This article is part of a series discussing if Homesteading is right for you, and the advantages and disadvantages of more rural living.
In the last post there were several considerations about the location of your homestead. Commuting and telecommuting, distances you can tolerate, a more isolated lifestyle, infrastructure needs, and risks and resources. In this segment, let’s consider what we can do with our property and how we can put the land to work for us.
The first thing to assess is the resources already available on the land. What foliage exists, and what types of flora might be beneficial to invest in. When I purchased my property, the original owner had planted many apple trees. The advantage is I have abundant apples, but years of neglect have destroyed many of these trees and bringing them back to health has been a chore.
Additionally, we’ve found very large sugar maples, and made maple syrup for the first time. There are abundant blackberries. We found a large patch where morel mushrooms grow in abundance.
We have countless deer, rabbits, and cranes visit our yard regularly.
The natural woodland one would expect is a bit missing on my property; the previous owner having cleared much of it away for an orchard. I heat with firewood, and there is limited standing timber to harvest.
I have wetland on my property, and a small lake only 50 yards off my property line. A cordial neighbor agreed to water access and fishing rights.
Accessing the resources
Once the resources are identified, it makes sense to ease your ability to get to them. Whether making a path through the overgrowth, turning a section of overtaken orchard back into ‘yard’, or even installing a dock, getting at needed resources is very important.
When I was clearing some overgrowth with my tractor, I noticed a gap between the trees. The grass was easily 5′ tall in this area. I put my front end loader near the ground. This not only beat down the grass and prevented my tractor’s radiator from becoming loaded with debris, but it acted as a handy probe in case of rocks or stumps. The rear of my tractor was equipped with a rotary cutter, able to mow down all manner of foliage and even saplings up to 3″ thick.
As I followed the new trail, I realized it must have once been the access road for the orchard. It circumnavigated the entire orchard area, and finally doubled back to the central area I had built my house.
This trail now provides important access to the wetland, the maple trees we tap for syrup, and out to the corners of my property.
Start grooming the land
Similarly to utilizing the resources already at hand, start grooming the land for expanding its capabilities to meet your needs. For me, that was putting in a gun range. It was also clearing back much of the overgrown grapevine and Asian Bittersweet that has invaded the property.
Depending on how much land you have and the amount of work you want to do, you may leave some land overgrown and natural. It’s fine.
Importantly, LEARN TO GARDEN AND BUILD A GARDEN. This is the one thing I wish I had gotten to earlier. It doesn’t take much to install one, and garden maintenance can be one a few hours a week. The self sufficiency gained is very important as you get real, tangible results after only your first season.
Look over your garden and revel in the self sufficiency it will one day provide. No HOA Member telling you the tomatoes are ‘unsightly’, or the sunflowers are bringing too many bees to the area…
Assess your needs
Now that you have something started, grow into it. Trying to feed a family of 4 with just what you grow, and hoping to accomplish that right away, carries a high chance of failure. Weeding the garden is hard at first. What is food and what is unwanted. How hard is it to tell? Why does my back hurt? You definitely have the energy for a smaller garden, and can work your way up as you gain experience.
Within a couple season, you’ll have a great idea of what your family likes and dislikes, what you might be able to sell, and what grows best in your area. Use that knowledge and focus on it; just don’t focus to the exclusion of other things. You family has dietary needs, both nutrients and caloric intake.
After a couple years is the time to truly start to assess those needs and expand for them.
Whatever you add, you will likely need equipment to upkeep it and make it thrive. IBC totes allow you to store water for the long haul. This is great for gardening.
If you are making syrup, a network of tubing and a way to route it might need to be thought up. Trees might need pruning while you know what branches are healthy in the summer.
I built a small shed for my gun range. No more lugging targets, pylons, staple guns, and other equipment every time I go out there.
Find the experts who KNOW each topic. Trade them your knowledge or pay them.
This is a marathon!
Remember, you will not achieve self reliance and sustainability overnight. It will take a couple of years just to feel like you’ve gotten started. A few more to feel like you’re thriving. Along the way, you are getting better. More knowledgeable. Wiser. You’ve worked, and know what works. Things go from a “That’s impossible!” to “Gimme 5 minutes” pretty quickly.
Homesteading is basically using your land and skills as a resource to achieve some type of resiliency. To begin with, “your land” will have a location, and that location should be based on your needs. To determine your needs, be realistic with yourself and your family about what is important in your lives, and don’t give in to fantasy or flights of fancy about your wants and needs. It may sound romantic or refreshing going completely off grid 40 miles from town, but if hitting the bar or the yoga studio is one of your major solaces, then that 40 miles will begin to be a barrier to your happiness. Let’s look at some considerations when choosing a location.
If you commute to work, you have to consider the drive distance and drive time to get there and back. It’s no secret that bigger land requires a more rural area in general. Just how far are you willing to drive? Moreover, how crowded are the roads that way? Will you be able to achieve a sense of peace and solace if you have a 45 minute bumper to bumper stop and go headache twice a day?
An easy way to reduce this concern is to telecommute. Thanks to the pandemic, employers have really opened up to this possibility, with some employees contributing more than ever since they no longer have a drive time, and are interrupted less than having a presence in the office. Have a legit conversation with your boss. What does the job allow for? What are the boundary conditions? Are there any measurables that can be put in place to evaluate the possibilities?
Other distance concerns
Other commuting concerns are distances to stores, hospital, emergency response, night life, etc. What are your vulnerabilities as far as needing outside help or resources? If you’re the type that goes to Lowe Depot 8 times to finish a project, the distances might become formidable. Alternately, if you buy stuff for projects once, are handy and adaptable, maybe the distance is acceptable.
