Survival Gardening: Squash Bugs and Borers

23 Jul

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

If you have a squash bug (SB) or squash vine borer (SVB) problem, it can be a big problem. Some areas have even greater trouble due to increased season length and mild winters.

Despite SB’s greater versatility, I hate SVB even more. It’s utterly devastating, and requires much more attention ahead of time, because once the plant wilts, it’s pretty much too late.

Even if you’re not growing yet and don’t have any problems, push through this one anyway, just in case. You’ll need the fixes and preventatives on hand ahead of time.

Recognize the Enemy

SVB is a moth larvae that chews into and then up through vines of susceptible cucurbits. The plant suddenly wilts, then dies. It limits its destruction to cucurbits and doesn’t usually bother thin-stemmed melons or thin-stemmed gourds.

The SB is a beetle, and spawns freakish little spidery babies that go through green and gray stages. In addition to munching all kinds of plants, they spread disease. There are similar-looking pests with very similar control and prevention difficulties.

The eggs are the best identifier ahead of time. SB lay tight, regular patterns. SVB lay fewer, more irregularly.

SVB usually lay on stems, as close to the base of the plant as possible, but I’ve found them upwards of 1’ above the ground and some trailing up under leaves.

SB wants to lay on the underside of leaves, but I’ve found those diamond clusters on stems, too.

Check other plants, too – It’s not as frequent, but SB will lay on beans, peppers, sunflowers, okra, etc. SB adults will be found anywhere, too.

Conventional Traps, Spray & Powder

In their early stages, SB is somewhat vulnerable to Sevin spray. Powder isn’t super effective and it doesn’t bother the eggs. If SVB larvae aren’t crawling across it as they hatch, it doesn’t bother them, either. Spray can be more effective on more of the life-cycle stages, but it’s “more” – it’s not total wipe-out.

Some find neem oil effective, particularly in the early life stages.

All of them have to catch the bugs to be effective. SB are active enough to evade that spray by leaping away. SVB are inside, so you have to fill those stems to catch them.

Big Ag may be able to blanket enough dust and spray to do so, but most home growers even with a tow-behind disburser are going to struggle to blanket a big enough area fast enough.

!!! – Pesticides aren’t super effective on SB and SVB, but they are wicked effective against pretty much every single beneficial bug in our gardens, from worms and fireflies and their slug-hunting larvae, to pretty much every single pollinator, bees to butterflies to hoverflies and wasps, and can even affect the gut microbiology of hummingbirds and bats. – !!!

Traps work well, but require specific attractants and have to be replaced or rejuvenated.

Conventional Prevention’s

Squash vine borers can pop up after years of not growing squashes anywhere within 200-500 yards. Squash bugs are the same, with an added problem: They like squash. They don’t need it.

That means crop rotations aren’t super effective in breaking this particular pest cycle.

The smaller our spaces, the less effective it becomes.

The mobility of the moths and adaptability of the beetles means that for most home-consumption and small-plot growers with less than an acre (‘bout a football field) per crop butting into another half- or full acre of clean, bare earth, the advice to keep a “clean” garden and avoid mulches doesn’t actually help much.

Without that space, there are too many other options for them: tree and shrub windbreaks, perennial crops and ornamentals, wood piles, overgrown ditches and fence lines, woods, lawns and pastures, straw and hay piles, gaps under sheds.

Weigh that against the values of mulches before going the bare-earth road.

Unfortunately, control once they’re established is difficult, too. Enough to make you fantasize about spraying gas and lighting a match.

Tried & True: Squish ‘Em

Good luck catching the moth. (If you find something that doesn’t affect good bugs, please share.)

To help lower the load for the beetle, carry a jar to the garden to flick them into, and a board you can squash them against.

That board is handy for collecting SB’s – so is cardboard. Lay a chunk near the plants, flip it, stomp.

Tried & True: Pluck Eggs

Attentively checking stems and leaves for little red eggs is the most effective way to control damage.

You can scrape with a butter knife or thumbnail, or try wrapping good, sticky duct tape or packing tape around hands or fingers. You’ll have to press pretty firmly.

I do not just let the eggs fall to the surface under the belief stuff will eat them there (maybe, but maybe not). Nor do I deliver them to birds (some may escape). They get carted to the trash – the trash. In a world without trash, seal them in jars/pails.

Tried & True: Stick Juveniles

I like tape for snagging itty-bitty, speedy SB babies, although you have to really stick them or they can wiggle free.

There’s also the theory of stabbing the SVB by sticking pins/toothpicks in the stems and base of squash either as a preventative or as soon as frass is visible. It has merit, especially if a plant is months into growing but isn’t anywhere near harvest, particularly in a situation where we need this food.

Squashes develop really wide bases, though, and may have more than one larvae, so make sure you’re thoroughly stabbing to kill. They can easily crawl out and chew in elsewhere otherwise.

Foil – Fail

I have tried full-sheet widths of foil in a ring around squashes from the time they pop up. I have interwoven strips around as much of the base of the vines as possible.

The foil at the base in a wide collar akin to brassica collars might be helping, but it’s limited. I have no luck with other materials, either.

Again, I see SVB eggs way up on stems, not only at the base – mama lays on whatever’s exposed, and babies adapt.

Conditionally: Sacrificial Hubbard

Yes, SB-SVB do like Hubbard. I have ringed lots with it, with 20-yard gaps to the nearest other squash, and thrown it in right beside the other cucurbits. Sometimes it’s the only victim or the damage elsewhere is limited, but it’s at best 50-50 and it does nothing to lower the pest loads.

