Many preppers who aren’t “gun people” have a gun or two for home protection or for the inevitable time when the SHTF. We have one in our home. To be honest, though, I haven’t gotten it out nearly enough.

The shotgun is a good choice for home defense. Why? It’s powerful, easy to operate, and the sound of a shell going into a chamber will put fear into the hearts of most anybody. They can be used against people and animals pretty equally. The different loads of ammunition make it possible to take game from very small squirrels to a large deer. Knowing this is a good part of making your shotgun most useful in a survival situation. Of course, it also helps to have a variety of ammunition types on hand.

For example, if you’re after quail, you want a shotgun load that’s going to give a lighter, wider load pattern. A squirrel or a duck on the wing needs a tighter load pattern. A large target (a man or a bear) demands a load pattern that is going to be tight and hit with more force.

Birdshot uses very small pellets and is so named because it’s useful for hunting birds. The size of the shot is given as a number or letter–with the larger number the smaller the shot size. Buckshot uses medium to large pellets. A slug is a single projectile. To use this, it must be aimed very carefully from fairly close range.

Buckshot is generally the best for home defense, because its larger size shot (pellets) is going to pack a more painful punch and be more effective against larger targets.

Whatever type of shotgun you have, practice just as you would with a handgun. Because the gun is larger and likely needs to be aimed more carefully, practice with a shotgun for hunting and self-defense is equally as important as for a handgun. Make sure you know how to load and manipulate the gun quickly, in low light, and at close range. Otherwise, what’s the point?

More often than not, I see people fire their everyday carry pistol the least out of all of their firearms. This is not the best habit to get into as we should train the most with the firearm that we carry the most. That being said, if we are not shooting our everyday carry pistol that often, how often should we be cleaning it?

My general rule is to be cleaning my everyday carry pistol at least once every 2 months, whether I have fired it or not. If I am firing it, I clean it after every range day. My philosophy is that if I may need to rely on it to defend my life, I would prefer to have a clean firearm as to reduce the probability of any malfunction occurring. Firearms, especially ones carried on your person every day, will collect an immense amount of dust, lint, etc., which is why it is beneficial to find that nice balance between properly lubricated and over-lubricated as an excess of lubrication will act as a magnet for that dust and lint and can potentially cause a build-up which can subsequently cause a malfunction.

Many people don’t clean their firearm after every use, which is perfectly fine, especially if you are not firing hundreds of rounds that day. Often times I will go out and shoot a PQC once or twice and that will be all the shooting I do that day. If I am only shooting 25-50 rounds I don’t really need to clean my range pistol immediately. It isn’t going to be so dirty that it could induce a malfunction. I do however recommend that you clean your pistol after 200-250 rounds.

Your Ammunition Affects Your Cleaning

Another consideration when it comes to maintenance would be the type of ammunition that you are running through your firearm. Aluminum cased ammo is perfectly fine for the range, however the density of the casing is substantially less than that of your pistol’s extractor. This won’t damage your firearm, but your extractor will chip flakes of aluminum off of the casings as it is extracting spent cartridges from the pistol. This can cause a build up around the extractor. When cleaning after using this type of ammunition you want to pay extra attention to the extractor. If you don’t clean it properly it could fail to extract a spent casing in a self-defense situation.

Steel cased ammunition is also popular at ranges due to the cheap cost. There are a couple of issues that you should pay particular attention to if you are using steel cased ammo. The first is that steel has a higher density than that of your extractor, which can cause the casing to chip away at your extractor or even cause it to break after extended use. The other issue is that steel cased ammunition has a lacquer finish to keep the casing from rusting and corrosion. If you are using steel cased ammo on the range, your chamber temperature will rise as you are firing, which can cause the lacquer finish to melt. If you have a round chambered and you allow it to cool, the lacquer can bond itself to the inside of the chamber, which can make it difficult to extract the round. After using steel cased ammo I recommend paying extra attention to cleaning the chamber thoroughly.