If your job allows for telecommuting, your next step is to choose a location where the infrastructure supports the activity. If you’re so far out that only satellite internet is available, you’ll need to really ascertain if the bandwidth and data caps prevalent in these plans will support your work. Satellite internet has earned its lackluster reputation. High ping (the amount of time a signal takes to get to the destination) makes it horrible for any computer gaming, and can create awkward and unnatural pauses in videoconferencing.
Likewise, movie streaming, gaming, uploads and downloads, and other internet activity can be severely hampered if you’re too remote and the infrastructure to support your needs isn’t there. Ping kills. Ascertain if your lifestyle allows it. Again, don’t give into some notion that life will be simpler and Little House on the Prairie when you are an avid gamer. You like what you like. Support that.
For many, unlimited cellular data plans strike the balance between remoteness and connectedness. Evaluate if cellular data speeds are adequate, and which providers cover that area. Take a hotspot or use your phone as a hotspot and test by watching YouTube or the like.
If you’re the type that prefers to have friend over all the time, and thrive in a busy community, homesteading may not be for you, or you may have to settle for a smaller lot closer to urban and suburban areas. We’ll be discussing distances from these areas in the next article. This article is really creating zones of area one can look for when considering a rural move with preparedness in mind.
Risks and Resources
If you are lucky enough to have the entire country to consider for a job, consider the threat scenarios you’ll inherit by moving there. If you move to a trailer park in Kansas you had better prep for tornados. Likewise, if you move to California, Nevada, or Arizona, you will need to contend with drought and possibly wildfires.
Likewise, areas have their own inherent resources. The heartland has vast farming capability. The Great Lakes region has an abundance of water and woodlands. Finding the right risk versus resources balance is important.
In the end, location is vitally important, and will be a continuing theme for the remainder of this series. The considerations here are just to provide an overall list of considerations. Actual threat reduction comes next.
These things have been popping up in a Facebook feed near you, and a very one sided advertising portrayal makes them seem handy, but they are a horrible idea under almost all circumstances.
“You gun is always somewhere”
This phrase is an important part of safe staging and storage rules. It is a reminder that once you leave the firearm in a spot, that it remains in existence even if you walk away. That means that the spot you leave it in is important, and as the firearm’s owner it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that access to that firearm is controlled.
The advertisements show these magnets left in various places, presumably to be readily accessed in a time of need. But what about their access at all other times? This thing isn’t a safe. It isn’t on you. Not on you and unconstrained access to it? No thanks.
Reducing administrative handling
Administrative handling is the handling of the firearm in an other-than-time-of-use. When you get dressed for the day and strap your pistol/holster to your belt, that is an administrative handling. Likewise when you go to bed at night. Ideally, these are the only two administrative handlings one does each day.
But we don’t live in a perfect world when it comes to our rights. Going to the post office? You need to disarm. Does your state have various pistol-free zones? You may need to disarm. Is your workplace a non-permissive environment? Another disarm opportunity.
When we disarm, ideally we are doing so with the holster, so that the firearm trigger mechanism remains covered. It is a small assurance and good administrative practice, and does NOT imply that we do not know how to handle the firearm, but rather that we understand its operation and include one additional precaution in safe handling.
The manufacturers of this magnet apparently believe that administrative handling is the business of the day. Going to the kitchen to get a coffee? Unholster that pistol and put it in the mount. Settling down to work for the day? Unholster and mount it to your desk. Driving around? You guessed it… unholster and stick it to the dash. What they don’t show is that EVERY administrative handling comes with a Buy One Get One Free reholstering, and each time you change locations, you have to perform another administrative handling putting it back in your holster.
If you remember to do so.
Yup. Imagine accidentally leaving that pistol in its magnet at work after you’ve gone home for the day. If you’re responsible, you’ll drive back in and get it immediately. If you’re wise, you’d never put yourself in that position to begin with.
More draw strokes make more inconsistency
Ideally we train our draw stroke regularly. Private ranges don’t always allow it, but with some classes and finding the range that knows you are responsible and vigilant owner and not a selfies-with-guns-in-my-bedroom owner, you can get more leeway to train.
Also ideally a person should train to get their gun to bear on target from any position, with the gun in any position. Laying in bed with the gun next to you. In the car with the gun at your side. Sitting on the couch watching The Mandalorian. The permutations become staggering. But, this is the way.
In reality we practice a few different draw strokes. Laying down and night stand. Standing and OWB (outside the waistbelt) strong side. Determining what sitting in a vehicle or at our desk requires to modify that. Maybe an additional carry option such as a shoulder holster (lefties making long road trips: look into this!).
Practicing these “most of the time” draw strokes helps us to develop the procedural memory so that the draw is as speedy as any other natural movement. If one’s training time is not infinite, then it makes sense to carry the firearm in a manner to reduce different draw strokes, so that the training you can do is as relevant to as many situations as possible.
These gun magnets introduce more combinations. Where are they mounted? How do you get to them? What position do you need to be in to pull the pistol effectively? What angle are they at?
This one is especially humorous. You’re in your office hard at work on your TPS reports… Bad Guy comes in, unhinged, muttering about a stapler, and threatens to burn the building down. Let’s look at two different scenarios.
You have your pistol in a holster:
You look up and assess Bad Guy is a life threatening event.
Your hands stay in your workspace and in front of you.
You are ABLE to stay seated or move backwards in the chair to stand up.
Whichever you decide, the gun is on YOU in a holster.
You use a draw stroke you’ve practiced numerous times.
Draw, deploy, threat handled.
You have your pistol in a magnet:
You look up and assess Bad Guy is a life threatening event.
Your hand MUST go from the top of the desk to under the desk. If the fight turns physical your hand is not in immediate play.
You MUST stay seated to access the firearm. If you stand, you must now stay leaning forward to reach down to retrieve the magnet-held firearm. Vitals-forward isn’t a great choice…
You use a draw stroke you have likely not trained with as extensively as your CPL-intent draw stroke.
