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Revolver

6 Rules of Gun SafetyThere 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.

Firearms are a basic tool for self-reliance and home or personal defense. Today, I’m going to speak to readers who don’t know much about firearms, but have a growing awareness that having one and knowing how to use it might be a good idea.

Let’s start with handguns — revolvers in particular. This might not be the best place to start from a training perspective, because handguns are much more difficult to shoot well than rifles, but they have a number of benefits going for them that lead many people to acquire a handgun before they move on to rifles.

Many of the advantages of a handgun have to do with their smaller size and weight. Handguns are lighter, more portable, and more concealable, meaning that they can go with you wherever you need to go. You can carry a handgun on your body or store it away in places that a long gun wouldn’t fit.

The Pros and Cons of the Revolver

Photo credit: Mitch Barrie on Flickr.com

Photo credit: Mitch Barrie on Flickr.com

There are two basic styles of handguns: revolvers and semi-automatics. So what is a “revolver”? I’ve included a picture of one here. Think of the old-style cowboy handguns. A revolver has a big cylinder in the middle of the gun that holds all the bullets. When you cock the hammer, the cylinder rotates (or “revolves”) and puts the next bullet in line with the barrel, ready to be shot. There aren’t a lot of mechanical things going on with a revolver, which contributes greatly to its reliability.

Between revolvers and semi-automatics, revolvers are generally regarded as being more reliable. That means they go “bang!” every time you pull the trigger. Revolvers are also easier to operate. With a revolver it’s just point and shoot. You don’t have to fuss with a manual safety. (Is it on or is it off? How can I tell?) You don’t have to “rack” the gun to get a bullet in position to shoot like you do with a semi-auto. Revolvers don’t jam like semi-automatics do. Semi-automatics have to mechanically feed a bullet into the chamber to get it ready to fire, then eject the empty cartridge after the bullet has been fired to get the next bullet ready to shoot. When the gun fails to do either of those functions properly the gun “jams.” You have to fix the problem before you can fire the next shot with a semi-auto. Revolvers don’t feed and eject bullets like that, so they don’t jam.

The disadvantages of a revolver are that they’re thicker than a semi-auto (and thus harder to conceal), they don’t carry as many bullets as a semi-auto, and they can be much slower and more difficult to reload.

Cocking a revolver

Cocking a revolver

How Do These Things Work?

Revolvers come in two different designs, “single-action” and “double-action.”

A “single-action” revolver requires you to manually pull the hammer back with your thumb to cock it. Once the hammer is cocked, pulling the trigger performs a single action — it releases the hammer, causing the gun to fire. This design is very safe because you can’t pull the trigger at all until you have cocked the hammer. Once you’ve cocked the hammer, it only requires a light pull of the trigger to fire the gun, but the process of cocking the hammer is a very deliberate one, not likely to happen by accident, making a single-action revolver a very safe device even though it doesn’t have a manual safety like many semi-automatic handguns.

A “double-action” revolver doesn’t require you to cock the hammer as a separate step. Pulling the trigger will perform two actions — it cocks the hammer and then releases it to fire the gun. This design is also very safe because the trigger pull on a double-action revolver is much longer and stiffer than with a single-action revolver. The long, stiff trigger pull is a deliberate action that becomes the built-in safety.

At the risk of confusing someone who hasn’t used any revolver, a double-action can be used in either double- or single-action mode. You pick ’em. Just pull the trigger and it will cock and fire the gun (double-action). But the trigger pull is long and stiff, so it’s harder to keep the gun aimed while you’re pulling the trigger. So if you want a lighter trigger pull, you can cock the hammer with your thumb and pull the trigger to fire it (single-action). The trigger pull in single action mode is always much lighter, making it easier to stay on target.

[ FYI — Any idea why we used a drawing of someone cocking the hammer on a revolver rather than using a photo? We purchase and use professional “stock” photos for these blogs. In every photo of someone cocking a revolver hammer, they also had their finger on the trigger at the same time. Unless you are in a combat situation, DON’T DO THAT! It’s not safe. The photographer may have been a professional, but the model that they used to hold the gun wasn’t knowledgeable of safe gun handling habits.  We don’t want to show improper safety practices, so this drawing was the only image I could find where the shooter had their finger off the trigger. ]

Suggestions for Buying a Revolver

  • As with all guns, get one that fits your hand. I good fit will feel comfortable in your hand and allow you to reach and operate all controls (trigger, hammer, cylinder release) easily.
  • Revolvers come in many different calibers. The higher the caliber, the more powerful the gun. The most common calibers for revolvers are .22, .38, .357 magnum, and .44 magnum. There are several others, but these are the most common, and therefore the most practical to consider.
  • If you’re buying a revolver for  personal defense, don’t even consider a single-action gun. The process of cocking it with your thumb before every shot takes so long that it will get you killed. A double-action revolver can be operated in either single- or double-action, giving you the best of both worlds. When you need speed, just pull the trigger and shoot (double-action). When you have the luxury of time to take a carefully aimed shot, cock the hammer with your thumb and pull the trigger (single-action).
  • Determine how you are going to carry it before you commit to buying it. Will you do concealed carry in a hip holster or purse? Barrel length may become an issue.
  • The shorter the barrel, the more difficult to aim accurately. Snub-nosed revolvers are “cute,” but they’re only practical for shooting at very short range (as in about 10 feet or so). But they make great back-up guns if your primary piece jams or runs out of ammo.
  • The lighter the gun, the greater the recoil. Recoil makes a gun hard to control. It will buck after every shot and you will have to re-acquire the target. That takes time that you may not have. Excessive recoil can also make the gun very uncomfortable to shoot. If your gun is uncomfortable for you to shoot, you are less likely to practice with it. If you don’t practice with it regularly, you won’t be able to deploy it competently if the need arises. So a light-weight gun will be easier to carry and conceal, but it has the serious trade-offs of controllability and increased recoil that have to be considered. Find a gun that does the best job for you of balancing weight, control, and recoil.
  • What about brands? Go with a good one. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with a Ruger or a Smith & Wesson (if you keep the considerations of the previous point in mind). Both are great brand, but I think the Rugers are a better value. If you don’t find a Ruger that meets your needs, look at the Smith & Wessons. They’re more money, but they make great guns. Colts can be nice, too, but they’re prohibitively expensive (for my pocketbook, at least). Taurus makes a broad line of popular revolvers, but there is a long-running debate about the reliability of Taurus products. Those who have had a good experience say they’re great. Those with a bad experience perpetuate the notion that Tauruses are junk. Personally, I’ve never used a Taurus, but if I found one that had everything I was looking for in a gun, I’d buy it.

Having just laid out the case for a revolver as an excellent choice for a beginning handgunner, I must now confess that I’m not a revolver kind of guy. I own one and I love it. It’s an old .22 that was made in the 1960s. I bought it from a friend at church. (That kind of transaction would be illegal if the newly proposed gun control legislation gets passed which would require a background check for every sale of a gun. Since private owners don’t have the ability to run background checks, the sale of guns between friends and family members would become a crime.) I have a wish list of future guns and I have a revolver on the list. It’s a Ruger GP100 in .357 magnum. That’s the gun in the photo near the top of this blog. Ain’t she a beauty? If you’re in the market for a good revolver, this is a fabulous one to take a look at. Or if you just really, really want to be nice to me…