In Big Ag, the Hubbard goes out early and farmers kill the bugs on it to lower pest loads for direct-seeded cash crop squash.

Otherwise, once they’ve killed the Hubbards, SB/SVB have plenty of time to leap over to other cucurbits and kill them, too.

Yellow Traps – Fail

This is where you hang something fairly smooth and happy yellow (cups, frisbees, painted canning lids, yogurt tubs), lightly coat it in something semi-sticky or clogging (kitchen and garden oils, thinned-down glues), and hang it so that itty-bitty munchers get snagged and stuck or coated and suffocate. Wipe, re-coat, repeat.

I have never actually seen hoverflies, fireflies, brown wasps, or striped and fuzzy bees attached, no big butterflies or moths, just the teeny-tiny stuff, so it’s not really hurting. However, I’ve only nabbed juvenile SB on versions stuck down into the dense sections of foliage or laid out in a ring under foliage, and it’s few and far between and mostly a waste of time and resources.

(Again, it can take significant pressure to snag those SB babies – you need a serious level of sticky, and for them to willingly crawl onto it to get stuck, or to fall/jump onto it; they’re not flying or leaping to it on purpose like white-fly.)

Cup Collars – Fail

These guys are effective against some types of pests for other types of crops, just like foil and cardboard collars, but, again, SB lays mostly on leaves and is not restricted to cucurbits – it just likes them – and SVB will lay well up on the mature stem, with the wormy larvae crawling down as far as possible to enter but in no way restricted to entry right at the base of squash.

In the time when the plants are small enough to fit in the cups, their vines aren’t actually vulnerable to borer larvae, still too skinny.

Too, those cups only reach a couple inches up. Any SVB that come by later are going to have nice, exposed stems and leaves protruding to lay on, with their young readily able to slide down and chew in.

Squash are big plants with wide bases and sprawling vines by type – you only contain them in a cup for a little while. Then, there are months of season left for SVB to lay on exposed, viable vines.

So… once again, while effective against some pests, it’s a waste of time and resources for SVB/SB. 

Semi-Helpful: Bury Nodes

There’s the belief that once the adventitious root nodes of longer vines is buried, the adult SVB moth doesn’t know it’s there, and won’t lay her eggs there to burrow in. The idea that she can find a seed-started stem but not a buried node… I don’t know how that even gains traction.

Plus, again, she’ll lay way up on stems. Where they are doesn’t matter.

However, there is a benefit: It creates another feed point for the plant.

If you can kill the larvae in the original stretch(es), active nodes can keep the plant alive long enough to mature any fruits further down the vine.

Tried & True: Row Covers

They work, but there’s some issues that come up, because you have to seal the edges.

SB require really sealing the edges. They’ll crawl under any loose sections. It’s a definite time and resource suck to bury-unbury-rebury every time we need access.

Mesh is my choice control for the consistent SVB problems all over my area, though. They’re not quite as small and tough, so it doesn’t require sealing to the same degree. (I wouldn’t bother if we only had SB.)

Second Hitch: Pollinators can’t get in. That means hand pollinating more than seed stock. It’s also totally devastating for squash bees, so plant some melons for them.

Combatting SB/SVB

It takes some attention and it can be laborious, but we can mitigate SB/SVB infestations. There aren’t many critters that prey on SB/SVB, so it’s all on us. Since the most effective methods require time and in some cases materials, we have to make some preparations so we can act immediately when they show up.

Be Safe out there and be sure to check out The Prepper Journal Store and follow The Prepper Journal on Facebook!

The post Survival Gardening: Squash Bugs and Borers appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Reflectors and Mylar: Home, Garden and On The Go

12 Jul

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

There are all kinds of ways windshield reflectors and space blankets can make life easier and increase our capabilities as preppers, both everyday and during emergencies. Some of the camping and car uses are the most well known, but they don’t get applied in our homes and backyards much.

What we’re doing with them affects just how much quality we need, and thus what we might expect to spend. We also have other options such as regular ol’ aluminum foil and the option of snagging aluminum bubble insulation.

Mylar Sheets

I should say up front that while I have a couple of the dollar-store wallet-sized sheets in my daily bags and vehicle, I am not a huge fan of them. I’ve tried them out a few times. They never got top billing for my vest or pocket stuff when I was camping.

We can get better versions of simple, thin, super-compact, super-lightweight heat sheets for not much more, which is now my choice.

We can also get the types where the mylar sheet is mated to a much sturdier nylon or canvas backing, complete with grommets. They’re pricier and have added bulk, but they’re far more sturdy with more ease of use.

That’s what I tend to go with now for away-from-home emergency kits when the space isn’t of issue.

I have always lived in areas where wind is a factor, even in the woods. Most of my packing and long-distance solo driving has been done in areas with crazy-vicious thorns and-or thick brush. I have had all kinds of things punctured and ripped from rocks, sticks, and mesquite. I also almost always have dogs with me, and do not always have a file for their nails or control of their wagging tails.

Thin, flimsy space blankets just don’t fit my outdoors emergency needs.

I also find them to be a serious pain to fold up, a pain to work with due to the light weight, and insanely noisy.  

Others do like the regular ol’ dollar-store versions, express no real issues with them, and make them work in all kinds of conditions. For $1-$3, give them a try and see if they work for you.