You are finally able to to stand up, and MUST move backwards to get the gun up and around the table. (I concede you may be able to make a Han vs Greedo undertable shot, but a pistol isn’t a blaster and I’d much rather have the ability to hit vitals with my bullets because I don’t have an energy gun).
Draw, deploy, threat handled… later.
There may be some benefits to the magnet mount. They will be situational at best. They will certainly not be the clever, versatile mounting system their advertisement portrays, nor is the scenarios portrayed useful in common real life application that they are portrayed in.
A multi-part series on why homesteading is a strategic form of preparedness.
Martial practice was a large part of my life for over a decade. I made it to every class I could, which sometimes was quite regular and sometimes sporadic, as the needs of life required. Martial training was, for me, never about learning new words in Japanese, or cultural immersion, or anything other than gaining proficiency at violence (yes, that IS what martial study is about!) so that if anyone in my circle was threatened with harm, I might be able to help.
My instructor knew of my extra-dojo activities of emergency preparedness, firearm training, and the like. One of the reasons I stuck with this instructor (aside from the incredible knowledge and ability to apply it that he possessed) was that he understood melee-martial knowledge was but one facet of a personal protection strategy.
One day, after talking about emergency preparedness, he asked me “What should I do to best prepare my family for uncertain times?” I will never forget the perplexed look on his face when I answered simply “Learn to garden.”
In the Keep and Bear LLC Emergency Preparedness 1 class, we teach a form of threat assessment that breaks events into component threats. For instance, a tornado is a threat event that brings the components high wind, water accumulation, lightning, egress disruption, power failure, and possibly more.
Many of the threat events people face lead to two specific threat components that are very risky: loss of income and supply chain disruption. Homesteading may also add some resiliency to civil unrest, depending on location.
In short, whether due to your own finances or factors at work locally, regionally, or even globally, you cannot get the resources you need to sustain you family.
Identifying and fulfilling necessities
This is rather straighforward, and comes directly from survival priorities:
Homesteading and personal resilience focuses on protection, shelter, hydration, and nutrition. Simply put, the best way to mitigate these threats is to have a means of supplying yourself with the basic needs.
It is very difficult to secure these needs in a resilient way in a subdivision. Homeowner associations (HOAs) are stocked with a plentiful supply of Kyles and Karens who make your business their business. If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood without an HOA, or have a sensible one that respects property rights, congratulations.
Hobby gardening is generally tolerated in an HOA-controlled neighborhood. Expending that garden’s capacity to meaningfully feed your family is generally not tolerated. Complaints of being ‘unsightly’ abound, as well as ‘attracts too many bees’, and whatever other made up excuse is available as timid neighbors see “other than lawn” as an aberration.
As some basic survival needs are addressed in future installments, think of ways you can do this in your current situation, or how you might need to adapt your situation to accomplish them.
A number of protection ideals I’ve learned through my career as a student and an instructor have tied together in interesting ways. While each of them are individually worth their own article, I’ve come to realize they are facets of the same quality: Initiative. In the context of use here, initiative is ultimately the mentality of self ownership, willingness to act, and having a plan to enable.
These lessons are:
Action vs Reaction
Control the Encounter
Never Give Up
Action vs Reaction
The truth of a protective mindset is we are usually reacting to threat. A great many instructors say “act, don’t react”, but acting first is usually considered aggression. A peaceable people will not initiate violence. We may be forced to react to it in some way, and we may have enough heads up to preclude violence entirely (escape and avoidance). We may have trained diligently for the situation and can easily handle neutralizing the threat in some way, but nonetheless we are reacting to the presence of the threat. So where does “Action, not reaction” come in to play? The best way to characterize this is “Now that I am dealing with this situation, I’ll work MY plan, not theirs”. If my plan for dealing with someone attempting to grab me is to throw punches and make distance, I’m going to enact MY plan to do so because that’s what I might be better at. Bad Guy is still a contributor to my actions because he poses a threat, which can vary (he could start by shoving then pull a knife), but my mentality is one of “I am in charge of me, and now you must react to the violence I am visiting upon you.” This ties very closely with controlling the encounter.
Control the Encounter
Once the determination to enact the plan is made, controlling the encounter is priority. The first step is to never, ever, ‘surrender’. We cover this in some depth in our Concealed Pistol course because it is so very important.
Surrender is different than ‘submit’. If Bad Guy completely gets the jump on you and demands your wallet at gunpoint, remember, YOU are in control of the encounter. You may likely choose that giving him the wallet is the best choice for you at the time, and you may submit to the request and do so, but your mindset must never enter a state of surrender where you think “he has a gun so I have to do what he says”. Once you’ve mentally surrendered, and if things turn worse, you must now overcome your own compromised mentality as well as the threat the bad guy imparts. For instance, once you’ve handed over the wallet and he follows up with “and get in the trunk”, the last thing you need to be doing is regaining mental control over yourself and the situation.
By maintaining a mindset of controlling the encounter, you continuously ensure you are mentally in charge, despite the odds of the scenario. It matters.
Never Give Up
Our bodies can push on far longer than our brains think. Continued training reinforces this, and so many endeavors have been decided on willpower over skill.
From a protection standpoint, in general the defender does not need to defeat Bad Guy, merely outlast him. Bad Guy need anonymity, concealment, and quick action to carry out Bad Guy things. Once enough phones are recording him and the sirens can be heard, Bad Guy’s time doing Bad Things is limited. Often, defense is merely outlasting.
Even if rescue is not imminent, Bad Guy knows the risks in doing Bad Things. He’s looking for quick and easy. Once the defender demonstrates he is not an easy target, and especially if the defender exhibits control of the encounter, Bad Guy realizes he isn’t getting what he wants and moves away quickly. In this case, it wasn’t being exposed, or imminent police arrival, it was Bad Guy’s lower resolve that ultimately ended the controntation.
