Monday, January 27, 2014

My gals hate pink...

When I first met my wife back in the 80s... the days of shoulder pads... and not just for football players... stirrup pants, leg warmers, and big hair... like Barbara Mandrell... my gal was country when country wasn't cool. She's always worn a little make-up, but not much... and she's always had a natural beauty to her and a mind of her own... so she never really worried much about styles and trends.

She's as comfortable in jeans and camo as she is dressing up for a nice dinner out and about. She does enjoy the outdoors, shooting, and riding motorcycles, but still likes to kick back, throw on a movie... and paint her nails. A fiery redhead with sass, one thing I learned early on... pink is not this gal's color... it's purple.

Then came my lil' gal who's now off to college... and like her momma... she's her own woman too... in blue. Truthfully, I think either one would hate their favorite color if it was the norm... just because they don't like to be pegged in societal norms.  They both like to go their own way... intelligent, beautiful, independent gals with their own minds and their own ideas.

Anytime we're in a gun store or at one of the local dealers and one of the gun gurus on the other side of the counter is pushing a pink gun on some gal... or worse, some guy buying it for his gal... my wife is always about half ready to slap someone upside the head. Gals, I guess it's OK if you like pink, but my gals will have none of it.

Yeah guys, I know... a blue gun or a purple knife really doesn't blend in well while huntin'... but my gals remind me that animals are color-blind and that ninety-nine percent of the time we're not trying to evade the zombie apocalypse... but, honey... someday we might need to evade zombies and that purple... SMACK! She tells me that we'll camo it with Krylon when we have to... that's my gal!

Truthfully... black, camo, and molle gear doesn't really blend in with most environments that the majority of us encounter every day anyway. So... gun companies and others... a bright blue AR or a purple Ka-Bar TDI knife... not lavender or violet... but a real purple one (my wife's wish list)... would go well 'round here.

What can I say... My gals hate pink...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Touching-up minor blemishes on firearms...

Over the years, I've often repeated the simple wisdom that, "Scars are just visible memories." I've managed to collect my fair share of scars over the years... top of my head from a brick... both knees from surgeries for old ACL injuries and meniscus tears... left elbow from the horn of an angry black angus... right hand from a steel band on a pallet... below my right eye from a hockey puck... abdominal scars from hernia repairs... right foot from dropping some farm equipment on it with tractor... and many more.

It seems our firearms collect a lot of scars and blemishes over time through use and age too. Some folks prefer the look of a beaten-up, well-worn gun while others keep their mechanical friends as pristine as the day they left the factory. While I have undertaken several extensive firearm restoration projects over the years... sometimes we just want to touch-up a small blemish, scratch or mark.

There are a lot of great products and home-grown techniques to help keep our guns looking good, so I thought this might be a good conversation starter. Sometimes we get a small scratch or wear-spot on our blued firearm barrels, receivers, and frames and one quick way to touch-up a small area is with the Birchwood-Casey Presto Gun Blue Touch-Up Pen.

This Gun Blue Touch-Up Pen is not a black Sharpie... but a true, penetrating, chemical bluing in a pen. I've had good success with cold-bluing small areas with this product. From my experience, the touched-up area seems to hold it's bluing well... even with repeated cleanings and oiling.

The Birchwood-Casey Super Black Touch-Up Pens come in both glossy and flat black.  They work great for touching up items that are painted like scopes. On a side note, the Birchwood-Casey Super Bright Touch-Up Pens are great for adding a bright color to your front sights if you're tired of using Testors model paint or fingernail polish.

For those of us with good ol' wood stocks and furniture on our guns, sometimes those scratches and dings are memories that were unavoidable through regular use and we just want to give the guy a little bit of respect with a quick touch-up. The gals and I have had good luck with the Guardsman Furniture Markers.

You can choose a color that matches the wood finish, but I've found it best to start with a slightly lighter color and work my way through progressively darker colors until it matches. A little gun stock wax or stock-finishing oil and you're looking like new again.

