Upcoming Topics

December 2, 2008

I haven’t been as prolific in posting the past few weeks, mostly because I’ve got a lot going on at work as well as here at home. Doing a bit of home improvements, spending some time outside to stave off the winter fat, the usual.

But I figured I’d give my readers (both of you!) a preview of what’s to come. Some of the following topics are already simmering in my “Drafts” folder, and others are still swimming around in my holiday-addled brain.

I’ll be discussing food storage tips for small families, individials and couples, as well as pantry planning for those with less-than-stellar culinary skills (or inclinations).

What about bushcraft, you ask? I’m planning a winter backpacking weekend with a few bushcrafty friends, and I’ll be sure to report back in detail. I’ll be testing some equipment, recipes and skills, and if I make it back alive, there’s sure to be a bit of humor involved.

Of course, many of my readers want to know more about firearms, specifically personal defense handguns and concealed carry topics. I’ve got a bit to say about the importance of tactical training, and that will be towards the top of the list of future posts.

I’m really hoping to get some input from readers, including suggestions, comments, corrections and brilliant ideas beyond my personal experience. Maybe even a good joke or two.

So stay tuned!

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Learn Skills for Cheap Thrills

November 9, 2008
Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Bored, but too broke to hit up the latest chick flick? Challenge yourself to learn a new skill each week. Pick something that will save you money, augment your fitness goals, aid in survival or preparedness, or all of the above. Bring a friend on board, or even plan an outing with friends to attend a workshop or simply learn together.

Skills I’ve really enjoyed, especially in the company of friends, include knot tying (get your mind out of the gutter), survival fishing, making snares, identifying and preparing wild edibles, survival signaling and old-school orienteering.

Geocaching with a GPS unit is another great way to get friends and family out of the house and on the trail.

Household frugality skills that have become rusty for many of us include bread baking, intensive gardening, soapmaking, candlemaking, knitting, basic home improvement & maintenance, and medicinal herbs.

Many community colleges or county recreation departments offer inexpensive classes on the above topics. Online resources and printed guidebooks can allow you to learn a new skill in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee.

Learning with friends is the way to go. In my old home city, my girlfriends and I took turns planning outings in which we’d either learn something new, or attend a lecture or reading that broadened our own horizons. In addition to learning something new, you learn more about the people in your immediate lives. A favorite activity was an outing to a rock climbing gym, when one buddy earned my respect for the hard-earned skills she’d built in a few short months of training.

Another was a CPR class I took with my family before we embarked on a three-month boating trip through Alaska’s inland passage, by way of Canada’s San Juan Islands. (After that, I learned to suture pickled pigs’ feet and administer insulin injections into oranges, woo hoo).

My general philosophy is to make preparedness and self-reliance a natural part of my life. Never be ashamed to admit you know how to field dress a rabbit, make glue from pine pitch or change the oil on your Subaru.

Building good skillsets benefits your self-confidence as well as your self-reliance, and makes you more interesting at social gatherings. You may be tempted to demonstrate bushcraft firestarting at your cousin’s wedding reception next summer, and I’m here to let you know that that’s a bad idea. Knowing how to use your emergency suture/fishing kit to fix the bride’s bussle, on the other hand, will make you the belle of the ball.


The Perfect Lady’s Gun…

November 3, 2008
*As if* it were this easy to find the right gun. (sigh).

*As if* it were this easy to find the right gun. (sigh).

…is the gun you shoot well, and that you’ll actually carry.

There IS no end-all, be-all perfect woman’s gun, in spite of all the kvetching on our favorite gun forums and oodles of articles in convenience-store gun mags.

Women use different criteria when selecting their personal carry firearm. Most of us have a few more curves than our gentleman counterparts, and some of us have fashion standards that preclude us from wearing baggy clothing or those gawdawful concealment vests that look like they were dreamed up by somebody’s gramma suffering from fruitcake overload. (It’s easy to say, “What do you value, fashion or your life?” For some women, fashion IS life.)

This post isn’t going to go into the finer points of caliber selection, though I will caution anyone from selecting a caliber less powerful than .38+P for personal carry. Nor will I tell you what holsters you MUST get. What I will subject you to is a little story of how I came to carry the gun I do, and the path that got me here.

When I first decided to get my concealed handgun license, I set out to kick a lot of tires in the search for my personal firearm. I got a lot of stupid advice from well-meaning but less-than-brilliant men, such as “get a revolver! They’re not intimidating to the ladies, and don’t need much knowledge of firearms”. How insulting!