There’s also all kinds of emergencies – and all kinds of uses in everyday life. We don’t always need a rough-ready Mylar sheet to reap the benefits.

There’s no reason to spend more in those cases, some of which apply to the uses below.

There’s no reason to spend more than we have to, ever – watch for seasonal sales and check outlets like Ollie’s and Big Lots, clip some coupons for Academy and Tractor Supply, and keep more of the budget available for other things even when we’re after the heftier emergency blankets or vehicle sun shades.

Windshield Reflectors

These are my backpacking, evac kit, and kayaking go-to choice. I typically carry 2-3, bundled so they form a belt pad and pad the back of my pack.

I started carrying just one to serve as a bedroll pad. Just like they reflect heat away from our cars, under our bodies, they reflect our heat back up. In a pinch, they can work solo as a ground cover, but I usually have a ground cloth of some kind.

I punch some holes and add loops so they’re easy to attach up over or beside my body as well, regardless of bivy or tarp shelter type. If I have sufficient insulation from the ground, that reflection is more useful to me.

That reflective value can be netted with any of the mylar and mylar-lined options. I still use the vehicle heat shields under a bedroll just because they’re less likely to bunch up or move, and they’re thicker, covering my pad needs.

I also prefer those fold-up vehicle pads for wet and snowy packing and kayaking because they can provide a comfy place to sit or kneel, and because it’s easier to rig them with some branches, around trees, or with line to reflect a fire’s heat back at my sitting and sleeping area.

There’s another big bonus when it comes to the vehicle reflectors over thinner sheets and plastic-tarp types: sparks.

I have never managed to actually have a sheet blow into a fire and melt immediately, but I have every once in a while had a gust hit a 1-sided or 2-sided/angled reflector fire just right, at just the right time, to send some embers blowing.

The vehicle sheets have never caught or had holes melted from just incidental sparks. The space blankets, however, have.

It’s just something to be aware of.

*Reflectors for fires aren’t just about keeping us warmer. Set up logs, rocks, spare lids, etc., to help food cook faster, even if you don’t set up a large section, or look into a reflector oven.

Creating a smaller space and reflective surfaces can also help make our at-home emergency candle and oil ovens and stoves more effective, decreasing cooking time. Likewise, heat shields and reflectors can help keep heat contained to a cooking area for poorly insulated campers, shacks, and trailers even with gas or electric cook-tops.

Reflect Heat At Home, Too

We can throw cheap sheets or sturdier windshield screens all over to help lower fuel use and make areas more comfortable. They work under the bottom sheet or the mattress for beds, humans or pets.

We can use them propped up behind animal beds as well. Windshield reflectors or sheets adhered to plywood or shipping pallets can be used for livestock, too, lowering the times we use heat lamps for birds and lambs.

We can also use them atop kennels or hanging from rafters to create canopy beds for our animals, holding and reflecting more warmth yet just as they do for us.

Mylar sheets (or aluminum bubble insulation) also work to reflect heat from behind our chairs and lining our workshops, near our wood stoves, on attic floors, and even on our windows.

Covering windows to reflect heat back works even better if we go with double-ply sheeting with something dark on the outside to absorb solar radiation, and the mylar on the inside.

Just like those sunscreens help keep vehicles cooler, we can use them during summer outages to reflect light away – just like switching to pale-colored curtains.

It applies to RVs and hunting shacks as well, or to tents that have windows and dark colors and car/truck camping.

If we have the sturdier versions, we can use hooks and line or poles to angle the screens out away from our windows so we can cut the light and heat, but still retain some airflow.

Outdoors Light & Heat Control

Any of our reflectors can help us with comfort and efficiency outside, too. With the reflective surface above, heat from the ground is contained and reflected back down, giving us extended use of our decks and porches, protecting gardens from cool snaps, or helping to retain warmth from any passive or active heating we use.

Especially during the spring-autumn verges and during winter when the sun’s arc is still low, we’re not losing significant amounts of light if we use tall hoop frames.

Other times, we might lay reflective ground cover or our handy alternatives to reflect light upwards, or prop any of our options against the back of a greenhouse or bed to reflect more light still from the sides.

Other times, we specifically want to lower the amount of sunlight reaching our gardens, and might even angle a screen so it’s blocking the whole afternoon sun.

Doing so – and adding a reflector facing outward instead – can lower the heat for cooler-weather crops and reduce evaporation and transpiration, reducing our need to irrigate in dry seasons.

We can also make use of our light and heat reflectors for indoor plants. It’s especially helpful starting seeds in low light conditions, whether that’s a window in early spring or “just” maximizing growth for countertop sprouts and microgreens.

It also allows us to maximize the efficiency of any grow lights we use – for birds as well as plants.

Smaller Structures

Whatever type we might choose – to include those cheap Mylar sheets or regular ol’ foil – we can use reflectors to increase the effectiveness of solar panels large and small-tiny, and solar heaters and dehydrators. They’re also handy for solar-heated water systems, whether those are warming houses or greenhouses, or feeding into showers or pre-heated cooking and hand-washing stations.

Vehicle sunscreens can make for incredibly easy solar cookers, but they, too, can also be assembled using any of our options – there’s no need to spend more for the sturdier or larger sheets.

Reflectors: Worth A Couple Bucks

Whether we’re planning for everyday emergencies or a major End-of-Days event, having some options on hand to reflect heat one way or another can be a major assist. That assistance applies to normal life as well, allowing us to do more with less work or fuel expenditure. In some cases – like decreasing the use of heat lamps and space heaters – it can also reduce risks on the home front.