I use this example in our Michigan Concealed Pistol class for a few reasons. Primarily it is to convey that not all altercations are physical or lethal force encounters, but just as importantly, to Act, and to Control the Encounter.
I work on the west side of Ann Arbor, MI. There’s a Meijer there, and I was pumping gas into my Jeep. The CPL class teaches to Make a Plan, Practice the Plan, etc., and I had taken that to heart years earlier by envisioning various scenarios. One of which was being approached while pumping gas.
A rather dumpy looking guy was hovering near the front of the convenience store there, and I had made a note of him because it was an odd place to just loiter. He wasn’t smoking , leaned up against the wall casually, or anything that suggested he was just waiting for someone inside. While pumping gas I kept an eye on him.
I noticed him look around, and his eyes swept the 6 or 8 aisles of pumps at the station, then he turned back to the pump near me. He approached a guy on the other side of the pump and got right in his face demanding money so he could get some gas. He was not extremely loud, but very forceful, and clearly attempting to intimidate the guy pumping gas.
While this was going on, I performed the couple ACTIONS to better my position. I assumed that Bad Guy would come to me next, since he surveyed all the pumps being used, I guessed that he wanted to surprise and intimidate as many people as he could (hence the not-very-loud voice used). I also assumed he’d take the quick way from pump to pump, around the side near the store.
Action 1: I unzipped my coat so I had access to my holstered and concealed firearm. I guessed that because this guy gave up on the first gas pumper that he wasn’t really going to attack, but I wasn’t leaving it to chance.
Action 2: I repositioned myself so I was on the opposite side of the gas hose, and could quickly get around the corner of my Jeep for concealment in a single step.
Bad Guy did indeed come around the front of the pumps, and with a very belligerent look said “You’re going give me some money”, as he started advancing towards me. He was met with me, very loudly and forcefully, commanding “STOP. NOT ANOTHER STEP!”.
He literally stumbled backwards just at the strong verbal commands. After regaining his composure somewhat he advanced again saying “I just need some….”
“THAT’S FAR ENOUGH!” I again strongly commanded. The look of hatred in his eyes would be comical if I wasn’t worried how he’d react. “I’M NOT GIVING YOU A THING. GET OUT OF HERE!”
By now, other motorists were watching at other pumps. He realized he was not in control of the encounter with me, and moved to the next aisle of pumps, where a lady in her late 30’s was pumping gas. She looked absolutely terrified as he started towards her.
“I DON’T THINK SHE HAS ANYTHING FOR YOU EITHER.”, I forcefully stated. He turned to me (I had concealment from my vehicle and was watching his hands more than anything else) and the look of hatred was palpable. He ended up giving me a gesture, and walked into the store. The look of relief and thanks the lady gave me was something I’ll remember forever.
Again, I use this example because I don’t want my students thinking the firearm is the answer to all their problems. This was not a physical or lethal force incident, but the potential for it was there. I didn’t know what Bad Guy was armed with or what he might do.
But most germane to the topics at hand are that even though I was reacting to Bad Guy’s presence and actions, I enacted my own actions to ensure my safety. When Bad Guy rounded the corner and engaged me, I controlled the encounter. He was unable to enact his attempts at surprise and intimidation, and realizing he had lost control of the encounter, gave up dealing with me.
A more subtle lesson here is Never Give Up. I didn’t know the lady in the aisle next to me, but in the moment I included her in my protective sphere (the people we will choose to protect). By not giving up, and extending my control of the encounter past immediate threat to me, my resolve in the situation outlasted his and he stopped (at least, until I was gone).
The Mentality of Initiative
The aspects of acting and not merely reacting, controlling the encounter, and never giving up form an overall mentality of initiative. The mindset to act, take control, and prevail. This mentality of initiative is a paramount mindset to instill in yourself. In all your endeavors, train with diligence, be in control mentally, and persevere in your effort, and you are training the mentality of initiative.
Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership
With the COVID scare and the unrest associated with the authoritarian abuse of power around the George Floyd murder, Americans who were once in the “opposed to” or the “neutral about” firearms rights have decided that a defensive firearm is an option to protect themselves and their family.
Unfortunately, most of the people in this belief group have had years of reinforcement that guns are bad, and that evil will invariably ensue should they decide to bring one into their home. Their quandary lies in the general assessment “does the added dangers of firearm ownership outweigh the dangers of being defenseless”? It is a very rational question; but the ‘quandary’ part comes far more from media misinformation being a seed in the decision making process about ownership, fogging all their data.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the things you should consider when determining if a firearm for home defense as right for you, and how to talk about it with your family. These items, in turn, help to demonstrate to loved ones that you have taken their safety into account in this decision.
For most people attempting to discuss bringing a defensive firearm into the home, the issue will be managing their fear, and like was mentioned before, penetrating the wall of misinformation.
At its core, you must demonstrate you have an understanding of the risks of owning a firearm. You must show that these risks can be mitigated, and that the mitigated risk of ownership is less than the risk of remaining defenseless. To get this balance, we need education.
Education is the antithesis of fear. When the HIV scare of the late 80’s hit, it was education that quelled the fear of getting AIDS from a mosquito bite or a public toilet. More recently, education has suppressed the Karens and their fear projection of public spaces and sans-mask interaction when facing the coronavirus scare. We now take educated precautions based on facts rather than listening to a bunch of Facebook posts about how walking in a park will end humanity.
When we are unfamiliar with a thing, we fear the thing. When we become familiar, that fear is replaced with understanding and respect.
For firearm ownership and usage, that understanding instilled through education allows the owner to pick up the firearm and operate its controls (actions, reloading operations, safeties, and trigger). We know how the device works and all the buttons and levers are not mysterious any more.
