Weapon Systematization: Safety

preventing injury or damage due to negligence

If you have started viewing firearms as weapons then it is probably because you want to protect someone. That’s good. But if you are careless and undisciplined in how you handle firearms you may end up causing the death of the very person you are preparing to defend, like the man who shot his wife while practicing house clearing with a shotgun that he thought was unloaded. Or countless others.

If you want to be able to fight using firearms then you first need to master how to handle them safely.


  1. Always treat all guns as if they are always loaded
  2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are prepared to shoot
  3. Never point your gun at anything you are not prepared to destroy
  4. Always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it

In my experience, individuals who have not disciplined themselves to obey these rules will usually violate one of them within seconds of being handed a gun. And it really is a matter of discipline, which is part of why I put this as the first item when it comes to learning to fight using a firearm. If you can’t discipline yourself to observe these rules and be mindful of them then you are not ready to learn anything more advanced.

Additionally, you should be mindful of the damage that will be sustained by firing a gun without hearing protection. Each shot, even from lowly .22s, does damage to unprotecte ears. For really loud guns consider doubling up foam and over-the-head muffs. If Jerry Miculek does it you can do it. Don't waste your hearing. Further, wear eye protection. ANSI z87 glasses will stop most richocetes and debris. 

How to learn: Ideally, when you were a little child and played guns your dad made you observe these rules, so that by the time you could read you were highly conscious of where your gun was pointed at all times and your finger was only on the trigger when you were “shooting”. But, for most of us that’s not the case.
I actually don’t know what to tell you about how to master this; the best way is to have someone watching you who will correct you every time you make a mistake.  And you don’t have to practice with real guns; anything with a trigger and barrel can be used to practice safe handling. That means toys, airsoft guns, etc.
If you have to teach yourself, simply drill the rules into your head and give the guns around you a high degree of focus. Consider the rules kind of like you consider your rear view mirrors – even while doing other tasks do a regular “where’s my finger, where’s my muzzle” check.

Competence is simple: don’t violate any of the rules.
Mastery is also simple: don’t violate any of the rules under challenging circumstances. 

Weapon Systematization

How to use this series
My goal in writing this document was to provide a way for individuals to identify gaps in their own knowledge and abilities, specifically in relation to firearms used as weapons.
I’ve talked to a lot of people who may have a degree of mastery with a firearm in one small area, and therefore seem to assume they are competent to use almost any weapon in a life and death situation.
Many of these people haven’t even mastered basic weapons safety, frequently pointing their weapons in unsafe directions and using the trigger as convenient resting place for their trigger finger.

This document describes, roughly in sequence, the disciplines to be mastered in order to effectively use a firearm as a weapon. Each entry describes the requirement, the purpose of the requirement, a means to evaluate proficiency, and (for some entries) ways to improve proficiency or places to look for help.

Your goal as your read through these points of competency should be able to claim a degree of mastery for each and every one. You should be able to read and honestly check off each one - and in some cases, check off multiple weapon types. Some items may be measurable in time or group size or both. Your goal should be to shrink these numbers.
However, the further down the document you go the harder it is to quantify or claim mastery. You may also find it necessary to add requirements to the list of skills.
This document is not the final word on fighting with firearms - it’s an overview summary and foundation. Add to it.

The final section of this series consists of areas of study that should be pursued - this is hard to quantify, but your goal should be to know your stuff and be able to teach others the content and ideas. If you can do that you have achieved a level of mastery.

This document is divided into several groups of skills:

  • Safety
  • Manual of Arms
  • Shooting Proficiency
  • Fighting with a Firearm
  • Working and Fighting as a Team
  • Knowledge and Philosophy

These groups of skills are largely dependent on preceding groups of skills. Please DO NOT attempt to jump ahead - go ahead and read the whole document, but honestly asses your development and don’t advance until you are truly qualified.

Thrift: Cut Luxury Expenses

Another good way to cut optional expenditure is to target "luxury" spending. You know, those goods or items that are typically sold by telling you that you are special, deserve it, etc. Often, these goods offer little value compared to their competition - thus, they must rely on the whole luxury angle. Good news is, this kind of spending should be fairly easy to prune - if you are willing to "down-grade" a little. Savings can then be rolled into something more substantial.