While there are some very specific products available for those black aluminum and polymer items that need a quick fix... sometimes it's hard to beat the ubiquitous black Sharpie marker. Sharpies have endless uses and you'll almost never find me without one... they're in vehicles, range bags, BOBs, GHBs, the gun room and the kitchen drawers.

So, what are your tips for... Touching-up minor blemishes on firearms...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Getting into concealed carry, quick answers...

As a long-time gun enthusiast and firearms instructor, I have a lot of folks seek me out for advice. Some of the common questions I get about concealed carry include: "What gun should I carry?", "I want to get a gun and my CCW, what should I get or do?", "How much does a good concealed carry gun cost?", "What ammo should I get?", "How much does a CCW license cost?", "Do I need any training?"

As a firearms instructor, I work very hard to keep up on guns, gear, training, learning, trends, laws, products, pending legislation, skills... and so forth... which is why I usually take the approach when asked for advice of, "I educate, you decide."  That may be a good philosophy or approach for many, but learning can be expensive as you work your way through various guns, holsters, ammunition, training, and developing your skills and mindset.

With that in mind, I often still get folks trying to pin me down to tell them exactly what they need and how much it will cost. So here are my thoughts for one-size fits a lot of folks at the beginning of owning a hand gun and wanting to carry concealed that fits a lot of the time.

We should start with why you want to carry a concealed gun and what your current mindset is, but instead we'll start with the question that most folks want answered first... What gun should I get? All things being equal (which they are not), I typically recommend a 9mm semi-auto from a major, reputable manufacturer and you should plan to spend $400 to $600 with tax, etc.

I'm not going to debate caliber here. New shooters are still developing skills and the lower cost of 9mm ammunition for practice, the lower recoil than comparably sized guns in .40S&W and .45ACP, and the higher capacity for a similar sized gun make the 9mm a great choice for a first gun that someone has decided to carry, develop skills, and bet their life on.  Leave the snubby .38s to the gun-counter guru's tryin' to impress gals with bad advice.

Three guns I personally like are the S&W M&P9 Compact, the Glock 19, and the Ruger SR9c.  These three guns are in the price range I mentioned, are smaller than their full-size counter-parts, have good capacity, can use an extended magazine to provide a full-size grip for new shooters... and while smaller, they have enough size, heft, and sight radius (the distance between the front and rear sights) to make for effective grip, recoil control, training, and skill development while still being very concealable for a lot of folks. I also recommend that you have at least three magazines for your gun... while I personally have a minimum of six magazines for any gun the gals or I own.

You should ideally carry the gun holstered on you, so you will need a holster and that can be quite a journey in itself if you ever get a chance to see my multiple holster boxes.  Let's make this simple... get a quality, inside the waistband (IWB) holster to carry on your strong-side hip. Kydex, leather, or a hybrid Kydex-leather holster specific to your gun from a reputable manufacturer will run you about $100 with tax or shipping thrown in. I think outside the waistband (OWB) holsters are harder to conceal and you should have some experience built up before going to appendix carry... ankle hosters are not a good primary carry location... and leave the shoulder holsters for cop-show re-runs from the 70s and 80s.

My personal preference is a hybrid IWB holster with good quality leather against me from manufactures like Comp-Tac, Galco, Cross-Breed, or Blade-Tech. The Kydex half of the holster will keep it's shape, allow you to adjust tension/retention, and hold it's opening for re-holstering. They usually have two good clips, like my Comp-Tac MTAC, instead of one to hold the holster in place on your belt/waist when drawing or re-holstering your gun.  You can probably throw in $25 to $50 for an spare magazine carrier and another $50 to $75 for a quality belt or belt designed specifically for concealed carry.

When it comes to ammunition, stick with major-brand bulk boxes of 9mm, 115 grain FMJ for practice and then select a major-brand defensive round like Winchester PDX, Federal Hydra-Shok, Speer Gold-Dot, Hornady Critical Defense, or other similar cartridge. Again, I'm not going to debate specifics right now because this advice is for folks who don't want an education, just an answer. How much will it cost... see my thoughts on Handgun Break-In for Self-Defense, which is as much about breaking in the gun as it is about breaking in the shooter.

