Sunday, December 16, 2012

Learn to Shoot a Pistol with Accuracy

Many people buy pistols for self defense but few people really know how to shoot a pistol with any kind of accuracy.  The relatively short barrel and the short sight plane make a pistol more difficult to fire accurately than a long gun.  Learning to fire a pistol accurately is basically the same as learning any other physical skill; it takes time, practice, and a methodical approach.

I suggest that you learn to shoot a pistol with a .22 caliber revolver.  There are several reasons for this:

1. The ammo is cheap
2. The recoil is light, so you won’t be as likely to develop a “flinch”
3.  A revolver allows you to load chambers in a random pattern leaving some of them without a cartridge (the reason for this will be explained in a moment)

You will need to use the same size target and shoot from the same distance at every practice session when you are first learning to shoot, so buy or print a pile of targets.  You will also need to record each and every shot that you make, so I recommend that you buy a small notebook and print off a bunch of miniature targets that look like the one that you will be shooting at.  Cut the small targets out and glue them into your notebook, and you will be ready to go to the range.  Be sure and take hearing protection, a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, and if you want to make your targets last longer take a roll of masking tape and a black marker with you.  This way after you fire ten or twelve rounds at your target you can tape over the holes.  If you hit the bull, you can use the black marker to color the tape black.

At the range you want to set up your target in a safe shooting location, then pace off twenty-five yards and draw a shooting line on the ground.  I like to set up a small table to hold my ammo, binoculars, notebook, tape, etc.

The first time that you shoot, you want to do something that is a little unusual but is very effective for teaching proper trigger pull, and this is why I recommend that you use a revolver.  If your revolver holds six rounds, load it with four rounds in a random pattern.  If your revolver holds nine rounds like mine, then load it with six rounds.  Don’t leave the empty chambers right next to each other, space them randomly around the cylinder.  Now spin the cylinder, and without looking at it, close the cylinder.  Now when you thumb the hammer back, you don’t know if it will be falling on a live round or an empty chamber.

When learning to shoot you always want to fire single action, so step up to the line and assume a good shooting stance.  Your feet should be about shoulder width apart facing straight ahead.  Your hips and shoulders should be square to the target.  If you are right handed your left foot should be about 14 to 18 inches in front of your right foot, depending on how tall you are.  Hold the gun with both hands.  The right hand should be wrapped around the grips with the index finger extended.  The left hand should cup under the butt and come up onto the left side of the grips.  Arms should be relaxed and bent slightly at the elbows.

When you are comfortable with your stance, thumb the hammer back and place the first digit of your right index finger on the trigger.  Sight down the barrel so that the top of the front sight fills the slot in the back sight with the top of the front blade dead even with the top of the wings on the rear sight.  The center of the bull should be sitting right on top of the front sight.

Now draw in a breath, exhale half of it, and relax.  Keeping the gun on target squeeze the trigger  slowly.  If you are squeezing the trigger properly you should not know exactly when it is going to fall.  It should be a complete surprise to you.  This is the hardest thing for most people to learn, and this is where the empty chambers in your cylinder will really help you in developing the correct trigger pull.  When you squeeze the trigger the hammer may fall on an empty chamber.  If the happens, take note of your reaction.  Did you jerk when the hammer snapped down?  If you did it means that you knew when the hammer was going to fall, and you jerked in anticipation of the discharge.  If you are squeezing the trigger properly, you should not know the exact moment when the hammer will fall, and so you can’t anticipate the discharge and you won’t flinch.  You should use this method of leaving random chambers empty until you never flinch.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will overcome flinching, and you will be amazed at the difference it makes in the accuracy of your shooting.

Each time you discharge a round you should stop, lay your pistol down, look at the target through your binoculars, and mark the target in your notebook at the exact spot the round hit on your target.  Then pick up the pistol and fire another round.  This is very time consuming, but it will make you pause and consider each shot and what you might have done wrong.  In no time at all you will start shooting tighter and tighter groups, even if you don’t know exactly what corrections you are making.  Don’t ask me how it works.  Maybe a brain researcher can explain it.  I just know that it does work.

Please don’t get in a hurry.  When I was learning to shoot, I made it a point not to shoot more than a hundred rounds per practice session.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Just be patient, be methodical, and keep practicing.  The results will be well worth the effort.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Home Preparedness Guidelines

Before you start on a program of home preparedness there are several questions that you need to ask yourself:

(1) What am I preparing for? 

This list could include short-term power outage, seasonal weather like tornadoes or hurricanes, earthquake, unemployment, interruption to the economic system, collapse of the economic system, break-down of the social order, insurrections or riots, nuclear or biological war, electro-magnetic pulse attack, asteroid collision, and who knows what.

(2) Am I currently living in a survivable and defensible location?