Example 1: In  early 2008 I was shopping for a new laptop and my first AR-15. Now, I love good computers, but I ultimately bought a refurbished Dell for $570 and spent the same on an AR-15. I easily could have spent $1,200 on a laptop, and many of my friends did then and still do. And at the time (and since then) I got a fair few snarky remarks from my Mac toting friends. But that Dell, while not being cool, did work well for a long time. It has since given up the proverbial "magic smoke", as have many electronic devices from 2008. But I still have that AR-15, and it hasn't lost a lick of value during that time. And it can still do what it does best. 

Example 2: iPhones may be nice, but they are also very expensive. I'm using a cheap ($120) Moto E and have been very happy with it - in terms of performance it's way better than my older high-end Samsung and has so far proven very durable. It makes phone calls and lets me do emails on the road, though it falls short when it comes to showing off or looking cool. But it has a great battery life. It does everything I need at a very reasonable price. And I saved enough on my phone, verses getting a nicer one, to buy my wife a S&W Shield. Guess what: that phone is either going to get lost of end up as a toy for the kids. The gun? It will probably still be around in a couple decades. 

There are times and places to buy high buy premium or luxury level items (tools for earning money and life-or-death items would be one area). But you'd better have a good reason when you do; don't do it because some ad copy somewhere said "you deserve it" or "all the cool kids buy this brand". Determine your needs and buy accordingly. This will probably result in saved money - quite possibly a fair bit of saved money. This can then be put towards something useful. 

Book: Principles of Personal Defense, Jeff Cooper

One of the greatest influences on modern defensive handgun use was the late Col. Jeff Cooper. He spent years instructing in the use of small arms and studying the art of winning a fight. He wrote a number of books, but this short little one (more like a pamphlet), called Principles of Personal Defense, should be a must read for every person aspiring to achieve an effective self defense capability. Fundamentally, it deals with human nature, and the basic elements necessary for successful resolution of violent conflict. It's like an Art of War in miniature and specifically only about the one-on-one and one-on-several conflicts.

Well, I found a PDF of it online. It's a fast read and well worth saving for later reference. It can easily be read in less than an hour. 

Here are a few noteworthy quotes from the book:

"If you are justified in shooting you are justified in killing, in all but a few quite obvious circumstances. Don't try to be fancy. Shoot for the center of mass. The world is full of decent people. Criminals we can do without."

"If violent crime is to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it. The felon does not fear the police, and he fears neither judge nor jury. Therefore what he must be taught to fear is his victim. If a felon attacks you and lives, he will reasonably conclude that he can do it again. By submitting to him, you not only imperil your own life, but you jeopardize the lives of others. The first man who resisted Starkweather, after eleven murders, overcame him easily and without injury. If that man had been the first to be accosted, eleven innocent people would have been spared."

"Now how do we cultivate an aggressive response? I think the answer is indignation. Read the papers. Watch the news. These people have no right to prey upon innocent citizens. They have no right to offer you violence. They are bad people and you are quite justified in resenting their behavior to the point of rage. Your response, if attacked, must not be fear, it must be anger."

Inexpensive radio recomendations

Radio Hardware Options

We used to use FRS radios. We replaced those about two years ago with Baofeng BF-888 and UV-5R radios. These have proved to be great radios, especially for the price. A word of warning. If buying chinese radios I would only purchase from an American based vendor. Amazon is probably best. If you have a problem you are far more likely to get it resolved with Amazon than with a vendor based out of Hong Kong. Note: due to a name conflict, Baofeng is changing their name to Pofung. Same radios, new cheesy name. 

Baofeng BF-888, UV-5R, and UV-82

This is a super simple "business" style radio. It has a knob for power and volume, and knob for changing channel (it has 16), and a couple buttons. This has been our main workhorse radio and they have been dragged through the mud, dropped countless times, one even fell into a toilet, but none have died. Some have had their antennas die and one battery has died. For about $20 that's a great service record. They are now available at around $15 on Amazon.
Downsides are that this radio requires you program it from a computer using a kenwood-USB style cable, it only has 3 Watts of power output, and it's UHF only. But this radio is even cheaper than Motorola FRS radios and is far higher quality in our experience.
More Info: HamGear review - Miklor FAQs - eHam Reviews -
Where to buy: Amazon