Given the relatively inexpensive investment required, it’s worth trying out the options and keeping a few on hand, at home, in vehicles, with emergency kits, but also for everyday trial-and-error testing and development.

Be Safe out there and be sure to check out The Prepper Journal Store and follow The Prepper Journal on Facebook!


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Modern Minuteman – Wilderness Skills

3 Jul

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: As we prepare to celebrate our Republics 243rd birthday what could be more appropriate than a third installment of R. Ann Parris’s Minuteman series?

From the most localized and lowest-level threats like rioting and looting, to major upsets that see individuals band together to usurp a larger, well-organized threat, how we deploy and for how long in what types of environments affect the skills most useful for us. That includes the survivalist skills we see listed so often.

They’re great to have, but as with learning them for general preparedness, what gets top billing for our time and income is largely situationally dependent.

Continuing the framework of my skillsets articles, I’m not focusing on how-to or subsets of the skills listed here. Instead, I’m offering a yes-no-maybe answer to the question of whether these in particular apply to preppers who are thinking about preparing for a minuteman role.

Land Navigation

I hit orienteering and pace counts in a former article. It’s only a “maybe” for compass-map skills (based on location/terrain) and a definite “yes” for pace counts (across the board, everywhere). You can check out my reasoning’s here

Primitive Shelters


If our AO is somewhere with large tracts between friendly shelter, sure. A tarp isn’t always enough, even combined with the ability to get up off the ground.

If we can’t rest, and if we’re burning calories shivering, our bodies and minds wear down. If we’re not crossing those tracts, though, spend the time honing something more universally applicable.


Nah, not so much – particularly alternative and primitive fire starting.

Again, some scenarios and some personal situations form exceptions. As minutemen we’re probably going to be operating fairly close to home and for limited periods of time – hours on duty, days on post or in transit.

Yeah, there are times and certain climates where a fire is the only way to dry things or stay warm, but it’s far from universal, especially today, and it’s hugely dependent on our area of operations.

And, yeah, even today some militaries lean heavily on stoves and fuel tabs with rations.

Mostly, though, they can keep warm with gear and eat cold/dry chow. So can we.

If we do need flame, largely a pill bottle or coin purse kit holding matches and a lighter that’s kept inside the clothes on a lanyard and a couple of candles will do the job to keep us warm or get a fire going enough to dry each load of wood combined with a tarp or cave-like shelter.

They do it with less effort (calorie expenditure, sweat/dehydration) and less time than primitive fire-making methods, and lessen the risk of exposure from larger fires.

Foraging Wild Foods

Maybe, but mostly “nah”.

I’m a huge proponent of wild foods, and the ability to source and cultivate wild foods – now, as well as for emergency situations. Mostly, though, whether we want to include small game hunting and trapping, fishing and fish traps, or only plants, how often are we expecting to get cut off far enough, deep enough, that we can’t push through with whatever our everyday carry and patrol pack contains?

Particularly as minutemen?

And, particularly as minutemen, how is it we plan to accomplish this foraging?

Go ahead and picture any given scenario(s) you like.

We’re urban moseying through streets in Gray Man attire with nondescript bag, or leaving our rural homestead for the dunes/woods/slopes/fields.

We could even being going “Red Dawn” in our heads, living out there in the wilds with our bushcraft set and our insurgency kits.

We’re in full combat load out with our mask in place, weapon of choice slung or in hand, multi-day pack to settle in for sniping and harassment or just because we’re heading 6-8+ hours away (so no matter how quick our action, we’re on our own for a while), or just our day patrol pack.

And now we’re foraging.

We’re either balancing these bags and whatever else we have to stoop and snag some chow or set up for animal proteins, or we’re staging our gear – stripping to our musette back or day pack, with or without a primary weapon if it’s there, with or without a sidearm or slingshot.

We’re either not making much headway, or have halted completely – making none – and in some scenarios we ditched our bag or propped our rifle, cutting ourselves off from the gear we decided we had to have available when we packed that bag.

The further away from it we get, the more vulnerable we become to losing it entirely, while also doubling the chances that somebody sees signs of a person operating in this area (us+bag versus the combo).

If we’re setting snares or fishing yoyo’s instead of air gun hunting or plant foraging, we have to then go back through to collect them before we move on.

Sure, there are times it’s more than possible to easily balance the two directives – food and distance.

I can readily snag berries to drop in my canteen cup in its pouch or the open jar in my cargo pocket, munch as I go, or pull my pellet gun to pop a squirrel that waits in my drop pouch. Not a major delay, readily possible in even a full winter combat load and pack, and depending on my scenario, maybe some fresh foods are totally worth it.

If I have to forage for chow, though, it takes time.

Not only is there time spent collecting, I regularly have to process that chow, which may require more water than I have on me and-or a fire – which means I’m either toting my fire, or I have to stop earlier yet to make that fire.

We also have to weigh how many calories we’re burning fetching those foods and preparing them versus how many we consume.

There are scenarios where, yeah, being able to source some food is huge.

Particularly since so many of the applications for modern minuteman deployment have us in relatively normal situations with portable foods, and-or operating near home or work, it’s mostly just not necessary.

Unless your scenario has you way-way out akin to armies on the march and out of or tired of their basic rations, operating close to home means the ability to deploy with jerky, crackers, last night’s biscuits or bannock, a canning jar of stew, dried fruit, etc.