That respect instilled through education allows all this to be done knowing the firearm is potentially dangerous machine, and to perform all of its actions and operations in a manner that does not introduce additional risk due to ignorance or negligence.
Education, followed with repetitive training, instills the rules of firearm safety upon owners and users.
Take a class. Bring the adults. Our Essential Handgun course is set up specifically to take those first steps of ownership with you.
When we are properly educated on firearm handling, the risks of ownership are mitigated to a level lower than the risk of outside threats. But what about the uneducated members of the household? We must control access.
The simple truth is you are considering a firearm because you have people to protect. Yourself, spouse, children, Aunt Martha, whoever. They mean something to you. The biggest risk is the firearm hurting someone other than bad guy. To mitigate that risk, we control access to the firearm.
Controlling access to the firearm is simply this: Those authorized to use the firearm have access to it. Those who are not authorized to to use the firearm do not have access to it.
The gun safe may be an inexpensive handgun safe with a biometric sensor to open it, or it may be a massive 40+ rifle safe able to store a respectable collection. How you intend to store or stage the firearm will take some consideration, and the safe that is proposed should support that method.
The talking point here is clear: Adults will have access to the gun via the safe, and the children will not. The gun will be in the safe unless it’s being used.
An interesting aside here is the safe’s ability to protect from fire. Full rifle safes are often fire rated, which means your important papers, jewelry, silver dollars, grandma’s keepsake necklace, and your nice watch collection can all benefit from this purchase. We all have things we would prefer to put in a safe if we give it some thought. Here’s one opportunity to do so.
Any discussion about what firearm to purchase should also include what gun safe to purchase. Make it a part of the ‘total proposal’.
This goes beyond mere education. Education is ultimately the gathering of knowledge. Training is the ability to put knowledge into practice. Training is the commitment to continued safety, and increasing education.
Training is available before you even buy your first firearm. All decent schools will grant their students access to firearms to use, and responsible instructors will respect a student’s decision to acquire training before a gun purchase is made. If you, or you and spouse take training together, have a talk about the shared experience, and get the concerns in the open, training becomes an excellent way to bring familiarity to a topic to make it approachable.
The major takeaway from training is to acquire wisdom-based safe practices.
Develop safe practices
If your circle is unfamiliar with the sight of a firearm, bringing it out of the safe may be a cause for alarm. Cleaning it at the kitchen table may be a source of nervousness. Do not introduce these stressors.
If the firearm isn’t being used, ensure it stays in the safe, ready to be used. (As an aside, the NRA safety rules state to keep a firearm unloaded until it is being used. The Keep and Bear, LLC position on this practice is that a firearm in a safe ready for home defense is “staged”, not “stored”, and that it is indeed being used, just not actively wielded.)
Before the purchase, you can demonstrate your intentions to develop safe practices by setting up an area on the workbench for gun cleaning. Put a “No Ammunition” sign up in that location to demonstrate there will be no negligence involving gun cleaning. If asked about it, use it as an opportunity to show that you are addressing fears.
You know why mom is reluctant to get another pet? Because she’s the one that feeds the current pets. When the new puppy goes from being new and exciting to watch his every move to a known and accepted member of the household, his care must continue.
So too with firearm ownership. Do not let all the above demonstrations of responsibility be temporary. Maintain an ongoing vigilance to safety, education, storing/staging, and training. If you’ve reached this stage, you might have already been given the green light to get the gun. Show you were worthy of that concession. Keep your circle’s concerns and safety in the forefront.
This is truly a family decision. The adults must be on the same page. If Cousin Larry is a scumbag and will probably hock the gun, and you leave it out one Tuesday when he’s over… It’s up to you both to ensure that he doesn’t know about the gun, cannot get access to the gun, and you’ve agreed giving him the combination to the safe just isn’t happening.
You must be brutally honest about your situation, and you must accept if the risks cannot be mitigated. An adult child with mental issues prone to anger at home may preclude firearm ownership to ensure he/she does not harm. A son/daughter with lots of friends over all the time may prevent firearm ownership due to the transient nature of guests in the home. Your own issues, such as depression, anger, etc may mean it isn’t the best choice. Be honest with yourself, and be honest that you may not be able to address every fear or concern brought up.
Similarly, going back to fears, what are each person’s fears around firearm ownership. Address them. Don’t call the concerns stupid or unjustified. Fear is an emotion and could quite well be unjustified. The end game is addressing the fears, which , for a rational person, means reducing the perceived risks. Show you can reduce them, you will reduce them, and they will stay reduced.
Most of the USA is now closed for business. For many of us, we have lost access to martial training and firing ranges. This doesn’t mean we should be putting our protective training on hold, though. Here are a few ways to adapt or develop new training methods.
Strength and cardio training
There are honestly thousands of books, videos, and other sources out there for this training. For protection, a definite balance between strength training and cardio is needed. Look for strength-increase and flexibility-increase videos, not just “bulking up” exercises. The same with cardio.
If you don’t happen to have any equipment at home, add “no equipment” to your google searches. There are still many exercises that can be done using body weight resistance, as well as stretches!
Practice the basics you DO know
There are a number of martial arts apps out there that show applications you can do from your screen. We advise against these because there is no instruction or critique to break you from a bad habit or incorrect movement. Without this, imperfections (vulnerabilities) can become ingrained and need to be relearned.
But, if you happened to have trained well before this self-distancing, AND if you know some moves well enough to have not been significantly corrected on, continue practicing them!
I can honestly say that when troubleshooting trainee technique at the dojo, most of the trainee issues stemmed from improper positioning caused by poor footwork. If your training includes footwork patterns or routines, do them over and over, taking care you are doing them well.
Punching bags and artificial targets
Percussion training is kinda hard to get wrong. With some basic combinations under your belt, train them, and train them hard. Work them into a cardiovascular workout. If you have the means, a torso target allows you to work on target selection far better than a punching bag, but be prepared to load it up with sand (they leak a bit, don’t use water) to make it stable.