This is the little Chinese radio that took the ham world by strorm - literally in some cases, as it's even sometimes used by soldiers. When it came out it only cost $60 and people were amazed by it. Now they cost about $30 on Amazon.They are dual band, covering huge portions of both UHF and VHF. These things offer a lot of communications ability for a small price. Ours have also proven quite durable suffering loads of falls onto pavement and tile and plenty of exposure to the elements. One of our four radios has had it's microphone die, but it's still in use with a shoulder mic. Another, which has seen the most use, is starting to get a little flaky after two years of constant use. I think all of our units now use replacement antennas - antennas are kind of disposable items.
More Info: HamGear preview, review (1) and (2) - Miklor FAQs - eHam Reviews
Where to Buy: Amazon

This radio is a lot like a UV-5R but in a more durable housing. It also has a much louder speaker and doesn't look as much like a toy. It is larger than the UV-5R, but it's still smaller than a lot of "public service/commercial" radios I've handled. It also has a unique dual push-to-talk button. These radios have "dual watch" and can be set to monitor two frequencies at a time. With the dual PTT button you can transmit on either of your two monitored frequencies without having to switch between your two monitored frequencies. A little odd at first, but I like it. This could be a very handy feature for some operations. 
More Info: HamGear review - Miklor FAQs - eHam Reviews
Where to Buy: Amazon

Other Radios
A helpful comparison is found over at HamGear - he compares a bunch of cheaper Chinese hand held radios.
The UV-B5 and UV-B6 get a lot of mentions - our testing wasn't favorable, but I think our two samples were from a bad batch.
On my list to test eventually is the Quansheng TG-UV2. It sounds very promising at a price of about $85.

Website: Art of the Rifle Blog

Several years ago I stumbled on an unpretentious site called Artoftherifleblog.com. The author has set out to master the rifle (or come as close as humanly possible). He's analytical, disciplined, and a good writer. His posts mostly focus on bolt action rifle craft (much carries over to semi-auto rifles), but there's a smattering of other gun or freedom related content. When I first discovered the site I spent a number of hours reading through all the archived posts, which was well worth it.

To get you started, here's some noteworthy posts of his:

Why the Rifle? - An explanation on why riflecraft is important

Rifle Ten: A test of rifle skill devised by Jeff Cooper

The Snapshot (and follow up post) - Goal: "a hit on a 4″ target from 25 yards in under 1.5 seconds"

And lastly, look over the Reference Section for a lot of his articles grouped by content type. Enjoy!

Thrift for Preparedness

If you are like me, money is never in terribly abundant supply. I've always had enough for groceries and bills, but we've also had to skimp and cut corners plenty of times. This makes preparing for some disasters difficult, as many steps of preparedness involve purchasing things. The bad news is that, in a down economy, it may be hard to increase your income. Very doable, but not as easy.

The good news is that most family economies are kind of like governments: there's enough waste and frivolous spending that you can probably free up a fair bit of money for more important projects by simple economizing.

The following posts in this section cover different ways to economize and save money.

Thrift: Cut your bills

1. Cut your bills.

For most people, their monthly bills are a steady, predictable, and large drain on their available funds. Take the axe to these. I've listed some common ones below - you may have others that will need personal evaluation. 

TV - I've never been a TV watcher, but a cable or satellite subscription is what,$50 a month? $600 per year? Or more? That's a used Glock and a thousand rounds of 9mm every year (pick a physical metric when thinking about money - it helps visualize the savings)! And what does it give you? An easy way to waste hundreds (or thousands) of hours a year? And in exchange you are indoctrinated in whatever morality is acceptable with the Hollywood crowd? As Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 15:33  Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."

If you spend hundreds of hours with Hollywood producers via their productions you are going to take damage. Don't deceive yourself on this point. Get your life and money back - stop watching large amounts of TV.

A Kill-a-watt meter showing how much my chest freezer has used.

Electric Bill - for most people there's no good way to replace their electric bill or really effectively produce their own power. So all you can do here is consume less energy. This is worth a whole page (or site), but get a Kill-a-watt watt meter and start finding out what devices in your home are energy hogs. This isn't about being green and saving the planet - this is about saving money to put into needed preparedness.

Example: my desktop computer draws about 300 watts. I used to leave it running 24/7. Well, at 300 watts it's using 7.2 Kwh per day, or 216 Kwh per month. That's about $20 per month. So, I now always put it to sleep when leaving it for extended periods: this saves me about $120 per year.  

