Thursday, November 30, 2017

Prepping on the road

By now everyone is aware that I was out of town for a week.  I drove my family almost 1300 miles round trip from our home in Southeast Louisiana up to Gatlinburg, TN for a long overdue family vacation.  On top of packing phone chargers, socks and underwear, and the usual vacation junk I had to ask myself "What else do I need to bring to be on the safe side?"  Below is hardly an all inclusive list, and I invite everyone to leave me a comment with what you feel I may have missed.

A.  Tools - We had our share of mechanical hiccups during the week, unfortunately nothing I could have reasonably packed would have saved us (we hit a piece of road debris that took out a tire.)  I did pack a couple of screw drivers, duct tape, electrical tape, and a set of ratchets and sockets.  I figured anything outside of the minor repairs allowed by the above was going to be a setback that would require find a mechanic shop.  The two items I DID NOT pack were a multitool (I have no justification, I just didn't think about it) and a roll of Rescue Tape (an absolute Godsend if you develop an issue with a radiator hose or heater hose on the road, unfortunately I haven't purchased a roll yet.)  The point isn't to do major surgery on your car on the side of the road, but to at least have the basics to make a minor repair and get off the highway to the next town.  Add to the above a small amount of basic fluids (oil, water, etc.) and make sure your tire pressures are all spot on before getting on the road.

B.  Medical - I make a regular habit of carrying a small IFAK in all of my vehicles.  That, plus a bag in my overnight bag of Excedrin, Benadryl, band aids, and other various remedies for minor ouchies is just good prior planning.  After an experience where poor foot care cost me dearly, I also pack extra socks at the expense of extra underwear or other clothing (I can live without underwear and double up my shirts if I have to, lack of clean and dry socks is nothing to play with.)  It would also go without saying that if you are prescribed any daily regimen of drugs I would make good and sure you have more than you expect to need.  Pills get wet, or lost, short trips become long ones, all sorts of things can crop up.

C.  MULTIPLE map sources - The modern smart phone has lulled a generation of young men and women into an incredible false sense of security in this country.  We always assume we can just whip out that cell phone, chat up SIRI for a minute, and she'll happily direct us to whatever our heart desires.  UNFORTUNATELY the realities of rural areas and mountain driving knocked out our cellular reception multiple times, and while GPS requires only a reasonable line of sight to the satellites orbiting above our heads, many map programs populate their maps on the fly using cellular data.  No data, and you still have GPS coordinates but no map and no directions.  I made a point of having a GPS program (Navmii from the iTunes App store, I'll review it in the future) loaded on my phone with on board maps.  A handheld GPS would serve the same function.  So would a road atlas or an old fashioned map.  If your option takes batteries, have replacements or a way to charge them handy.

D.  Protection - Some people espouse pepper spray (or bear mace in the area I was in).  I believe in a little more direct method, and packed my 9mm and my 357 magnum revolver.  Holsters, extra ammo and mags, and a rag to clean them with came along as well.

E.  Cash - See C, debit cards and electronic transactions have lulled a generation into poor habits.  I brought a couple hundred dollars cash with me and spent nearly all of it before we came home.  Whether for the convenience (a few times I put up cash with the rest of my family to cover a group bill) or necessity (some places where using a card is difficult, sometimes people get finicky about out of state credit and debit cards) in any situation short of SHTF cash will always be king.  Do not clean out your checking account, but don't leave home without a reasonable amount of cash on your person.

Last but certainly not least is to practice good OPSEC (operational security) and situational awareness.  Don't tell EVERYONE on Facebook you're going to be out of town for a week.  Hell, don't tell anyone you don't trust with all of your worldly possessions either.  It may sound paranoid, but "family gone for a week" is an engraved invitation for a burglar to break a window and help himself to anything he wants.  He knows you're not home, and today's society is not as watchful as they once were, so he's unlikely to deal with a nosy neighbor if he is even a little careful.  While you are at your destination, keep your head up and eyes moving.  There is a whole segment of criminals that happily prey on tourists above locals, and no matter how strong your Grey Man kung fu is you aren't going to be able to completely blend in.  Local customs and language will out you fairly quickly as someone "not from around here."  Watch your back, particularly in moments of vulnerability such as fiddling with key cards at your hotel door, fiddling with your smart phone, or pulling cash or cards from your wallet.  Be aware and be safe.