Physically striking is far superior to “punch into the air” martial movement. there is no substitute for actual striking to ensure your fists or chopping hand strikes are resilient.
Another great tool are the Cold Steel line of melee training weapons and the Rings Blue Gun line of firearm training weapons. These can allow for great weapon manipulation and movement training. If your martial skills involve breakfalls and rollouts, practice going into prone, supine, and urban prone. This will not only improve your ability to obtain cover/concealment, but the large movements will improve cardio.
Dry fire dry fire dry fire
When practicing dry fire, set up a place that you know is safe, and keep it that way. The rules of gun safety are not suspended while doing this; they are more important than ever.
Pick a dry-fire location in the home free from others, including pets or important valuable. Establish that this sectioned area is an ammunition-free zone.
Ensure the area you will be dry ‘firing’ into is safe, and what is beyond it is safe and will trap a bullet if all else fails.
Read your owners manual and confirm that firing on an empty chamber is not detrimental to your firearm. Most modern semiautomatic and revolver firearms are able to handle dry firing. 22LR pistols are a notable exception.
In a separate area, remove all ammunition from your firearm. This includes the magazine and chamber or the cylinder for most modern pistols. If you have a training barrel for your firearm, install it here. Confirm the firearm is empty through sight and touch.
Move to your dry fire location. Ensure it is free of obstructions and people.
Reconfirm the firearm is empty through sight and touch.
If for any reason you must pause this training and leave the area, perform all safety steps over to ensure the firearm and training area are in known states when resuming training.
Dry fire for sight alignment and trigger congtrol
A training program I took emphasized that most firearm issues can be resolved with sight alignment and trigger control. After spending a full 8 hours on these two factors alone, I am in complete agreement.
Fortunately, these two factors can be practiced without ammunition. When dry firing, you can work on maintaining sight alignment and picture while manipulating the trigger. These items are the very fundamentals of superior marksmanship, and it can be done for FREE.
Perform all safety steps noted above.
Practice dry firing by squeezing the trigger while maintaining sight alignment/picture on a target fastened to the wall.
Pay special attention to any movement in sight alignment that trigger actuation provokes. Correct it. There is no rush here, and each trigger pull can take as long as needed to perfect.
Repeat until your trigger actuation does not affect sight alignment/picture at all. (This can take years!)
Dry fire for draw and acquiring target
Once the fundamentals of sight alignment and trigger control are well understood, it’s time to bring the drawstroke into play. Using ALL the same safety steps shown above, AND all the sight alignment/picture and trigger control exercises, practice drawing from holster, presenting the firearm, and getting on target with a proper sight alignment and trigger actuation.
Remember the fundamentals of a good drawstroke:
Using support hand, remove concealing garments from the holster area.
Primary hand acquire a solid grip on the firearm with thumb-forefinger webbing lodged firmly in the tang of the handgun and fingers in a solid grip. Trigger finger must be extended.
Draw the firearm deliberately to the pectoral index point. Support hand comes to the chest.
Rotate firearm to the front. Shooter may need to engage from this position and firing from this position should be practiced for close quarter engagements.
Extend the firearm forward with a “punching out” movement. Support hand should naturally acquire a proper grip on the firearm during this extension. During extension, begin to acquire sight alignment and sight picture. Shooter should be able to put rounds on target during the extension action for close quarter engagement training.
Once at extension, finalize sight alignment and sight picture.
Actuate trigger during the drill at the appropriate time determined for your practice.
Dry fire with moving and shooting
Using ALL the above steps, and adding in objects, navigate to cover/concealment, move around obstacles to get on cover. Add partial cover to your target… the list is endless what you can do here, and it all builds in movement familiarity with the firearm.
By now it should be apparent that there is so much that can be done with dry fire. In fact, the only thing missing is recoil management and the assessment of shot placement.
Train the mind
Internet research costs little, and finding good sources doesn’t take that long. Train the mind with good information. Justifiable use of force, the laws of protection and firearm ownership, the anatomy of violence, and so much more. Go for depth, not breadth. Find a subject and truly deep-dive it. Surface smatterings of many topics are easily obtained. Focused knowledge in one thing leads to much more understanding.
Training beyond stay-at-home
Of course, ALL of this must be reinforced with this most paramount of paradigms: You are NOT PLAYING. This isn’t a tactical LARPing exercise, Mr. Wick. You MUST do all the above training as if it is a live-fire exercise, with the exact same mindset for training and consequence. Do not train in poor muzzle discipline. Do NOT train in a bad drawstroke. If needed, record your training and play it back and scrutinize as if it were someone else’s Facebook post that the world will nitpick into oblivion. You could even send it to your instructors for their review, or a close group of training friends operating in an ego-free way.
Most of us have been ‘gifted’ with extra time on our hands. Whether it be working from home and no commute time to actually being furloughed. These times are hard, and they will get harder before it’s said and done. In desperate times, the worst in some people comes out, and the best in others comes out. It’s up to us to ensure our best is greater than their worst. Train hard, train focused.
The world is watching the Coronavirus spread with great concern. Prior to that, it was Ebola, or HIV, or whooping cough. In our increasingly interconnected world, disease can spread quickly and over great area. The Coronavirus has hit Wuhan, China hard. One of China’s major trade centers is effectively shut down, with industrial implications for the entire world.
Here at home, Michigan USA, the concern has become real. Being the cradle of the US auto industry and much of that industry having ties to China, it is not a stretch to realize it will affect our economy significantly. How can we, as emergency preparedness practitioners, take steps to ensure our family remains safe?
Understanding how disease is transmitted (routes of transmission)
There are 3 main types of disease transmission. Setting up a home quarantine room will need to ensure that all forms of pathogen transmission are addressed.
