if you’ve been assured by the person handing you a gun that it’s not loaded, check for yourself to be sure it’s not loaded. Then check again. Even if you watched someone check the gun before handing it to you, check to see that it’s not loaded before handling it. Then check again. The huge percentage of gun accidents occur because someone thought the gun wasn’t loaded.
Always treat any gun you pick up as if it’s loaded. Is the gun loaded? The answer is always “yes.” Even after you’ve double-checked that the gun is unloaded, never do anything with it that you wouldn’t do with a loaded gun. Always treat every gun as if were always loaded.
Rule 4 – Never point a gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
That means never pointing a gun at another person you’re not willing to kill. Even an unloaded gun. (Because as we just learned above, you should assume all guns are always loaded. ) It’s a habit you never want to reinforce. It also means not pointing your gun at your TV unless you’re ready to shell out for a new one.
Stated another way, always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. A safe direction is away from people, animals, personal property, and objects that could cause a ricochet. This is especially important as you move, as you load and unload your gun, and as you check the gun for a malfunction. (We see more people at the range who lose all concept of where their muzzle is pointing while they try to figure out a malfunction than at any other time when they’re handling a gun.)
What this means is that any time a gun is in your hand, you must be very conscious of where it is pointed. Yes, even if it’s unloaded, which it NEVER is. (See Rule #3.) Once you have the gun pointed in a safe direction, you must keep it pointed in a safe direction, even if you are moving or you look away or turn your body a different direction. People have a tendency to sweep the muzzle over vulnerable people and property when they move even the slightest bit. Developing good habits with an unloaded gun will carry into good habits when the gun is loaded.
Rule 5 – Always keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are ready to shoot.
Don’t put your finger inside the trigger guard until you are looking at your target and ready to shoot. A bad habit to develop is slipping your finger onto the trigger as you approach your target. For newbies especially, keep your finger off the trigger! Don’t put your finger on the trigger until you are looking at your target and ready to shoot.
Don’t get lax, thinking that the safety is on so there’s no harm in having your finger on the trigger. First, it only develops bad habits. Second, don’t rely on the mechanical safety. It could fail. Better to develop the habit of keeping your finger away from the trigger until your target is in sight and you are ready to shoot.
Rule 6 – Know your target and what’s beyond it.
Bullets can travel a long way. Depending on your caliber, gun, and conditions, it could travel one or two miles. It’s not enough to know what your target is. What is your bullet going to hit if it misses the target or goes through the target? Know what’s beyond your target before you pull the trigger. In conjunction with Rule #4 (never point your gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy), pointing your gun up in the air is NOT a safe direction. What’s your target? What’s beyond it? If the trigger is pulled while the gun in pointed in the air, either intentionally or by accident, the bullet will land somewhere. You just don’t know what — or who — it will land on.
The purpose of the rules are to reinforce behaviors that will become automatic so that you don’t accidentally shoot something you don’t want to shoot. Don’t handle your guns until you have them burned into your memory, and make them a priority in your first training sessions…and always.
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.
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.
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.
EDIT: This bundle is no longer available. It was a great deal, but the consortium of prepper authors who put this together were true to their word about this being a very limited time offer. They’re talking about some other products in the future. We’ll let you know of any worthwhile specials that we find.
We don’t do a lot of selling on this site. That’s not what we’re about. The purpose of this site is this:
- To inform people of the potential dangers we all face in these unstable days we live in
- To motivate people to take steps to prepare themselves for an emergency
- To educate people about what they can do to make those preparations
But sometimes the best way to accomplish one or more of those goals is to recommend a product. This is one of those times.
A group of preparedness authors have banded together to offer a package deal of their books and instructional materials at a discount so deep it’s too good to pass up. It’s only $29, but that price is only good until this coming Monday (September 23, 2013). I don’t know what the price will jump to then, but it is an absolute steal at this introductory price of $29. They say the retail value of the package is $700. I haven’t done the math, but a cursory glance at the wealth of materials will confirm that they’re darned close. I bought one for myself right away. It was a no-brainer. I got enough stuff in this bundle to keep me learning and prepping through the cold winter months to come.
The Ultimate Survival Bundle is a collection of downloadable books, videos, and audio presentations that covers most of the critical areas of emergency preparedness or survival. Included in the package are a couple of books that give a comprehensive treatment of preparedness and it is well worth the bundle price of $29 just to get those two books. They are Making the Best of Basics (edition 12.5) by James “Doctor Prepper” Stevens, which sells on Amazon for $28.99 (one cent less than this entire bundle); and The Untrained Housewife’s Guide to Getting Prepared (also sold on Amazon).