MOST of the above comes second nature to me, and the little foibles I ran into on this trip poked a few holes in my vacation preps.  I'll be better prepared next time, that's the whole point.  Leave me a comment or head to the Facebook Group to let me know what I missed. - Phil Rabalais

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Carrying (a concealed handgun) on the road

If you are fortunate to live in one of those bastions of freedom which trust their citizens to carry handguns without the need for unconstitutional infringements or silly permits, and never drive across state lines, this is going to be a bit of a shock but SOME states do not feel the same.  I could write a very different (and vitriolic) editorial about the merits of such draconian jackassery, but I thought instead since I will be on my way home from a cross country trip at the time you read this that I would instead try to lend some of my experience preparing from this trip.  No, I'm not referring to packing socks and underwear, I'm referring to how to LEGALLY carry a concealed handgun across state lines.

Firstly, be extremely aware that each and every state has passed it's own laws regarding the carrying of firearms, and the federal governments (thanks for nothing SCOTUS) has thus far been reluctant to remind these state governments that their ability to regulate the rights of their citizens begins and ends short of those rights enumerated within the US Constitution.  So, there is no federal law giving guidance or restriction to carrying a typical handgun over state lines (if you're stepping up your game carrying an SBR or other NFA item across state lines, that is a completely different animal from what I understand.)  But, handgun, no issue.

So, if each state has different laws, how in the world do we navigate that mine field?  The short, ugly answer is research.  I use an iOS app called Legal Heat to keep me abreast of the laws in states I am traversing through, as well as insure that my concealed weapon's permit is valid in those states.  If you feel something is vague, I'd recommend a call to the applicable state police office for clarification.  Regardless of what you determine, make sure you know the intricacies of the state laws, for example is it legal to leave your firearm in a vehicle with an unlicensed person while loaded and not locked???  In my home state of Louisiana, no problem.  In a state I plan to drive through, that would land my wife in prison.  Be aware and plan accordingly.

Now, below are a few items I highly recommend regardless of the laws where you may be passing through or your final destination:

Lockable case and padlock - Some states REQUIRE you transport a handgun locked up, with the ammunition in a separate container, with both out of the passenger compartment.  Even if not, having a way to secure a firearm in a room I would you assume you may be sharing with family members is just good common sense unless you loaded up your gun safe and brought that with you.

Spare magazine/s and ammunition - Never one to let a good opportunity pass for a Zombie Apocalypse scenario, what would you do if your vacation suddenly encountered turbulence and civil unrest broke out.  How many rounds would you like to have on hand for your handgun?  I say pack one or two spare mags (not necessarily at the ready if that's your choice, but in your bags at least) and a spare box of ammo.  It won't take up much space and you'll be no worse for wear finding space for it than if you needed it and didn't have it.

Rag, maybe oil - I would venture to say that you won't be gone long enough or your firearm see enough hard use in a vacation to require serious cleaning, BUT mine finds pocket lint constantly and if you're going to be near a salty/seaside environment a little extra oil to fend off surface rust is cheap insurance.  Probably not 100% necessarily, but isn't going to hurt anything either.

PAPERWORK - Your concealed weapon's permit is obvious, but what about proof of purchase?  Think I'm crazy if you like, but I've heard of particularly underhanded tactics employed by some less scrupulous LEO's involving declaring a handgun stolen, and asking the OWNER to prove it's rightful purchase.  Now, without delving into what a completely miscarriage of our legal system that little stunt is, that whole scenario could be put to bed by having a receipt from the purchase (or bill of sale from private purchase) in the case that your brought demonstrating quite clearly you are the rightful and legal owner.  Also, if something were to happen to the firearm (loss or stolen) you have a record of it's serial # which law enforcement will be very anxious to learn.

Holsters - No, not one holster, bring a couple.  I keep two holsters for my EDC, one that I wear 90% of the time at 2 o'clock, one I carry at 5 o'clock with my shirt tucked in.  You do not want to have to leave your gun in your room because your outfit and holster are not cooperating with each other, so plan ahead.

So, after this whole list  you're carrying quite a little assortment of gear just for a simple handgun.  Yes, but I have said time and again that carrying a handgun is a lifestyle, not a decision.  These are the things I recommend you have on hand to support the tool of your trade.  While it would certainly be simpler to leave your gun at home and enjoy your vacation, bear in mind that criminals often target vacationers and tourists for exactly those reasons.  Arm up, be smart, and be safe.  Come check out the Facebook group in a day or two, I'm sure I'll be sharing pictures from my family vacation.  - Phil Rabalais

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Time to disarm you say? I disagree, and not respectfully.