Some other things to consider are what you are using to clean your firearms. You spend upwards of $500 on your firearm, right? The last thing we want to do is get cheap cleaning equipment and potentially damage or scratch the finish off of your firearm. Cleaning kits can be purchased as a pre-made package. You can get them for pistol calibers and for rifle calibers, or you can assemble your own for your specific firearms. Either way is perfectly fine. There are a bunch of tutorials online about doing so and I recommend watching a few before building a cleaning kit if you have limited experience.

Gun Cleaning Dos and Don’ts

A couple of do’s and don’ts worth mentioning though: AP brushes (all purpose) are a great tool; I use them all of the time. There are nylon brushes, copper brushes and steel brushes and they usually come in packs with 10 plus nylon, 4 or 5 copper and a few steel.

My recommendation: throw the steel away or donate them to your local gunsmith. The steel brushes are usually used to purposely remove the finish off of firearms for gunsmith work. Stick with the nylon and copper brushes. I primarily use the nylon and have no issues.

There are both plastic and metal cleaning rods; either is fine but I recommend plastic for beginners. If you get a bad angle and jam it into the barrel, there is less of a chance that you will damage the rifling in the barrel with a plastic rod.

Bore brushes are worth mentioning as well. There are nylon bore brushes and there are copper bore brushes. Copper bore brushes are caliber specific whereas nylon bore brushes are not caliber specific. With nylon bore brushes you would use the same brush for a .45 auto as a 9mm. You only want to use a copper brush specific for your caliber or you could damage the barrel. There are also great tutorials on YouTube for cleaning firearms and I highly recommend watching a few before cleaning your firearm for the first time.

Thanks to American Concealed for the previously published article. 

There are many things you learn when carrying handguns on a regular basis. Some call it “tricks of the trade” that are passed down from older generations to newer. Other things are learned over time through training and experience. As a professional firearms instructor I have had the privilege of learning from some amazing instructors as well as individuals who carry firearms professionally every day.

The first thing to look at when choosing a defensive handgun sight is what you are going to be doing with that particular firearm. Handguns used for target shooting are going to be set up completely different than handguns that are set up for personal protection because they need to achieve different results.

Target Guns vs. Protection Guns

Target guns are specifically designed to shoot the tightest group possible at different distances with good lighting and no pressure. Generally these firearms have been fitted to tighter tolerances to mitigate inaccuracy which ultimately makes them finicky or more prone to potential feed jams. Handguns used for personal protection are designed with looser tolerances to minimize weapons malfunctions. And, the sights are typically set up with wider notches and a bigger front sight so you can line up your sights faster.

The idea behind this is that with personal defense handguns you do not necessarily want to shoot 1-inch groups but rather “fist-sized” groups as fast as you can. When you are selecting sights for defensive use you generally want to choose a low-profile sight that would minimize snagging on clothing when you are drawing your firearm from a concealed position.

When selecting a good sight for personal protection I generally look for sights that do not have a ledge angled to the front such as the Novak Cut rear sights, but rather sights that have some sort of a squared-off edge to the front like the Ameriglo I-Dot Pro or the Trijicon HD’s. The reason is that I like having a ledge that I can cycle my slide on if I need to clear a malfunction with just using one hand.

If you are in a self-defense situation and you get an injury to your shooting hand, you’ll need to clear any malfunction with just one hand. Adding grip tape in the space between the front of my rear sight and the rear of my chamber adds some texture so that the gun has something to “grip” onto if I need to clear the slide by using clothing or the back of my boot or a table or any other fixed object. Grip tape or skateboard tape can be acquired for less than a dollar at most home improvement stores and adds a world of difference in single hand operations of defensive handguns.

Night Sights

Night sights are always an added bonus. However, you are still going to want a sight that is easily acquired during the day as well as night. Fiber optic sights work well during the day however they leave a lot to be desired during the night. Sights like XS big dots, or Trijicon HD’s have almost a duel role and give the user of the firearm the ability to see the sights just as well in both circumstances.