Augmenting as we’re stopped or passing anyway is great, but as far as necessary skill sets for minuteman service … nah.

What is valuable, though, today’s everyday localized disasters to major upsets and crises, is the ability to…

Source Safe Water

Especially in urban and suburban situations, not just trekking the woods and rural retreat properties, absolutely and emphatically, yes.

The rationale for doubling down on water skills is a nigh-on endless list.

  • Dehydration saps decision making and physical capabilities long before hunger, heat, or cold.
  • Utilities are enormously vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters that affect power or the infrastructure itself.
  • Utilities and specifically water systems (city water, wells, or springs) are vulnerable to all sorts of contamination’s – human and animal wastes from backups and floods, deliberate sabotage, chemical spills from factories and trains/ships/trailers.

  • While some pressure remains in systems initially, the longer a situation goes on, the more our pressure and-or residual contents decrease.
  • Wells can run low enough to suck air and springs can drop to trickles, even if we have all the parts and skills we need to keep pumps running indefinitely despite power disruptions.
  • Water distribution and supplies are quickly exhausted even in otherwise “normal, functioning” society right here in the U.S., without any other disruption in services besides water.
  • The denser the population and further downstream/downhill our location, the more contaminants and disasters that can affect our water supply.

  • Very few of us carry around enough water at all times to cover our needs and the needs of any partners with us at any given moment for 8-12 hours of exertion, let alone 2-3 days.
  • Roof type and bird presence greatly affect just how safe water catchment may be to drink, and how much filtration/treatment it requires.
  • With authorities focused on bigger fish to fry (or, the cause for us manning our positions in the first place), distribution of water supplies may take a low priority – or, be available only in limited areas and limited quantity, in some cases with reduced ability to send representative(s) without leaving our position(s) vulnerable.

  • In dry seasons, natural waterways can already be few and far between in backcountry … and in pastures/fields.
  • By disaster, and previous disaster, dams may fail or end up low, decreasing reservoir levels and the overflows/control flows that normally feed area creeks, canals, and spring lenses.
  • If we’re actively engaged in combat operations or hunkering in to avoid detection, we may not be able to detour to planned water sources.
  • Travel impediments can affect how much distance we’re making (total time expended) and the effort it’s taking, increasing our need for water and decreasing our ability to tap expected sources.

Absolutely embrace the potential that as modern minutemen we may “only” be defending our block of Baltimore or Koreatown, or may be well able to withstand life at our rural retreat. By all means, apply everyday operations by grunts afield.

However, also acknowledge that the very idea of a modern minuteman suggests life has hit a hitch, and that Uncle Murphy usually laughs last and longest. Those grunts have a big system moving bottles and buffaloes around, and a five-cent part can disrupt water from our faucets.

Take some time to learn the signs of water and how to access it when we can’t see it, how to make it safe, and how we’d transport it from one building or floor or rural/woods location to another if our partners are over there dehydrating.

Wilderness Survival for Minuteman Deployment

Because we’re all different, in very different areas with very different situations to consider, the ways we anticipate participating as a citizen soldier varies. That means the skills we need to be effective vary, too.

(Editor’s Note: A comment on “photojournalism – there were no “Koreatown, LA Riots in 1992”, there was the Rodney King Riot in 1992, where the business owners in the area of  Los Angeles known as “Koreatown” armed themselves to the teeth, barricaded their business and stood guard, ready to shoot any looters or people attempting to do damage to their businesses or hurt their families. As a result the area was untouched, passed by by the criminals who set fires and destroyed property throughout Watts and Los Angeles. A lesson still not learned by so many. In that same area today would they not all be arrested on one of the endless weapons charges that have popped up since?

Nowhere is that truer than the wilderness and survival skills we might require.

There’s too much to do to try and cover it all, particularly all at once while also balancing daily life and other preps. Think through specific situations, and current capabilities. Whittle the many lists that exist down to highest priority, and concentrate on the things that have the most application in the most scenarios.

Work what’s most likely to be needed and used first and foremost, for us specifically as individuals, and expand later on.

Be Safe out there and be sure to check out The Prepper Journal Store and follow The Prepper Journal on Facebook!

The post Modern Minuteman – Wilderness Skills appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Modern Minuteman – Yes-No-Maybe Skillsets Vol. 2

25 Jun

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Many aspects of the Modern Minuteman toolbox apply to preparedness in general, however personal and small-scale or widespread and earth shaking our pet disasters may be. As with overall preparedness, our exact situation and our expectations of disaster scenarios affects what we prioritize for our finite time and attention.

Last time, I concentrated on an “early/now” frame for prioritizing a handful of commonly recommended skills. This time, I’m actually taking the “at all” perspective, be it amped-up community watches, riot control, or some NWO-EROL situation we’re gearing up to oppose.

As always, opposing opinions are welcome. The more perspectives available, the better everyone is able to make their own decisions.

Gauge Community Climate

Absolutely and emphatically, yes.  

Heaven help me, I recently found myself agreeing with Nancy Pelosi. A group of students approached her in her office to express their displeasure in her lack of support for an AOC environmental bill. Her reply was essentially that stupid to waste time on something with absolutely zero chance of passing.

That was a fair enough point on its own, and speaks directly to taking the pulse of a population.

