You and Your Arsenal

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This one will be short as I can’t recommend any specific type of firearm for anyone. I don’t know enough about the topic to generalize and everyone has different needs. Guns aren’t like Financial Independence. Everyone should work towards Financial Independence no matter what their situation, and it is always done the same way: cut your expenses, pay off your debts, increase your cash flow, distinguish clearly between needs and wants, and say no to a lot of what the culture wants to sell you.

I think that guns are tools like any other, and they can certainly be misused. The difference between an axe and a rifle is you can kill more game animals or people faster with your Winchester and you don’t have to get nearly as close to them to do so. The same is true with your machete, your baseball bat, your cast-iron skillet, and your chef’s knife. Every one of those items, useful as they are, can and has been used to kill people. Cars can be used for this purpose too, although it isn’t their intended function.

So if you decide you want to arm yourself, what should you do? You should go into it, knowing in advance, that gun safety is paramount. Plenty of people have been shot by guns they were sure were unloaded. Good gun safety assumes that the gun is always loaded unless proven otherwise. Every person in your household should be taught gun safety. Take refresher courses regularly. It is easy to get complacent and forget what you learned.

Part of good gun safety is storing them correctly. Don’t skip this part. Make sure your family understands what proper storage is. I don’t think it is a good idea to store your prized Hello Kitty AK-47 in a glass case over the couch where burglars can see it through your living room window.

hello-kitty-rifle

A good gun safety course should address this issue. Ask plenty of questions and follow through on the answers! It doesn’t necessarily help you to learn that you need a locking closed cabinet to put your shotguns in, if you are going to leave them lying around because you haven’t the time or the money to get one.

Using a gun, any kind, means learning how to use it properly. TV and movies are not the way to learn. They teach you that guns never misfire (unless it’s important to the plot), that it’s more effective to fire your pistol holding it sideways (it isn’t), and they never, ever, run out of bullets (they do).

So the first step is to take a gun safety course. This way, you can find out if gun ownership is right for you, learn what may be the right gun for you, and all before you spend any more money or time. The NRA offers gun safety programs of all kinds. Or, ask at the local police station, gun shop or the sporting goods store.

Once you have learned the basics, you still have to practice. Taking the classes and going to the range a few times will not make you an expert. It may make you overconfident instead, leading to mistakes. Just as with driving a car or knitting socks, if you don’t practice a skill regularly, you forget what to do. Using a handgun or a long gun is no different. If you really want to hit your target accurately, every time, you will have to put in the hours on the shooting range. If you want to hit your target, accurately, while in the dark during a home invasion, you really have to practice. Stress and fear do not improve your aim or your skills.

How much time, weekly, should you spend on the shooting range? How proficient do you want to be? Like with everything else, you have to put in the time to train your mind and body. As with driving a car, knitting socks, or playing the piano, you have to teach your muscles what to do, so doing the action becomes more automatic.

This is why professionals practice, practice, and practice some more. And they still make plenty of mistakes. Don’t assume you will do better, with a few hours of training under your belt.

Don’t get caught up in the idea that having a Glock will make you safer, healthier, or more resilient. Having these tools can help you, but you still have to do all the other stuff. That is, having an arsenal (with plenty of ammo!) does not mean you can skip learning how to cook, paying off your debt, learning to food garden, getting active in your community or insulating your house. You still have to do all of those things if you want to make your family more resilient.

Your gun collection is one more tool in your tool box of skills. It doesn’t replace several months of stored food or water. If you have the idea that you will purchase a gun collection so you can take stored food and water from your more careful neighbors, stop right there. This is not just theft. It is the sort of behavior that in a crisis will get you killed. Then your family will be at even greater risk of bad things happening to them and your arsenal may end up with the person you tried to rob.

A common saying in the prepper/survival communities is beans, bullets, and Band-Aids. You will notice that food is listed first. Before you start your gun collection, start your food storage program and your vegetable garden. Learn to cook what you grow and store and learn to preserve what you grow for future needs. Your food needs always come first.

If purchasing guns and ammo will put you into debt (or keep you from paying off debts), then you need to revisit your budget prior to spending any more money. You need the emergency savings cash cushion more than you need another rifle. Guns, like everything else, have associated costs. That is, without plenty of the correct ammunition on hand they are awkward clubs. You also need a gun storage locker and cleaning equipment. Depending on where you live, you may need extra insurance or annual licenses. Don’t forget to include them in your budget.

You have to have your spouse onboard. If your partner objects to having firearms in the house, you need to listen. Some of the objections may be based on fear and ignorance. Is having a gun worth straining your marriage? This is the time for gun safety courses, taken before you lay out any money. Take them with your spouse. Knowledge can go a long way towards relieving fears. The other common objection to starting a gun collection is cost. Again, if you have debts, no emergency cash fund and no food storage, then the gun collection needs to take a back seat to these needs. Take care of those issues and objections to buying a rifle (another expensive, dust-catching toy, in my opinion!) may go away.

So should you buy a gun? It could certainly be the right choice for your household. But do your homework first, and get your family onboard and trained prior to your purchase. Then get started, knowing that guns have a learning curve like everything else and they require regular practice, safe handling, and maintenance to be the useful tool you want them to be.

Next Week: Why I Sew, Repair and Mend