Topics covered by resources in the Ultimate Survival Bundle include food storage, gardening, alternative energy, security, homesteading, medical preparedness, raising animals, and ethical issues. A total of 46 resources from 36 different authors. Some are very broad while others are highly specialized. Here are some examples:
- A 150-page book on dehydrating food, written by the author of a book on the same topic for the “Complete Idiot’s Guide” series that you’ve seen in bookstores
- A 101-page guide to herbal medicines, which sells for $29.67 on Amazon (I’ve looked up all of these Amazon prices myself to get a sense of the value of this package)
- A 266-page book about wind power from a consumer’s point of view
- A 106-page book on “apartment gardening” – growing your own food in limited spaces
- A book on solar energy that sells for $19 on Amazon
- A 40-page booklet on how to build a fire
- A 228-page book on raising goats
- A 62-page book on building and living in a yurt (after browsing this bad boy I am really wanting to get me a yurt!)
Click on this link to go to a page that gives details about all of the many products included in this package.
Besides books, there are also a few videos that you can download. Two of them are instructions on how to build a greenhouse, companion videos to a book on that topic that is also a part of the package. These video files are very large and will take a while to download. One is two hours long (2 gigabyte file size) and the second in a little over an hour long (1 gigabyte). Another video is a half-hour presentation on hand-to-hand self-defense techniques.
I could go on, but I’m going to try to contain my enthusiasm. The bottom line is that if there’s not something in the Ultimate Survival Bundle that gets your juices flowing, you’re not a prepper. At $29, this is one of the biggest bangs for the buck that I’ve encountered in a very long time. I can blow that much on pizza in a week. This is a deal that will give me something to chew on for much longer than that. When you’re ready to order, click here. Get it while you can get it cheap.
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.
WARNING! The video in this posting is graphic and disturbing. Even though it was broadcast on TV, we feel that it is not suitable for young viewers.
I don’t know if you saw this video, but a home in New Jersey was recently invaded by an unarmed assailant in broad daylight. The invasion wasn’t some middle of the night robbery. This happened at 10:30 in the morning. A woman was home with her 3-year-old child, opened the door for a stranger, and was beaten, stomped, choked, and flung down a flight of stairs. It was all captured on a hidden nanny-cam. As I warned, the video is disturbing. The perpetrator of this brutal crime has not, as of this writing, been apprehended.
Home invasions are among the most violent of all crimes. Criminals use the privacy and security of their victims’ home to their advantage. Once the occupants have been subdued, there’s no rush on the part of the criminals to finish their business and leave. They can be leisurely in their commission of the atrocities of assault, robbery, rape, and murder.
Don’t let this happen to you or your loved ones. Don’t be an easy target. Decide in advance not to be a victim.
When anyone rings my doorbell or knocks on my door, they’ve just put me on high alert. My first thought isn’t, “Oh boy! I wonder what the UPS man brought me today!” (OK, that’s my second thought.) My first thought is that an unexpected and uninvited person (or persons) is standing at the threshold of my home with who knows what purpose in mind.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. In my house, the only time I don’t have a loaded gun on me is when I’m taking a shower. And even then, a loaded and chambered gun is just five feet away. When someone comes to my door, I’m already prepared. I’m not going to be taken by surprise. So Lesson #1 is don’t go to the door unprepared. The woman in this video had no time to react after she opened the door. Her assailant was on her instantly. There was no time to retrieve a gun from another room, load it, and be mentally prepared to use it, if need be. Those actions and attitudes have to be in place before the decision is made to answer the door.
If you call me on the phone, I may or may not answer. It’s not that I’m screening my calls. It’s just that I don’t feel an obligation to respond to every unexpected and uninvited ringing bell. The same applies to a knock on my door. If I don’t feel like it, I won’t answer it. So Lesson #2 is that you don’t have to be at anyone’s beck and call. Deal with these unexpected interruptions on your own terms. Don’t be as predictable as Pavlov’s dog. Don’t answer the door if you don’t feel like it, especially if you see someone at the door that you don’t recognize. If the woman in the New Jersey invasion hadn’t opened her door to this stranger, he might have gone on to an easier target.
Whether you open the door or not, don’t assume that the unwanted visitor has actually gone away after you’ve either ignored them or dealt with them. Your failure to answer the door might signal to them that there’s nobody home and the house is available to be broken into. Lesson #3 is to stay on alert after the visitor leaves. If you’re hinky about someone, call the police and report them as a suspicious person. The police will come and check it out for you. Your tax dollars at work.
I don’t want to make you paranoid, but the knock on the door might just be a diversion. The guy at your front door may be posing as a salesman to distract you while his partner sneaks in by another entry point. Lesson #4 is to be alert to the possibility of a diversion or distraction that can give an invader an opportunity.
When I grew up, we didn’t always lock our front door at night. Drivers would leave their keys in the ignition of their car when they went into a store. Those kinds of behaviors are wildly out of place today. Evil is on the rise. Crime is much more prevalent. Despite that, our tendency to trust strangers and to give them unwanted access to our lives hasn’t caught up with the times.
I wish times were like they used to be, but I know in my heart that they’re not. I don’t see things getting any better, either. Trust has to be earned. I don’t trust the stranger at my front door.
If you find this post helpful, please use the buttons below to share it with others.