Even more so was a nugget that made fewer news sites in the following days: The belief that trying to push too-extreme an agenda – however much she personally might agree with it – was worse than doing nothing at all. It would only further ruffle feathers, making things harder to achieve the next time around.

I’m no more fan of politicians than the next, but the ability to accurately predict and read the masses is something that we do need to be aware of if we have any interest whatsoever in being a citizen soldier.

What the community will stand and what they won’t is the bedrock of insurgency and resistance movements.

What they will and won’t stand in good times, versus crux moments and tragedy, historically makes or breaks those movements, as well as the hold over a community by a commanding force – whether that’s a large, visible government with policing agents and military, or the behind-the-scenes types large and small. 

It applies to anticipating and either preventing or responding to something like a riot or demonstration, as well as guerrilla actions against occupations and undermining strongholds of loyalists for either/any faction.

Large scale, long-term or single-event short-term, we have to be able to gauge the mood of the mob and the climate of our communities, and our reactions have to come from a complete tool set – not just picking today’s hammer.

If we can’t, our chances of success are downright nil.

Denial & Disruption

Most emphatically, yes.

Riot control on sidewalks or countering the jackboot takeover, we want to be able to deny our enemy intel and assets, and disrupt their way of doing business (and ability to relax).

That can take all sorts of forms – and has, throughout history.

Interdiction and harassment take so many forms, it really rates its own set of articles even to nutshell the tactics and techniques employed by insurgency and resistance in guerrilla operations, community and large-force counters to guerilla operations, and even law enforcement and IT deterrents large and small, and internal policing by law enforcement and militaries and even lowly little small-business operations, as well as force-on-force operations from pre-tech eras to modern times.

On the larger scales, it involves all sorts of supply and travel disruptions, misinformation/counter-intel, harassing fire, false flags, etc.

Many of those can also be applied on the smallest of scales – even interpersonal conflict and self-defense situations – employing different techniques to the same theories, or adapting techniques to fit conditions.

Again, though, we really want to mind the effects on and reactions of our internal and closest-ties allies (family, coworkers, partners), the near neighbors, and the community at large, as well as our opposition and the reactions of their varying rings of influence.

Wilderness & Military Camp Setup

Yes, absolutely – anywhere.

Site development and placement of elements – modern or long past – have a lot of aspects that apply to preparedness in general, even “just” getting through a hurricane and “just” setting up our homes for everyday functional efficiency and security.

The same aspects keep them relevant to a modern minuteman intending to defend storefronts or residential communities from riots as well as the prepper who anticipates infantry-like service defending freedom.  

Positioning for ready communication, rapid responses, protection of key elements, LOS, external observation points, latrines/sanitation, deployment outside the wire and-or green zones, individual safety and incoming-fire cover, fire safety, supply distribution, and awareness of known effective ranges by position and armament all factor in.

They apply equally to both the able-bodied foot soldier and to the physically limited watchman or rear-echelon non-combatant, whatever the situation, however big or small the location.

*Think that one through, and consider our daily nothing-wrong lifestyles – It really does resonate everywhere, from where our smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are, to aggravations or eases when we grocery shop, bathe dogs, do laundry, file and maintain paperwork, coordinate with family and coworkers, get to and from our chores and recreations, etc. We don’t have to be totally paranoid or OCD to start seeing typical trends in non-prepper, non-minuteman sources for safety/protection and efficiency.

Camo & Concealment


Really, it’s situationally dependent.

For most of the scenarios we can list off, from protecting our corner of Baltimore or Koreatown to taking our turn as the insurgents – or countering them, or splinter cells of a larger force – unless you’re a sniper operating from the woods, mostly, “meh” leaning “well, nah”.

Flip side: Oh hell yeah, because camo and concealment isn’t always green and tan splotches of paint or fabric.

Camo and concealment is a suit or slacks and a briefcase in a courthouse, yoga pants and a light bag at the park, a “normal” passenger vehicle instead of an off-road rock-climbing mudder or Humvee on the average street, high-vis vests with dirty pants on a road crew with their bucket or tool box/bag, and scuffed up boots on a farm hand.

That camo and concealment extends to mixing up travel patterns to avoid breaking foliage and creating “deer trails”, being able to slip out of a location without observation, and presenting the appearance of following habitual movements and activities while deviating from the norm.

It’s also developing the control to watch our mouths and non-verbals rather than fight every battle that comes our way and picking every hill as our hill to die on. (Return to Nancy Pelosi above to make that an even uglier pill to swallow.)

And, yeah, in a few situations, it’s being able to become a rock on the hill or another tuft of brush, but unless we’re evading birds or sniper hunters, mostly breaking up our outlines isn’t too hard and doesn’t always require paint or cammies.

Hand-to-Hand Combat

Yes and no.

Don’t get me wrong. Self-defense capabilities are great to have, period. It’s not like this world has ever been totally safe, or like it’s getting any crazier.

However you want to apply it, keep in mind how often we see 2-5 cops or foreign militias trying to wrestle a bad guy into cuffs or move them after arrest, and weigh how much training and daily practice they get, versus our ability to invest time and money into training.

Our expectations of the bad guy we’ll be encountering, and how we’re deploying also factor in pretty hugely.

If we’re countering a significant force, whether it’s widespread jackboots and organized invaders or forces that have the benefit of protective gear, our chances of success are much lower.

Similarly, our chances against servicemen from one of the nations that focus significant continuing training time on some pretty gnarly martial arts, knife work, and batons … not so hot.