"Ban Guns" by Alex Pareene

I pride myself on trying VERY hard to be fair to all parties involved, and taking everyone's point of view into account when I formulate my thoughts.  The above linked article by Alex Pareene, on the other hand, has my jimmies righteously in a twist.  "Time to ban guns" he says.  The problem is, I think he missed a couple of intellectual stops along the route he travelled to arrive at his conclusion.

Firstly, gun violence is hardly an epidemic.  FBI statistics have firmly pounded home the point that when one separates gun deaths which occur concurrent with the illegal drug trade and suicides from the bulk statistic, you have a better chance of dying from being obese than you do from a gunshot.  Rifles, in particular so called "assault weapons" account for an even SMALLER number of these deaths, the majority are attributed to handguns.  NRA members and bearers of concealed carry permits are virtually NEVER found to be the subject of mass shootings, despite how much time the media and anti gunners spend gnashing their teeth at that group of people.

So then, Alex, WHY is it time to disarm?  Because someone committed a mass shooting?  Did we demand everyone park their cars or submit to more stringent background checks or restricted capacity fuel tanks when a madman ran people over on a New York street with a Uhaul truck?  Did we ban pressure cookers after the Boston Marathon bombing?  I hate to keep using the same analogies over and over again, but you and your kind really should exercise some intellectual honesty when you make broad, sweeping statements that impact the lives of MILLIONS of gun owners nationwide.  Your stated reason is insufficient to curtail a constitutionally protected right.  Pound sand or come up with a better argument.

Now, on the other hand, let me take a stab at your real motivation.  I have always held that the majority IF NOT ALL anti gunners really don't have an issue with guns.  You fundamentally can't, because you aren't screaming for the government to be disarmed.  You don't seem to have the numbers to call for the police to be disarmed.  If you have your way and a nationwide gun ban were to be passed, who is going to implement it?  You?  No, you'll expect the state and the police to enforce that on your behalf.  No, you aren't anti gun, you just don't like ME having guns.

And that's where you and I will never see eye to eye, and where my civility and my calm fades dramatically.  I have no intention of being disarmed: not by the state, not by police, not by the UN, and certainly not by you.  What you are purporting would cause an immediate unravelling of this country, because for every one of you there is one of me.  For every one person throwing a tantrum about how we have to melt our guns down the for good of everyone, there is a person like me yelling "Hold on a damned second, I didn't shoot anyone, why do I have to be punished."  There is a person like me that respects the ideals of our Constitution, that would defend your right to speak your piece EVEN as you call for my rights to be taken from me.

At the end of the day, I'm at least thankful the toddlers' tantrum is finally being revealed for what it is.  You have no interest in reasonable restrictions, or safety, or the general welfare of the public.  You'd happily plunge this country into civil war if that was the end result of a gun ban, and probably sit back quietly while millions of people lost their lives.  That is why I will continue to speak out against your proposed gun ban, because the lives saved by my firearms grossly outweigh the lives lost, because my firearms have never harmed a person, and two people in this house depend on me and those firearms for their protection.  I, as an advocate of the 2nd Amendment, am perfectly happy to allow you NOT to own guns and to live in peace because I am a reasonable person that believes in your rights.  All I ask is that you respect mine in kind.  - Phil Rabalais

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Non-Permissive Environments

I will preface this article by saying I live in Louisiana, a state in which cute little signs on windows in store fronts do not have the force of law.  In layman's terms, I'm not guilty of a crime by ignoring them and carrying my concealed firearm right through the door past them.  Please, PLEASE, check your state laws before you do the same, as the consequences could very well include loss of your concealed weapon's permit.  A Non-Permissive Environment is one in which state and local law does not preclude you from exercising your right to carry a firearm, BUT store policy does.  In such locations many of us that choose to conceal carry are faced with a decision to make: Respect the opinion of the property owner, or disregard it in favor of exercising what we view as an inalienable right not subject to such restrictions.