OK, so now you've got your gun, holster, and ammo... lets go over what you should have taken care of first... mindset, legalities, and training. Do you have the proper mindset? Are you ready to take on the responsibility and cost... both emotional and financial, of carrying a firearm for your defense. Are you ready to take the life of another in the process of stopping their immediate aggression or threat or serious harm or death against your life? Your family's lives? Your friends' lives? Strangers lives?  Where do you draw the line? Family but not friends? Friends but not strangers?

What about the law, legalities, and liability of carrying a concealed gun in your state or area? Do you need a CCW license in your state? Do you know how much it costs? Do you know where you can and where you can't carry? Do you know the law? Is training required? Are familiar with the legalities of self-defense and the use of deadly force? Can accept the liability for your actions with a concealed gun for self-defense? My personal answer to all of these is yes... but what about you? 

Finally, let's end with the beginning... training. As a firearms instructor for many years and a professional educator... I believe that learning and training is essential to every endeavor in life... especially for the safe use and carrying of a concealed handgun. Before you even by the gun, the holster, the ammo... start with training! Seek out quality instruction in your area. If you are just beginning, an NRA Basic Pistol Course is a terrific place to start. 

If you know the basics, then get quality training from a local, regional, or national trainer or program with a solid reputation of training folks AT YOUR LEVEL! Tactical-operator-door-kicker training is probably not the place to get your first training under your belt as a new gun owner or concealed carry licensee. 

Good training isn't cheap so plan to spend $100 to $200 (including ammo) for an NRA Basic Course or $300 to $700 between the ammo and cost of the instruction for a higher skill-level course that addresses techniques, tactics, and mindset. Look around, there's probably good instruction locally or regionally you can take advantage of to begin your journey.

So, you can do this on the cheap... or you can do it right... but you better budget $1,000 to $1,500 for your first year as a new gun-owner and CCW licensee. If you have any thoughts, feel free to add your two-cents worth... about... Getting into concealed carry, quick answers......

Monday, January 6, 2014

Four ways home...

While folks who do much prepping at all have most of their preps at home... you may someday be faced with having to get home.  Every day there is a chance you might find yourself at work, store, school, church, a friend's house, or somewhere else you frequently or occasionally travel to and you need to get home.  Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, that is not a problem... but there is always that time that arises when getting home and be difficult, delayed, or impossible.

Are you prepared to make it home? Do you have a Get-Home-Bag (GHB) or Bug-Out-Bag (BOB) with you? Do you have multiple plans and routes to get home in case of bad weather, an accident, road construction, or other unforeseen disaster or problem?

Let's talk about four ways home the the gals and I have prepared for and see if it's helpful for you to consider for your situation:

The Rut

Many years ago, after completing a patrol tactics seminar that challenged law enforcement officers to examine and break out of predictable routines... I went in the "exit" road to patrol through a cemetery in our jurisdiction lookin' for the usual suspects... like kids drinking, young lovers, tokers... and then... I saw it! I had always gone into the cemetery through the "enter" access road and there was a tombstone that had the quote, "See you on the other side."... and when I went in through the "exit" road... and came up on that tombstone... on the back side it simply said, "Hi there."  Now THAT is a guy who literally took his humor to the grave.

The Rut is the route, manner, and mode of transportation that most of take to and from our destinations like work, the gym, the kid's dance studio, and the store almost every single time without really thinking about it. It is often the quickest and easiest way to there and back home again. We often develop these "Rut" routes without really a lot of strategic thinking or evaluation and then use them over again.
"It's pretty far, but it doesn't seem like it." ~Yogi Berra
Should we abandon The Rut? No... but you should recognize that The Rut becomes routine, makes you predictable in your movements, and leaves you vulnerable because you tend to drop your alertness and become passive in your travels.