There are exploits for hand-to-hand combat even against somebody wearing body armor groin to neck, face shields and helmets, and knee pads. We just have to be realistic about whether we’re going to personally stand a chance with our available investment capabilities, or if we want to focus instead on something else.

Learn some basics that fit your physical condition for everyday encounters, but don’t break the bank on this one.

Instead, for minuteman purposes develop awareness, de-escalation, and evasion skills as well as Gray Man presentation.

Also work reflex drills, ankle-knee lateral and start-stop strength (or chair skills), and balance exercises – especially for people who are limited in some way by age, injury, or genetic luck of the draw.

Urban or rural, footing can be iffy. The better able we are to compensate for shifting terrain, curbs, bumps, and slips, and the better able we are to change direction on a dime, the better chance we stand of staying in the fight, whatever the scenario we imagine.

Modern Minuteman Skillsets

Most likely, the term “Modern Minuteman” brings a certain image to our heads. And, most likely, any 2-20 of us would describe very different images – particularly as the most likely and most common potential for a modern minuteman to deploy.

Because we have very different situations and needs, with very different scenarios in mind and very different capabilities due to our physical shape and local environment, the skills we are most likely to need are going to vary.

Some, though, are pretty universal. We can sometimes assign a value across the board, regardless of situation or scenario.

With any luck, somebody disagrees with these, or the matrix I apply at large, and presents points for discussion.

If not and until then, go find somebody who thinks “bah, PC community-pulse nonsense” or “moron, every soldier should fight with sticks”. Weigh the argument presented for those situations, and decide what does actually make sense for you. It’s only having multiple perspectives that really lets us prioritize, whether we’re picking out groceries or putting together our minuteman to-do list.

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Prepper Pantry – A Pound of Pasta

20 Jun

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: To answer your question, Yes! After moving this post into WordPress for publication I did have to go find some good pasta for lunch.

Pasta and noodles go way beyond spaghetti in red sauce. It’s one of the most versatile ingredients we can maintain in our storage. Happily, it’s also an inexpensive carb option for most of us. Pasta and noodles also store for years in their original packaging with just a bug and moisture barrier, requiring little or no extra steps or materials for packing.

Because pasta is viable for low-fuel methods from rocket stoves to sun-based soaking or Wonder Box or thermal cookers, it carries the ease of “weeknight” and slow-cooker and one-pot meals into every level of disaster and prepper.

We’re all kinds of people in all kinds of circumstances, with a wide variety of things that can go wrong to disrupt supply lines and personal purchasing power. Pasta and noodles as a general category can serve pretty much all of us, providing welcome diversity in meal types, but even within that category, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Consider Circumstances

Pasta’s versatility extends beyond its many uses. While the bleached white flour types tend to be most affordable, there are plenty of options. Those who need or want to tailor food storage can select from whole wheat, alternative whole grains and cereals, potato, gluten-free and high-protein pea and bean flour noodles.

There’s also veggie versions – both spiraled veggies and “regular” pasta that contains a serving of vegetables with every serving of carbs.

For those stocking pantries for the early, lower-level ABC through mid-alphabet disasters, or for low-activity bunker situations, the lower calories and nutrient balancing of those veggie pastas may be a benefit.  

Once we’re past the power outage, layoff/income reduction, Venezuela-Argentina, and even Great Depression type crises we’re most likely to face and tailoring storage for long-duration mega disasters where we’re working more, we might want to stick to the full-cal or higher-cal and higher-protein options.

Size Economy

Egg noodles, spirals, shells, and others have a ton of uses and application, but aren’t as space efficient as the straight, thin noodles – soba, fettuccini, and spaghetti types – or even ramen. Depending on how much storage area we have to work with, that may influence what we want to stock.

For a handy size-estimation guide, check out this page

Orzo, ditalini, and pastina are all really small types of pasta. Stars and diti rings are also very small. There are advantages there in that they store nearly as tightly as rice without some of the space loss from some other types of pasta, and they also cook very quickly. They are, however, sometimes significantly more expensive.

The straight, thin noodles are also typically less expensive, especially spaghetti. We can also sometimes find great deals on shorter noodles like the ones we see in Knorr and Wise packets and Lipton boxes by hitting catering and school cafeteria supply shops.

While added versatility comes from the wide variety of choices in type and form, there’s a ton we can do to create variety even with just one or two types of pasta in our storage.

Making Meals

Sauced Noodles & Casseroles offer us a wide variety all on their own. From packets or jars of pesto, Alfredo, and cheese powders to options we make with canned soups or from scratch, the ability to change things over and over again using the same carb base and even some of the same veggies and proteins is an enormous boost to our emergency plans.

Hamburger Helper and other boxed noodle kits can be a great source of inspiration. So can all the many packets of seasonings around the gravy mixes, Oriental foods, and Mexican/Tex Mex sections of the supermarket.

Most can be made easily using readily available food storage items. The easiest is subbing cooked beans for meats in Mexican-style noodle dishes, but we can also snag some canned chicken, seafood, or beef, or purchase TVP or for-real meats in freeze-dried formats.

Many – such as herbed or tomato noodles served with fish and the many simple twists that keep poached or fried egg carbonara different and interesting – also lend themselves well to homesteaders who are producing at least some of their own proteins.

There are also twists on sandwiches such as Philly cheese steaks, good ol’ chili mac or tuna noodle casserole, speedy layered pastas instead of traditional lasagna noodles, and things like buffalo chicken slow-cooker recipes that apply for all levels of food storage.