Are you in a big city? (not good)  Do you live in a small town? (better)  Do you live in a rural community? (better still)  Do you live on a farm at least two hours from a major metropolitan area? (very good)  Are you well established on your farm with a good support group of like-minded neighbors? (best)

(3) What kind of financial resources do I have to devote to preparedness?

Preparedness is an investment, just like a bank account or stocks and bonds.  Some people live paycheck to paycheck and don't have funds for investment.  Don't let this stop you from preparing to the extent that you can.  Some people have money to invest, but they spend it on things that they want in the here and now.  Not a good approach to home preparedness or to life in general.  If this is you, you're probably not reading this anyway.  Some people invest in bank accounts, stocks, bonds, 401K's, life insurance, health insurance, long-term disability insurance, etc.  A person with this kind of money to invest can easily redirect part of their investment to home preparedness.  The amount would depend entirely on what level of commitment the individual wants to make, but I wouldn't cash in my 401K or cancel my life insurance for the sake of preparedness.  Keep things in perspective.  You're a lot more likely to retire than you are to get hit by an asteroid.  I hope.

So how should you go about preparing?

Home Defense

I believe that no amount of food, water, medical supplies, tools, farming equipment, or coin can save you if someone else can take them away from you.  Of course you can just chalk it up to me being a Texan, but the first thing I would recommend is a weapon to protect yourself, your family, and what you already have.  If you will have only one weapon, I recommend a good reliable 12 ga. pump shotgun and a variety of ammo including bird shot, duck and turkey shot, buckshot, and slugs.  If you want to invest more extensively in home defense and hunting weapons, see my posts on "Five Guns for the Homestead."


Depending on where you live, and what time of year it is; you could be dead long before you have a chance to die of thirst or starvation.  Hypothermia, or the loss of body heat, can kill you just as dead as a bullet from an AK-47.  You need a source of heat if the power goes out.  It can be as cheap as a propane camping heater for the short term, or it can be as expensive as a high quality wood burning stove that will last for decades.  There are many choices between these extremes so pick one that fits your budget and invest in some heat.

A source of light is not really necessary for survival, but it sure does make it easier.  My power never seems to go out during the daytime.  Getting to the breaker box in a dark closet to flip switches, and going out into the dark night to get the generator running is nearly impossible without some kind of light.  If you're going to use flashlights, make sure that you have fresh batteries.  Mine never did so I bought plug-in rechargeable flashlights that stay plugged into a wall socket until needed.  I also bought several hand cranked flashlights.  Again, light is not absolutely necessary for survival; but it's cheap and very helpful.  Get some flashlights.  I also have kerosene lanterns in every room, a propane camp light, and lots of candles for longer term situations.


Three days is about all that you can survive without drinkable water, and you need a minimum of a quart a day just to stay alive.  A gallon a day per person is more realistic.  Water is cheap.  There's no reason not to lay in a supply of drinking water in plastic bottles.  Several cases will fit under your bed.  For longer term situations you can look into a cistern or a water well.  These are both still very common in rural areas.


Food is where a lot of people start a preparedness program, but as you can see it's way down on my list.  The explanation for this is simple.  The average person can live for three weeks without food.  Of course nobody, including me, wants to go that long without a meal.  How much food to store and what kind of food to store depends on how many people you are feeding and for how long.  I would say that the bare minimum should be one week's food for each person in your family.  This would be for a short-term situation and could be made up of canned goods and dried foods.  The longer that you are planning for, the more thought you will have to put into your food storage program.  One thing I would definitely advise is not to store a bunch of stuff that you don't normally eat.  Keep a rotating stock of items that you already eat and replace them with more as you consume them.  I had a neighbor that bought buckets and buckets of nitrogen packed hard red wheat.  He never ate a tablespoon full of it, and ended up giving it all away just before it expired.  Lots of money down the drain.

Medical Supplies

Most homes have a medicine cabinet with basic first aid supplies and over-the-counter medications.  That's a good thing, but make sure that they are fresh, and if you are running low on anything go ahead and buy a backup.  The rule in my house is, "If you've used half of it, buy a new one."  If you take prescription medications, you should have an extra month's supply of these on hand at all times.  Also, do yourself a favor and buy a good home medical book and a Red Cross first-aid handbook.  There are quiet a few posts on this blog about home medical supplies and it would be worth your time to read them.

A Radio

A good battery powered or hand-cranked radio will keep you informed about weather conditions and other events that may affect your survival.  You can get little battery powered radios for under $20.00.  A good hand cranked radio with AM/FM, short wave, and weather bands can be purchased for under $100.00.  This is money well spent.  The radio that I have can also be used to recharge a cell-phone.

All of these things listed above are the bare minimum preparedness supplies that I would keep on hand.  If you are looking to prepare for longer term situations please scroll through the posts on this blog.  There is a wealth of information based on personal experience about how to prepare for almost any survival situation.