Regardless of whatever sight system you decide to use it is highly recommended that you practice with it a lot. Not all sights will have the same point of aim or point of impact and it is vital to understand how your sights will responded when shooting from different distances. Also realize that different ammunition can have a slightly different point of aim vs point of impact. Having said that, there is no shortcut to effective training and any upgrade on your firearm is no substitute for effective marksmanship.

Sight images courtesy of Gun image courtesy of Donovan Beard.

Thanks to American Concealed for the previously published article. 

Everyday carry is a concept that most firearm owners know these days, however this should include more than just a firearm. I have had a few people ask me what my everyday carry load-out is and why, so I figured that this would be a great topic to cover.

Ask anybody you know, what are the things you have on you every time you leave the house? There will be a list, some shorter than others but the point remains; everybody has some sort of “everyday carry” items. Those of us that carry concealed do as well, ours just may be a bit more extensive. What should this list consist of though? What should we have on us at minimum, especially if we are carrying concealed?

First things first, something I was told a long time ago has really stuck: Bad guys travel in packs. What does this mean for us and how can I apply this concept to my everyday carry load-out? The first thing to touch on is also the first problem I encounter with everyday carry pistols. The three “C’s” of concealed carry are: Concealability, capacity and caliber.

You are always going to sacrifice in one of these categories. More often than not, I run into people that go out and get the smallest pistol they can find, because it’s easier to conceal. Now, with the smallest pistol you can find, you sacrifice in capacity, so I see people try to compensate by finding the smallest pistol in the largest caliber possible. While this is an option, there is a better solution that many don’t consider: carry at least one back up magazine. My general rule of thumb is to never leave the house with less than 25 rounds. With that I am comfortable in dealing with any situation that may arise, potentially multiple threats, and subsequently being able to control my scene until help arrives.

The next aspect of everyday carry that I see many people ignore or fail to consider is that roughly half of every day is night. Therefore, it would be wise to carry a light. I personally carry two separate lights on my person at all times. One is a weapon-mounted light and one is a pocket light. This allows me to utilize the weapon-mounted light in a self-defense situation in low light conditions. Not all situations are going to justify me drawing my firearm however, so if this is my only light I would not be able to utilize it in every situation that I may need a light. One thing to consider as well, both of my lights use the same type of battery. If one goes down I have uniformity, therefore I can switch a battery out and get my light that I need back up and running.

A few other things I always have in my everyday carry load-out are: a knife, some kind of medical or trauma kit, and pepper spray or some other less-than-lethal defensive weapon. If I am going to carry a firearm for self-defense purposes it would be advisable to carry a medical or trauma kit to deal with any injuries sustained in a situation should I need to defend my life or the life of another. There are a ton of places to get pre-made medical and trauma kits online, or you can build your own. There are also tutorials online that will walk you through what should be in a medical kit should you want to make your own for your everyday carry bag.

Thanks to American Concealed for the previously published article.

New firearms need to be broken in, and it is advisable to do so before you start carrying the firearm as an everyday carry pistol. It is very uncommon, however firearms can come from the factory with a defect. So it is highly advisable to break the firearm in before relying on it in defense of your life. Some firearms need to be broken in in order to hit their “peak” in terms of accuracy as well.

The break-in period for most handguns will be around 1,000 rounds. Some may be a bit higher, but with a thousand rounds through I will carry the firearm as an everyday carry pistol. I see a lot of people buy a new pistol, never fire it and start carrying it as a defense pistol. I do not recommend this due to the fact that I have seen on numerous occasions brand new pistols having issues detrimental to the operation of the firearm. The range is the time to find out your pistol has an issue, not when you are relying on it to save your life.

Function testing is another important factor as well, and this goes for any modifications or changes you make to your loadout. Ammunition is one that I see people skip the most. Some firearms will function with any ammo you throw at it; some however don’t like certain ammunition. Again, a self-defense situation is not the time to find out that your firearm doesn’t like the ammo you purchased and decided to carry. If you are going to change the ammo you are going to carry for self-defense, you should put a minimum of 50 rounds of that ammo through your firearm at the range before you decide to carry it for personal defense.