Personally, and again I can only speak for myself and my state's laws, I now refuse to disarm.  I have in the past, and upon further reflection decided that my right to protect myself trumps such nonsense.  In cases in which armed guards, metal detectors, etc. prevent my entry into the establishment with my firearm I choose to disarm (because if I can't sneak a gun in, neither can anyone else) or not enter at all (I don't particularly like the idea of patronizing such establishments, and believe in voting with my dollars and feet.)  Each person has to make that decision, and be prepared to suffer the consequences of doing so (being asked to leave if discovered.)  The stakes are even higher if their is a possible misdemeanor charge attached to your non compliance.

On the other hand, I so strongly believe in my right to keep and bear arms and my duty to protect my family and those in the community that I find the idea of disarming to patronize a business to be extraordinarily upsetting.  I'm not the media stereotype of a trigger happy, gun toting, toothless redneck that slept through his CCW class.  I'm a military veteran, a regular at my local gun range, and intimately familiar with the operation and employment of my defensive firearms.  A dozen men or women with my mindset and training is an ASSET in a world full of sheep that do not have the ability to defend themselves, and I wish more business owners believe the same.

That said, whether or not they see me as an asset or a liability, my actions will not change.  I will continue to disobey arbitrary and capricious demands that I disarm so long as the consequences are not a felony.  My right to protect my life and those lives around me is more important than a sign on a storefront window.  If more people in the gun community though the same, and were as vocal as I were, perhaps the opinions around us would change, but silence is agreement.  Every dollar we spend in such places is a dollar enabling those that would see us disarmed. - Phil Rabalais

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Why and how I reload? An editorial, not a how to.

This is not a "how to reload" post.  For those interested in the general method and procedure hit the above video as I walk you through reloading a single round of 357 magnum on my single stage press.  This article is more of the brain work behind the process.  I especially hope those of you interesting in reloading/handloading your own ammo take this to heart and consider if the benefits of handloading ammunition tip the scales in favor of you following suit.

Of the various justifications for reloading your own ammo, cost savings is probably the most oft cited and the least applicable.  The savings is there in most cases, more evident in the case of more exotic or expensive factory ammunition.  I save about a nickel per cartridge reloading common 9mm and 38 special, a little more on 45 ACP, over a dime on 357 magnum, and forty cents on 308 Winchester.  But, as a result of having so much loaded ammo at my disposal I often spend far more time at the range shooting that I would otherwise.  Also consider the investment in equipment and time, and  you'll quickly find you could make up your cost difference between reloaded and factory ammo working a few extra hours at your day job.  No, cost isn't a great reason for reloading, so what is?

Consistency, accuracy, repeatability; I can manufacture in my own garage far more consistent ammunition than I am able to purchase off the store shelf.  I can also tune the powder load, seating depth, and crimp of the round to what my individual firearms prefers.  Even in pistol ammunition, I've seen a difference of tenths of a grain (a grain being a measurement of weight equivalent to 1/7000th of a pound) having a tremendous impact on the accuracy of my 357 magnum cartridges.  The full power stuff hits steel harder, but backing down from 11.5 grains to 11.2 tightens up the groups noticeably.  The right combination of bullet, powder, and loading variables produced a load for my 308 bolt action that turned a 2 MOA hunting rifle into a 1/2 MOA rifle just by virtue of which cartridge goes in the chamber.

How I reload is well established; read the manuals, watch some YouTube videos, you'll get the gist pretty quickly.  But, behind the process is the brain work.  I have to take the time to insure my dies are correctly set, resizing a fired case and verifying it precisely fits in the chamber of it's intended firearm.  I then slowly adjust the expander die, a quarter turn at a time, until the bullet will JUST fit in the neck (note, a change in bullet changes this setting, and even a difference in lot number among the same bullet type could introduce a variance.)  Then, I always seat a primer by hand to verify it isn't being crushed, and start at my minimum recommended powder charge and the prescribed seating depth for that load.  If I have to err, I'll err on the side of seating slightly long BUT I will double check that the rounds fit the magazine or cylinder before I start cranking them out.  In the case of a tight chamber or magazine, I'll seat slightly short, but this will raise chamber pressure.  Not a huge issue on a minimum load, but one to keep in mind.

To all of the above, I always start with making a handful of dummy cartridges without powder or primer.  These will have the bullets colored with permanent ink and the primer pockets filled with silicone to be used as snap caps/dummy cartridges for dry fire training after they're done, but they also serve to insure that all of the die settings are in fact appropriate for feeding and function in the firearms.  Then, I brew up a small test set, typically 20-50 rounds depending on the application, and have a reasonable volume (3-5X as much handloaded ammo) of factory ammo.  I want to insure that my ammunition is working well, and I like to have some factory ammo on hand as a control.  If my ammo will not reliably run in the firearm, but factory will, I know I have an issue.  If neither runs reliably, may an issue with the firearm itself.