This form of transmission is when the pathogen are suspended in the air, either through vaporous liquid droplets (like coughing and sneezing) or particulates (like dust or pollutants). The pathogen is then inhaled, absorbed by the recipient (through eye or mouth deposit) or deposited onto a surface and later touched. Most pathogens do not survive long in an aerosol state, and close proximity to the infected person is required for transmission. Coughing, sneezing, and exhaling are all forms of initiating aerosol transmission.
The COVID-19 virus has been found to be transmissible through aerosol.
Transmission is achieved when contact is made with the pathogen. The pathogen is usually introduced by contact through skin, blood, mucous membranes, saliva, etc.
Pathogens are often introduced through food and water. Unclean practices like failure to wash hands can introduction fecal and urine particles onto food which sustain the pathogen long enough for transmission.
There are other subtypes of these transmissions. Venereal is direct contact through reproductive activity. Fomite transmission is when a carrier touches an object that is later touched by a receiver (such as door handles, etc.). Vector-borne is a direct contact transmission through a carrier, such as a mosquito.
Considerations for the quarantine room
The widespread nature of this virus means for most of us, it will be a matter of when, not if, a loved one gets it. With hospitals quickly reaching capacity, the need WILL be to stay home and self-quarantine.
The following items and considerations will be needed to effectively quarantine a room and be able to tend a patient at home. Note that these considerations are to reduce/eliminate pathogen transmission. They do not include patient treatment. Isolating pathogens to this room and preventing spread to other areas is the primary objective.
A cart that can be easily moved as needed is ideal for a sanitation cart. Some people will choose to use a stationary location such as a linen closet or bathroom cabinet. Whichever is chosen, it should be easy to access and easy to determine when supplies are running low. Consider the following items for a general sanitation cart, and UNDERSTAND what items are applicable for the pathogen in question:
Bleach (or other medical grade cleaner) and cheesecloth towels.
Disposable nitrile gloves.
Face shields, face masks, and safety goggles.
Biohazard and vomit bags.
If at all possible, the quarantine room chosen should be free of porous materials and surfaces. Cushioned furniture aside from the bed, clothing in closets, stuffed animals, papers, books, carpet, and more, should be removed or minimized. This may be well above and beyond the capability of most to do, but understand that these surfaces can harbor pathogens and are a risk to those giving care to the quarantined person.
The quarantine room should also be chosen, ideally, to have its own bathroom with shower. With water vapor, toothbrushes and toiletry needs, and human waste disposal, this bathroom is a significant source of pathogen transmission.
Quarantining aerosol pathogens
This is the hardest thing to accomplish, as airborne pathogens can become direct contact pathogens as well when contaminated particulates land on surfaces. Those items will be covered below, and this section will focus on the aerosol nature of transmission only.
Create an entry/exit barrier. In addition to the room’s door, a plastic sheet hung a few feet outside the door creates a double-door barrier with an ante room space between them. This is the bare minimum necessary for effective quarantining. The care giver can gown outside the area, enter the first “door”, close it, then enter the second door. This greatly reduces the pathogen’s likelihood of escaping the quarantine room. When exiting, the caregiver leaves the second door, closes it, de-gowns and disposes of the gowning material inside the ante room space, then exits the first door and disposes of the gowning material.
While cleaning the quarantine room, vacuum carpet using hepafilter vacuums only, while wearing face shield, goggles, and respiration mask. This is a high risk activity that is agitating particulate matter in the room. Another alternative is to use a true steam-cleaning carpet cleaner at 170F or at least 5 minutes per surface, or 212F for 1 minute per surface.
If cleaning items in the room, minimize movement of the items, and do not shake out bedding, clothing, or other fabrics. This releases whatever pathogens were on them into the air. Aerosol transmission is the most difficult to mitigate. Do not take a direct contact item (pathogen on an object) and purposefully make it an aerosol.
If the temperature allows for it, close the vents from this room to the rest of the house. If conditions do not allow for it, add filtration and UV irradiation as necessary.
Install cold air return filters in the quarantine room and bathroom. Filters are rated with a “MERV” value, and a MERV value of 13-16 are medical grade that block bacteria, most dusts and aerosols, and suspended water droplets. Well ahead of needing this room, install a cold air return register than accepts these filters.
For the furnace filter, install a filter with at least a MERV rating of 9-12, but 13-16 is better. By the time a pathogen has gotten to the furnace, it will have traveled several yards or more. Most pathogens cannot survive an extended period of time in open air, and between the cold air return filter, the distance to the furnace, and the furnace filter, there is little chance of a pathogen being redistributed into the house’s HVAC system. These filters are an excellent preparedness item to stock up on before they are needed, and kept in their sealed packaging until needed.
Portable air filters that use filtration (not ozone) can help, but one must purchase the correct filters (HEPA only, not “HEPA style”), change the filters as indicated (they can get expensive), and actually leave it running.
Another excellent means of air filtration is an Ultraviolet furnace insert. These high intensity ultraviolet bulbs are excellent to destroy virus, bacteria, and mold, with the added benefit of reducing maintenance for mold on AC coils, etc. They can be expensive, but this is one of the more certain ways one can ensure air returning to the rest of the house is virus-free.
Quarantining direct contact pathogens
By creating a quarantine room, an attempt is being made to limit direct contact to one area only. Regular cleaning in this room is required, and wiping down all flat surfaces regularly with antiseptic cleaner is an important first step in minimizing direct contact transmission. Here are a few other tips:
Be prepared to dispose of everything: The clothes in this room, the cot/bed, blankets, books, TV Remote, etc., can all hold a pathogen. While a pathogen may not live on a surface for very long, porous surfaces can hold enough contaminant to allow a pathogen to live long enough for transmission. It may not come to this, but be prepared for this.
Learn to degown in the correct way so that degowning does not create an exposure. Have waste bags available for disposed of gowning.