As for modifications, first and foremost refer to your manufacturer’s manual as any modification can potentially void any warranty you may have on it. The same concept applies for function testing however, especially if you are doing the modification yourself and not having a licensed gunsmith do the work. If you accidentally put something in wrong, or assemble something the wrong way and your firearm subsequently will not function; the time to figure that out is at the range, not in defense of your life.

There are parts that can be put in wrong or assembled wrong, or parts for another similar firearm can potentially fit but can hinder the functionality of the firearm or cause it to not fire at all. Great example: I just had somebody bring in a Glock 23 that would not fire because they had used the rear coupler of the striker from a Glock 42. The part looked the same, but was slightly shorter than the proper Glock 23 coupler. If you do not have a substantial amount of experience I would advise allowing a licensed gunsmith do any modification on your firearm.

Thanks to American Concealed for the previously published content.

Situational awareness is a serious concern for anyone carrying a firearm on their person for personal protection. We have a higher level of responsibility when we leave the house with the instantaneous ability to use deadly force. If we are not aware of what is going on in our surroundings we have an elevated risk of overreacting in a situation or not responding to a deadly threat appropriately.

Now lets look at why we carry firearms. As private citizens, our firearm exists for one purpose alone. That is to defend our life or the life of another from a deadly threat that is happening right now. If we have no situational awareness, how are we going to see a potential deadly threat before it happens? The answer is that we are not going to see it coming. A situation is going to blow up in our face as it is happening and we are going to have a lag in time from the time that we actually see the situation unfolding, decide that it is a threat and then try to respond accordingly. This is a disastrous situation for anyone to be in and this is where we see things go awry.

Situational awareness is more of a mindset than a hard skill, and anyone can develop this mindset with enough self-discipline. A great tool to help develop this mindset is the color code concept. The color code concept was originally developed by members of the 82nd airborne division in WWII, and was subsequently adopted by Jeff Cooper for personal defense in the 1960s. The color codes are broken into five levels of mental alertness, each identified by a “color”.

The first level is condition white. In this condition the person is not actively paying attention to their surroundings at all. The biggest cause of people being in this condition when they are out in town, in my opinion, is cell phones. We have all been in situations where we have seen this. People are so engulfed in their phones and social media apps that they are not paying attention to where they are even walking let alone who is around them and what is going on. In this level of mental alertness a person is not going to ever see an emerging threat coming, and subsequently they are not going to be able to effectively avoid that threat or respond appropriately. This is a potentially disastrous mindset to be in while outside of the home, especially for anyone carrying a firearm.

The next level is condition black. This condition often includes tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and full sensory overload. People often end up in this condition when they are in condition white and a situation blows up in their face. Since the person had no way of seeing the situation coming, when it did unfold the person was not at all ready to respond and therefore moved into condition black. We can avoid going into condition black by staying out of condition white and paying attention to their surroundings.

The next condition is condition yellow. In this condition a person is calm and in control, but paying attention to their surroundings. They are not appearing hyper-vigilant or suspicious, yet they are keeping their head on a swivel and paying attention to their surroundings. This is the proper condition for a person to be in when outside the home, especially if they are carrying a firearm. In this condition a person would be able to recognize a potential threat and seek more information to decide if it was actually a threat.

The next condition is condition orange. In this condition a person has seen a potential threat and is seeking additional information to make that determination. We may see something that seems off and we are either moving away from the situation, or, if that is not an option we are looking for that additional information so that we may decide if it is a threat and we need to take action to defend our life.

The last condition is condition red. This is the condition that we would move into if we made the determination that there was in fact a threat and we had to take action to defend ourselves. This condition is the action you are taking to defend your life or the life of another. People can still experience tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and full sensory overload in this condition so it is important to be scanning our surroundings to ensure that there are no other threats.

Developing situational awareness skills takes time and it takes practice, but we can do this in our everyday activities. The first step is to realize that threats do exist. Pay attention to the people around you and their demeanor. Always be scanning your immediate environment, and most importantly, if you are out and about it is advisable to leave the social media for home.

Thanks to American Concealed for the previously published content.