Maybe you need to re-examine The Ruts in your daily life and see if there are more efficient, strategic, or less predictable ways to travel from home and back again.

The Back-Road

If some of us do have an alternative to The Rut, it is often The Back-Road way to get home... and if you don't have an alternative to The Rut, The Back-Road should be your first approach. Most folks take major highways or thoroughfares from home to their destinations and back again.  What if an accident has those routes closed?  What if there's a major snow storm or other problem that shuts them down?

This is where you need to become familiar with the secondary, country roads, and back alleys around your home, destination, and in-between. Take the time to turn off the GPS, get out a map and sometimes just drive. The GPS will often try to guide you back to the main highways and shortest route. I've seen too many people blindly following the GPS without really paying attention... just turning and going wherever the dashboard teleprompter tells them to go.
"When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it." ~Yogi Berra
Can you make it from work in the city to home in the suburb or country without using the main highways and major roads in your area?  If your map reading skills are getting rusty... it's time to dust them off and plan out a few back-road ways home to try... and adjust... and who knows, you might even find some really cool out-of-the-way places you weren't aware of in your area. You should have a good road atlas and maps in your vehicle and your GHBs and/or BOBs, but don't forget to pick up a good, detailed, street-level map for your more immediate area that shows all those back-roads in detail. They will also come in handy when you have a detour or delay on The Rut.

The Round-A-Bout

Sometimes you just can't get there from here.  I have a good friend who drives over an hour to work in Columbus every day.  His rut is Interstate 71. A couple of years ago we had a bad winter storm and there was a pile-up on 71 and the Ohio State Patrol had the entire southbound interstate shutdown. The rapidly accumulating snow would like make The Back-Road way home very slow and difficult as those roads are often the last to be cleared and tend to drift over quickly with our southwest Ohio winds.
"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." ~Yogi Berra
The solution was not provided by the GPS. He took Interstate 70 west towards Dayton and then ended up cutting south on U.S. 68 to make it home. A bit farther to go, but far quicker than waiting on 71 to be cleared of the pile-up and better than chancing the smaller back-roads not being in very good shape.

What's your round-a-bout way of getting home?  Have you thought about it? Get out the map and when you can't head south to get home, how can you get there by starting off east or west, or even north.

The Long Walk

You may find yourself in the very unfortunate situation of having to walk home when you normally drive or ride home. Always keep a good set of walking shoes with you in your GHB, BOB, vehicle, or at work.

Walking down the interstate is probably not going to be an option unless it's the Zombie Apocalypse. Your back-road route might work, but may not be ideal either. Is home within walking distance given your physical abilities? Do you need an alternative location to walk to? Do you have friends or people within walking distance that you can rely on?
"It gets late early out there." ~Yogi Berra
If you do have to "hoof-it" on foot, take with you what you can, think ahead about the weather, hydration and water needs, etc. If you're leaving for home on foot at the same time you would typically leave in a vehicle, you know it's going to take a lot longer to get home so plan accordingly.

Some tips that may help...

Lose the GPS and tune up your map reading skills. Don't have a map? Get one! Take some time to explore the areas around your home, work, school, destinations, and everything in-between.

Plan for unexpected delays. If you typically use 2,000 gallons of gasoline each year in your vehicle, you will not likely use and more or less if you fill your gas tank up when it still has a quarter of a tank of gas left than when it is on empty. Do the math, it works out the same.

Always keep water, supplies, and a GHB or BOB in your vehicle. Have you checked the air pressure in your spare tire since you've owned your vehicle?  Is your vehicle's maintenance up-to-date? Have a working flashlight? Two? Three? Ok, I'm a flashlight nut... what can I say.

Finally, at least one day each week... a different day each week... don't use The Rut in your daily travels.

This post has been on my to-do list for a while, but with the pending snow storm and sub-zero temperatures predicted for the next couple of days around here... it seemed like a good time to start thinking about... Four ways home...