Any eating utensils and serving ware should be immersed in a tub with bleach concentration, fastened with a lid, and removed to the house’s kitchen area.
Read, understand, and practice the surface decontamination methods for the cleaners you are using. Lysol disinfectant sprayed on a surface requires TWO MINUTES to be fully effective. This is very different than the typical wipe on / wipe off method most people use for cleaning.
Wear a face mask and goggles when dealing with all things in this room. It will help with instinctually touching face and eyes.
Quarantining oral/ingested contact pathogens
For quarantining, an important objective is to ensure food items and eating utensils do not pose a threat to those that use them subsequently. For best results, dedicate a set of utensils to the infected person and wash them separately. If this is unmanageable, soak the utensils and serving items in a basin with 1 tablespoon bleach per 1 gallon water for at least 2 minutes after all extra food material has been rinsed or scrubbed away. After that, run in the dishwasher with the highest heat setting available.
Cleaning kitchen sponges, washclothes, and more can be done by soaking in the same bleach concentration, then rinsing well, putting on a microwave safe plate, then microwaving the items for 2 minutes on high. Ensure there are no metallic strands or abrasion materials in the cleaning supplies when doing so.
Another important factor to consider is preparing foods in a clean way. First, ensure that the food preparer is not ill. Notrile glove, mask, and eye protection are excellent means to prevent contamination of food items, as is minimizing the handling of packaging and subsequent handling of the food item.
For cooked items reaching high heat, they will be pathogen free after heating up provided the heating goes above 170F for at least 5 minutes (assuming the heat has time to transfer throughout the food so that all areas of the food are 170F for at least 5 minutes). The very best practice one can do is to minimize direct contact with the food after heating.
Not all the above items will be affordable or even necessary depending on the pathogen that is being quarantined against. Nor should the above take the place of medical professional practices. This article should be seen as things to consider, and best practices to thoroughly research and enact.
Our very best option is to self-distance and prevent getting this virus in the first place.
Concealed pistol licensees carry a protection-intent firearm because they understand the risk of violence in our society. They are willing to take the personal responsibility to reduce the risk of harm to themselves and those they love by possessing the means (skills and devices) to neutralize an attacker’s ability to carry out harm. In doing so, CPL’ers have an additional risk for themselves; the legal aftermath of a violent encounter. (Which is better than being severely harmed or dead and not enduring this risk…)
After an encounter where lethal force was used, there will be a thorough police investigation. They will use the evidence at the scene, witness statements, and statements from those involved, to build an understanding of the scenario. This can take a significant amount of time. Once documented, the case will be presented to the district attorney, who will then determine what charges will be brought against those involved.
The main determination against the CPLer will be if lethal force was justified. A significant contributor to that is the statements the CPL’er gives to the police. Namely, how clearly and articulately the threat was described. In other words, how well did the CPL’er portray that they reasonably believed they were threatened by great bodily harm.
As a caution, after a violent altercation the defender may be feeling survivor elation. They may be giddy just with the idea of still being alive. That could be portrayed as excitement or happiness by an overzealous prosecutor. The defender may be feeling self-doubt, or remorse. “Why did I kill this guy?” A jury hearing that will have to be swayed that the question was remorse and not doubt around the facts of the scenario. Whatever wild moods are hitting the defender, and an eagerness to return to normalcy, defenders have been known to say some incriminating things.
This is where your attorney comes into play. Before speaking to the police or making any statement, the defender’s only statement need be “I want to speak to my lawyer.” But, who is “my lawyer”? Is there one? Is he a court-appointed defense attorney? Is she an excellent criminal defense lawyer with decades of experience that I picked myself? Who is “my lawyer”?
Hiring an attorney on retainer is one of the most important things a CPL pistol carrier can do. Establishing a relationship with an attorney before they are needed ensures the vetting and selecting process happens thoroughly from a living room computer and not hastily from a jail cell or by a relative.
The purpose of a lawyer on retainer is so that they will be there representing the defender, ideally immediately after an encounter where they may need representation. The retainer is essentially pre-paying for a set amount of legal service. During the initial investigation, it is crucial that a good lawyer represent the defender to help steer the investigation the appropriate way with statements and facts presented in such a way that do not expose the defender to additional legal risk. While the investigators are trying to get to the “truth” of the matter, the defender should have a person representing his best interests. This goes beyond the truth and protects his exposure to risk. This educated ‘hand on the wheel’ from the get go is crucial in surviving the legal aftermath of the altercation.
What are some things to be considered when selecting a lawyer and getting a retainer agreement?
Cost and Service
Obviously. The best lawyer one an afford, for as long as the case may drag out, is ideal. We cannot have what we cannot afford, so cost will be a big determiner in lawyer selection.
Related to cost, the retainer cost will be linked to an amount of service. Are you pre-paying 4 hours of legal counsel? Eight? The cost will rise with the amount of service expected. Eight hours should be considered a bare minimum to have counsel represent the defender while the basics of the case are being investigated.
How long is the retainer good for? If the retainer is only for representation should a violent altercation occur, and the lawyer will not be legal counsel for other matters, then the renewal should be a few to several year terms. They are a “just in case”, not a “I need you constantly” purchase. This is a low duty cycle for the lawyer but they are indeed committing to be on call for the client virtually 24/7.
All lawyers will have basic knowledge of the law as it pertains to self defense. A criminal defense attorney will have specialized practice in criminal defense (this doesn’t mean the defender is a criminal, but rather is defending against criminal charges). The criminal defense lawyer will likely have time working with various judges and the DA and this familiarity will help him better stand up for his client’s rights in the case.
A lawyer on retainer can start relatively inexpensively, and should definitely be considered as one of the must-have firearm items in a CPL’ers inventory. Firearms, ammo, training, counsel-hours. Add it to the list!