Per all of the above, I always encourage serious shooters to reload, by serious I mean those that are shooting regularly to frequently.  On the weekends I can't get away to drive to my local range, I can pop out a few hundred rounds and still feel connected by this hobby and lifestyle I enjoy so much.  I produce better quality, more consistent ammunition that I can buy for less money, and while my young daughter isn't quite big enough to join us at the gun range she is PLENTY excited to spend time in the garage "helping Daddy make bullets."  Reloading isn't for everyone, but it certainly has it's appeal, and I hope you'll give it consideration and come find us at Facebook or YouTube if you have any questions at all.  - Phil Rabalais

Thursday, November 2, 2017

EDC: Every Day Carry

I break up the words Every and Day very intentionally.  Not because the abbreviation EDC makes more sense that way (vs. Everyday Carry), but because that's the entire point of EDC.  You have to carry every day, everywhere, every time, no matter what, otherwise you're fundamentally missing the point of carrying.  It isn't a trend, or a fad, or a box to be checked on your gun guy/prepper card, it is a lifestyle and a fundamental shift in your way of daily life.  The point of EDC is to make the effort to have those items on your person every day, just in case you need them.

To that end, I'm going to dedicate a single paragraph to WHAT I think you should carry, and the rest of the article to where and why.  A handgun, in those municipalities in which you can obtain a permit (or those freedom loving places you don't need one) is a given.  A knife is a good backup, or even a primary if a handgun is out of the question.  In the absence of those two, figure out WHAT your options for defense are within the laws of your state.  Nowhere in there do I mention anything other than law, because I don't frankly care if a business has an opinion on your right to defend yourself and I don't advocate you disarming yourself at their whim (look for a future article about Non Permissive Environments.)  I also recommend a good flashlight, a charged up cell phone (all sorts of utility to be found in modern smart phones), and if not on your person then close by and accessible some sort of medical gear with a focus on hemorrhage control.

As for where to carry:

Grocery store - I'm going to assume your family is somewhat similar to mine, and you make weekly if not more often trips to the grocery store (kids these days do their best to eat you out of house and home).  Regardless of the length of time you spend out, it goes without saying you're going to be there fairly often, and surrounded by a lot of people in a place where entrances and exits are consolidated to prevent theft.  These attributes make grocery stores attractive to a person looking to commit a mass shooting.

Theatres - Where legal, I will always be armed when out with my family.  The fact that a threatre shooting occurred here in Louisiana a few years ago, and have occurred in other states every so often, reenforces the idea that I should be armed.  Again, controlled access and lots of people distracted by lights and sounds makes an attractive target.

Restaurants - As before, lots of people, distraction, many people consuming alcohol.  Every state I'm aware of insists that if you are consuming alcohol, even with a concealed weapon's permit, that you disarm.  It is for this reason I carry and do not order beer or other alcohol with my dinner.  I can wait till I'm home to drink a beer rather than leave my family defenseless.

Retail stores - Lots of people, controlled access, lots of distractions.

I could go on and on for pages, but the gist is if you are not facing a FELONY charge for carrying in a place, I advise you do so.  Whether or not you consciously avoid places in which you are legally prohibited from carrying (like state/local/federal buildings, one day someone will explain to me how I can be legally required to enter a place and legally disarmed simultaneously) is a decision each person individually must make.  Personally, I avoid spending my money in places with public declarations that their patrons not carry firearms, or I just willfully and flagrantly ignore them.  If you disagree, I encourage you to hop on the Facebook page or group and tell me how you feel about it.

At the end of the day you have to ask yourself WHY you train, why you spent the money for the handgun, why you paid for the training and the class and the permit, if you didn't intend to exercise the right your purchased back from your government.  I have always said, if you only intend to carry where you "think you need to" then you're missing the entire point.  Crimes happen where we don't intend them to, and if we feel that we need a firearm to protect ourselves in a specific place we would be better served by NOT GOING THERE in the first place.  We have to shift our frame of mind away from EDC being a cute little phrase we whisper with our prepper and gun guy buddies, towards a lifestyle and an entire personality.  - Phil Rabalais