This advice propelled me toward autoloading pistols, and ultimately the Kahr P9. I know the 9mm round is a good, inexpensive and common round to shoot with. I knew that I’d find anything in .45acp to big and bulky for my own carry needs, in spite of the fact that I shoot far more accurately with the larger, more powerful caliber. (My next handgun will be a .45acp for non-carry use, i.e. fun and general non-carry protection).

I got a custom Kydex holster–which I loved–for my Kahr and began to carry it, but in truth, I never really shot well with this little pistol, no matter how much I practiced. Plus, I found that the stock protruded a bit in all but the loosest garments. (I shot far worse with the smaller PM9, in case you’re wondering). So, to make a long story short, I stopped carrying altogether.

And guess what? About a year ago, I sold the Kahr and purchased an S&W Airweight 642 revolver. And I love it.

I know that the six pre-loaded magazines for my Kahr were much easier to reload than the three full-moon revolver autoloading devices, but I’ve learned to use the latter quickly. I know that the .38+P round of my new S&W is less powerful than the 9mm+P+ that I used to didn’t carry, but the point is, a gun that’s left at home isn’t very powerful at all, is it?

I also love how easy my little revolver is to carry. It honestly fits in a pocket, and the name Airweight says it all. And while it has a heavy trigger pull, there’s a technique I use that allows me to draw the trigger back nearly all the way, check my target, then give one final squeeze, therefore using the firearm almost like a single action.

Even better, my little pistol has Crimson Trace sights. Useless during the day unless at very close range, but very handy for low-light situations, and a TON of fun during dry-firing practice.

Maintenance? A snap. To be fair, cleaning autoloading firearms isn’t rocket science, but nothing beats the simplicity of a revolver. And the same principle of simplicity makes a revolver a more reliable machine.

My old Kahr has found a happy home with a friend of mine who loves it, and shoots it well. It IS a good gun, just wasn’t my type. (“Honey, it’s not you, it’s me”). Fit and function will vary from person to person, which is why I recommend trying out as many guns as possible before making that important purchase. Many ranges will allow you to rent, and others may have members around who are more than willing to let you try out their handguns for a chance to show off their own skills. Work it, girl; don’t settle down until you’ve played the field. In my case, the “good guy” revolver came in last, but better late than never.

My baby.

My baby.


Throwing the Perfect Quarry Shoot Party!

November 2, 2008

We’ve all been there. The dingy, littered quarry range on public land. Admit it, there are some things you just can’t do at your posh and tony Rifle Club, so once in a while, we slum it.

That’s not to say we can’t enjoy ourselves in fine style, of course, while we’re there!

If Martha Stewart were a Hoppes-huffing gun nut, she’d have a lot of fantastic ideas on throwing the perfect Quarry party. But she’s not, so you’ll have to settle for mine. Lucky you!

First thing you’ll need is shelter. You have many choices, from the ubiquitous EZ-UP 10×10 shade to the 10×20 Costco carport. A few folding tables and camp chairs (twinkle lights and hanging baskets of fuscia optional) will make your staging area an inviting one. Shelter will keep you and your equipment (and nummies!) dry or out of the sun. Some of us opt to have a shelter and shooting bench at the firing line for sighting in rifles or getting noobs started from a stable, supported position, as well as a “staging area” shelter.

Don’t forget refreshments! Since you’ll have lead-coated fingers, you might want to pass on the delicate finger canapes that might be served at your favorite polo field picnic, but by all means, bring along your fondue set! You know you have one somewhere. If you’re married, you probably got three as wedding presents. Now is your chance to show them off! Fondue forks allow your guests to fulfill their culinary cravings without the pesky risks of (further) brain damage from lead poisoning. Fondue, as frou-frou as it is, is a fun and easy way to fulfill your munchies in between trips to the firing line. The forks keep grimy paws out of the food, and on cold days, it’s easy for bundled fingers to stab and dip chunks of meat, bread, fruit or veggies.

Of course, you’ll want to bring along fondue pots that require gel or liquid fuels, unless you plan on firing up your portable generator…which might not be a bad idea, especially if you plan on setting up a smoothie bar and zombie-war simulating fog machine.

It’s also a good idea to keep food and drink away from firearms and ammunition. Have disposable wipes (at a minimum) for guests to use in between firearm handling and horking out on the food table.

