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Security

EV001408Traditional thinking about OpSec (Operational Security) is that we should keep quiet about our preps. In a catastrophic event, the thinking goes, civil unrest immediately follows and those who don’t have food will steal – by force, if necessary – from people who do. Everyone who has talked to many people about their prepping activities — that they store food, water, medicine, and supplies — has been told by someone, “If anything ever happens, I’m coming to your house!” Being interpreted, that means they have no intention of spending their time and money to prep. Why bother? You’ve already done it all for them. And when times do go bad, they’ll remember that you have what they need. And they’ll tell their friends and family about you, too. And all of them will tell their friends and family. So good OpSec dictates that if you want to keep what you’ve stored, you keep your mouth shut and not reveal to anyone what you’re doing.

I agree with that…to a point. But I’ll get to that.

We have purposefully gone against traditional OpSec with this website because we think that it’s important to get the word out to others about the need to prep. And we want to inform you and encourage you to prepare your family for the time when life continues, but with some major changes from how we know it today.

About a month ago we attended PrepperFest in Columbus, OH. It was our first prepper conference and we found it to be well worthwhile. One of the workshops was by Black Dog Survival School. I found the instructor’s take on OpSec to be surprising and so much more realistic than the traditional perspective. He asked a question that went something like this:

“How long after SHTF do you think it will take for those around you to figure out that you have food, shelter, heat, fire, and water?”

His answer – about two days after they run out, which will probably be about three days after the catastrophic event. I think he’s probably right. That means that by Day Five, unless you live in a really remote location, your OpSec will be shot, too, and you will have to make some critical and difficult decisions:

Will you share what you have and, if so, with whom?

In the cozy security of life-as-we-know-it, you may be able to take a hard line and answer that question very narrowly – you’ll share only with those you’ve prepped for or with. In other words, anyone else who comes knocking at your door will be turned away, probably at gunpoint. Or maybe you’re more generous and think you’ll share with your extended family and neighbors. But how far does that extend?

Will you really be able to say “no” to your children and their spouses and children? What about your in-laws and their families, including that brother-in-law who drives you nuts? What about your children’s in-laws?

As I recall, the speaker said when they honestly looked at their family tree, they decided that they would be prepping for fourteen people. Yep, fourteen. Because to do otherwise meant that they would be saying to people they love (and/or have an obligation to), “No, I can’t give you food – you will have to go hungry.”

Phil and I don’t have children, so we don’t have to deal with the heart-wrenching decisions of giving our rapidly decreasing food to our children and their in-laws. Sadly, we also don’t live near our siblings, so we don’t face sharing with them and their families either. (I wish we did.) But the question extends to our friends. Would we really tell our closest friends, “Sorry, we can’t share our water with you”? I can tell you the answer to that is “no” because we’ve already said, “Brother /sister, if you are in need and we can help, please come to us.” Just because life has changed doesn’t negate that promise we’ve made.

Of course, the problem is exacerbated when we know that some of the dear friends we’ve said that to have grown children and grandchildren. Despite our best efforts to convince them of the need, they are not preppers. How far does our grace extend? In all honesty, we struggle with that question, because supplies will disappear rapidly in a truly catastrophic event.

And then there is the neighbor who sees that we have food and water when they have none. Will we really say “no”? And will that honor God?

The conference speaker encouraged three actions that I totally agree with:

  • Think through this discussion with your spouse honestly. Lose the bravado and macho attitude. Pray about it. What would God have you to do?
  • Prep more food and water. More than you need for your family. More than you need for your extended family. More.
  • Break OpSec with those you care about. Talk about prepping with your family, friends, and neighbors. Don’t be the crazy doomsday relative or neighbor, but plan get-togethers and get to know one anothers’ skills and assets. Encourage prepping in whatever way makes sense for each person. Challenge each person to go a bit beyond what they think they can or should do.

So what do you say the person who simply says, “If that happens, I’m coming to your house”? I’ve developed a new response to that. It’s something like, “OK. What are you bringing to the party? What are you prepared to contribute to the group?” And if there is an opening, I continue, “You see, you are welcome at my house and I will share what I can with you, but understand that if I share my year’s supply of food with you, we then only have a six months’ supply. And if you bring your husband, we now have only a four months’ supply of food. And four months isn’t long enough to grow enough food for all of us to continue to live on. So what will you contribute?”

Overwhelmed by this? Thinking, “Hey, I’m still trying to get enough food for me and my family set aside and now you want me to do more?” Then step away from this article and revisit it in a few months. We’re all at different places in our preps. Over the past few months I’ve just come to realize that more really is better. And that our goal of having enough food and water for “Phil and I and some to share” needs to be modified to “Phil and I and LOTS to share.”

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

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

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

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

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

Water

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

Food

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

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

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

Cooking

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

Shelter/Heat

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

Security

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

Documentation

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

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

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

First Steps

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

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

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

What Next?

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

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

The Gold Standard

Remington 870 Express

Remington 870 Express

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

A Real Crowd Pleaser

Customized AR

Customized AR

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

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

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

My Solution

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

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

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

Plan B

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

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

Plan C — or was it Plan A?

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

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

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

Rossi Model 92 Lever-Action .357 Magnum

Rossi Model 92 Lever-Action .357 Magnum

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

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

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

What is Dry Fire Training?

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

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

Safety First (and Always)

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

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

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

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

Rule 2 – Never mix guns with drugs or alcohol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Training Without Bullets Really Improve Your Shooting?

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

Gun Handling

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

Trigger Pull

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

Effective Stance

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

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

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.

Female Holding HandgunI 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.

Photo credit: www.UltimateReloader.com

Photo credit: www.UltimateReloader.com

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:

This single-stage press uses one die at a time to work with one cartridge at a time

This single-stage press uses one die and works with one cartridge at a time

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.

This Redding turret press allows you to have as many as seven dies installed at once

This Redding turret press allows you to have seven dies installed at once

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.

There's a lot going on with this Dillon progressive press

There’s a lot going on with this Dillon progressive press

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.

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.

Ultimate Survival BundleThe 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.
UltimateSurvivalBundle.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not quite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…