Your HVAC is probably your biggest energy dump. There may not be a lot you can do in the summer (for mold control purposes you need to keep humidity below 60%) but in the winter you may be able to use a more cost effective heating method. $150 gets me enough wood to heat most of my house for more than a whole winter; this probably saves me $1,000 over the winter.

Phone Bill - If you are still on AT&T or Verizon for your cell phone it's probably time to bail. We keep switching around, but between Cricket and Airvoice you can probably chop your cell phone bill in half - $30-40 per phone is the normal rate. No, they don't give you "free" phones every couple years. But they aren't free actually - you will pay for them eventually. Oh, and keeping your lines to a minimum is also a sure-fire money saver. Maybe I'm just feeling old and crotchety, but when I was a kid we didn't have cell phones - kids these days don't need a parent-subsidized smart phone (unless they really need it - i.e. for business). 

I'll talk about "luxury/consumer" spending next.

12 Gauge: Birdshot vs Buckshot vs Slug

If you want to see the difference between birdshot, buckshot and slugs, watch this video. As a testing medium, big chunks of meat are perhaps more representative than ballistic gel. However, cold meat, devoid of skin, is still not a particularly accurate test medium. But better than bare gel. 
The birdshot only penetrated about 3" into the 4" chunk of meat. That's far short of the FBI's recommended 12" penetration depth. Think about it this way: in a shooting, can you guarantee that every shot you may ever take will be square on against a lightly built individual, with no barriers between you and him? A fat criminal could take multiple blasts of birdshot and have nothing get through his layers of fat. An extended arm could absorb the vast bulk of the projectiles and energy before they make it to the trunk, let alone the blood bearing, vital organs. A chair or other barrier could likewise render a load of birdshot ineffective.

Also, these shots look like they were taken at about 4-5 yards - acceptable for "indoor" comparison purposes. But if that distance stretches out some the bird will start to lose even this degree of effectiveness, while the buck and slug would remain far more effective. At really close range, I would use birdshot if I had no other choice, and would do so knowing that it does pack a severe wallop - but I would have to be very selective with my shots. If I had a choice I'd load buck or slugs.  


Ferguson Update

It looks like Ferguson Missouri is going to be back in the news again, perhaps in just a little over a week. Here's three news stories of note (and my conclusions):

Anonymous has released a statement, based on several sources of information close to the Grand Jury, stating that Darren Wilson (who shot Mike Brown) is not going to be indicted - they claim the decision will be announced "on or about November 10, 2014".

They also claim that "All local police Chiefs and jail commanders have been notified to begin preparing for major civil unrest." 

In this next article, businesses owners talk of the losses they have suffered. It's been a rough couple months for them; the violence and continued rioting has caused dramatic losses in sales.

Lastly, a CNN Law Enforcement Analyst had this to say, when asked if the people in Ferguson had the potential to "overheat" if there was no indictment:

“Oh, they’re gonna overheat. That would be absolutely true… Whether [Police Chief Thomas Jackson] resigns or is fired, won’t matter at the end of the day if Wilson isn’t arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for shooting Michael Brown. Nothing less will appease anybody. You have members of the community and other leaders saying statements in the press like, “There will be carnage. There will be violence. There will be destruction.” And they’re saying not just in Ferguson, but across the country in other African-American communities.”

His advice? “The police better be planning and they better be stocking up, because they’ve been told this is gonna happen.”

My advice, especially if you are in a city with an ethnically diverse population? Plan and stock up (if you haven't already). It doesn't need to be radical (I'm not advocating razor wire or anything), but definitely reduce your need to go out by stocking a couple weeks of essentials, and make sure you have at least a couple serviceable weapons. Adding some less lethal capability might also be a good idea. 

Another idea to consider: maybe you aren't in an area likely to see civil disorder. But do you have friends or family in that kind of location? I have an acquaintance that lives in Ferguson (cops told them they really need to move, and they have been working on it) - if things start getting ugly where your friends live you may want to make a plan to either go in and help them evacuate or better secure their home or business. 

It's a fairly well known fact that during the LA Race Riots the Koreans defended their businesses. What's not as well known is that in many cases the groups defending stores didn't even really know the owner. Their countrymen were in danger and so they came to their aid. Christians should give this some thought. Nehemiah 4 deals with this sort of problem (murderous civil disorder) and shows how it can be succesfully dealt with.