What to drink…how about Hot toddies? Ok, ok, save the alcohol for the apres shoot celebration, and keep the chillies at bay with hot apple cider or cocoa. A big pot on top of a propane camping stove will keep your crew from constantly running off to ogle the fine furniture on that AR15 on the other end of the firing line, not to mention the babe manning the trigger.

Many quarries are on public lands with restrictions on open fires, so be sure to check the regulations before you head out. If you do build a fire, be sure it’s not in the way of through-traffic or your fellow shooters, and for heaven’s sake, don’t burn any plastics such as spent shotgun shells or cartridge trays. Go ahead and burn paper litter, such as discarded cartons and paper targets, but avoid the smoke, due to lead residue.

Oh dear, I nearly forgot! Make sure all your guests arrive safely and with proper directions. You might want to assign a rally point if the road to the quarry is confusing, or provide GPS waypoints or Google Earth KMZ files so they can identify your planned route. Inform new-to-shooting guests of certain expectations beforehand, such as the rules of gun safety and your own range rules, and be sure to tell everyone what types of ammo to bring along. Remind all to bring eye and ear protection, and perhaps bring along some extra yourself, just in case.

Another must-have accessory for every quarry shooter is a handful of heavy-duty garbage bags. Try to haul home more garbage than you generate, because polluted, littered quarries give us gun nuts a bad rap.

Planning a day at the quarry is a fantastic way to introduce non-shooters to our sport, and give them a bit of perspective on the importance of the Second Amendment. Whether your plan is to go down-and-dirty or highbrow, the important thing is to set a good example on the firing line as well as make the day and informative.


Shaking the Dust Off

November 1, 2008

Admit it. As much as we all know that any situation requiring the “for reals!” use of all the gear and preps we gather would be quite dire, and that none of us is actually looking forward to NEEDING our bug out bags, food stores or hard-earned skills, from time to time we all fantasize about SH-ingTF.

If you’re like me, you picture yourself prevailing against all odds with nary a bead of sweat. In our dreams, we’re all gods and goddesses of fitness and backwoods wisdom. We already know that if the excrement hits the oscillator, we’re better off than the vast majority of the population, right? We have mad firestarting skilz, we know how to secure clean, potable water, and we’ve trained our gag reflexes against the evils of MREs…but the truth is, if all our armchair survivalism remains just that…we’ll have to add Rascal Scooters to our Bug Out manifests. Not good, kids.

Today, I actually went outside, and learned just how much I’ve neglected the most important part of preparation: Fitness.

The beau and I shut down the computers, shut off our cell phones and headed to Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. We figured we’d take a quick scramble up the 2+ mile trail to the top of the 620-foot falls, take some photos and enjoy the fall colors. No problem, right?

Oh my.

Let’s just say that I saw really old ladies in houseslippers on that trail, doing better than we did. I saw a man in a SUIT on the trail, doing better than we did.

But we did it, and we felt fantastic for pushing to the top, where a couple happily obese women chatted about how easy this trail was. We sat there wheezing, shaking our heads at each other, probably because we couldn’t catch our breath enough to tell them to take a flying leap off the observation deck.

OK, so it wasn’t THAT bad, but I for one felt the strain. It’s been a couple years since my last obsession with weight training, and I think it’s time I became reacquainted with the local hiking and biking trails. Both weight and cardio training are important for overall fitness, and I’m a firm believer that when you’re in decent shape, you can handle psychological stress better, too.

Testing gear is a fantastic way of making preps an integral, healthy part of your life. While I wasn’t going to build a fire bed or set rabbit snares along this high-traffic sightseeing trail, I got the chance to shake the dust off my hiking boots and day pack, and to give some attention to trail clothing. I was given a reminder of why I’d always carried moleskin, and on my many stops to gasp for air, I got to examine the various edible plants along the way, including some very nice boletes.

We’re also planning a winter weekend trip to the Oregon Coast Range with another whack-job survivalist friend of ours, where we’ll spend 72 hours with nothing but our very basic “goody bags.” (As in, “Get Out Of Dodge, Yo!” Bags)

And tomorrow, I get to go shoot a bunch of evil pumpkins, and simultaneously initiate a bunch of gun virgins.

So if you’re still reading this, get off your butt and get outside. You’ll get more value out of your bags if you use them in the good times as well as the bad, and you’ll help fend off the preparation burnout that hits all of us at one time or another.