Hit the internet for pasta recipes that include food storage items you already have or garden produce you grow, and that can be rounded out with inexpensive, shelf-stable, supermarket-available options such as bacon bits, powdered milk, and seasoning packets that can make meal times both varied and easy on the labor front, both in preparation and cleanup.

Oriental Noodles – Beyond the very many Italian, American, and Mediterranean sauces we can ladle over our noodles, we can also expand our menus by turning regular ol’ spaghetti, angel hair, and fettuccine noodles into a variety of Eastern dishes.

Peanut noodles, Mongolian bowls with changing ingredients based on dehydrated, canned and fresh produce, and stir fry with noodles instead of rice to create lo mein, chow fun, or chow mein all give us forkable options.

Curry sauces, Singaporean garlic noodles, Liangpi, Sichuan Dandan, and plenty of others give us a variety of flavors using some basic staples and some twists on spices – which we can readily acquire in shelf-stable jars and packets of powder, or make truly from scratch.

Ramen, ban mian, and Thai soup and seasoned noodles are other options. There are also twists where we use wonton seasonings or other dumpling or wok meals’ ingredients to create soups or brothy noodles.

Salads – Cold pasta salad goes well beyond a mayo base with pickles or relish. We can sub in all forms of pasta and noodles for any of the bulgur or wheat salads from around the world, too. Some make use of homestead proteins, windowsill and sprout “garden” produce, and storage foods particularly well.

Macaroni egg salad is one, with numerous add-ins such as canned ham or packets of bacon bits, chopped chicken, or canned shrimp that can keep it fresh, just like the ability to hit it with chili powder here, green onion or chives (or the many forage-friendly alternatives to them) another time – basically, anything we’ve seen done to twist the standard devilled egg.

Bean or pea salads with pastas come from all over, using salad dressings we can store or get packets for, or readily homemade ingredients for sauces such as pesto.

Italian and greek pasta salads can be as simple as canned, fresh, or dehydrated tomatoes with Italian dressing or a Dollar Tree shaker of Italian herbs or powdered garlic. We can jazz them up further with fresh herbs such as basil, bell peppers, banana peppers, canned olives, grilled zucchini or re-hydrated or fresh zucchini slices, and the “sawdust” type shelf-stable Parmesan cheese powders.

As with soups and casseroles, cold pasta salads can also be a really excellent way to stretch a package of shelf-stable salami, pepperoni, or summer sausage meat sticks around a large family.

Soups – One of the major advantages of storing some pasta is that it very readily provides a fork-and-knife break from spoon meals based around boiled wheat and rice. Still, there’s a reason soups have globally been so popular. They’re easy, can be made quickly or in various slow cookers, offer one-pot cleanup ease, make use of oddball bits and pieces and traditional storage foods, and stretch ingredients for filling meals.

Pasta helps keep those fresh, too, providing additional options.

Almost any casserole, salad, or sauced pasta dish can be turned into a soup. There are also longtime traditional favorites that lend themselves to any type of pasta we may have, from good ol’ chicken noodle to subbing pasta for dumplings or potatoes in a hearty chowder or something like zuppa Toscana, or the yams in African and Equatorial peanut soups.

Some, like miso, Tuscan faro-bean sub’ed with pasta, and minestrone can offer tons of flavor and nutrients without being overwhelmingly heavy during hot weather.

Other times, thickening our soups into “creamed” options with instant potatoes, gravy mixes, or flour made from our aging beans can help add to the heartiness (and calories/proteins).

We can also add to the variety of even soups by checking out other international favorites we might not have been aware of. Russian rassolnik, North African onugbu, Polish sausage and cabbage or sauerkraut, and Romanian radauti all lend themselves well to the addition of some pasta (or other carbs).

We can also create “deconstructed” versions of things like tortellini or Turkish manti dumplings for our soups.

Food Storage Variety

Very few single base ingredients can add as much versatility and diversity to our food storage as pasta. Even just selecting budget- and space-friendly spaghetti or macaroni, we can churn out all kinds of cold salads, sauced noodle meals and side dishes, casseroles, and soups – adding not just the variety, but alleviating food fatigue and boredom by providing fork-friendly meals.

In many cases, doing so requires just a few inexpensive tweaks to very similar ingredients.

Since pastas and noodles are also fairly inexpensive carb-calorie bases, are fast to cook (easy on fuels and labor), and have pretty impressive shelf lives just stuck as-is on a shelf and in a bucket, it’s an easy and very affordable way to augment the standards of rice and wheat.

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The post Prepper Pantry – A Pound of Pasta appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Run-n-Gun: Lights, Camera, Action

18 Jun

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Whatever our primary shooting type and needs, there are a few things we can do to make sure we’re a little more ready when we pull the trigger on a real, live target.  This time around, it’s looking at low-light considerations and options.

This focuses mostly on defensive shooting. It can readily be applied to both LTL defense, though, and to training for paramilitary engagements.

I Don’t Need No Light

Yes, you do. Particularly for home and property defense.

One, yes, there is typically ambient light. However, it is not always sufficient for locating something that’s not moving or that is hugging shadows. Even if it is…

Two, depending on where that ambient light is – like, outside from the moon especially, but the light source is on the far side of something, it creates a silhouette.

Back-lit, pitch-black figures are hard to identify.

So are shadowy, dark figures.

Maybe you’re okay with shooting some packer or stray dog that’s just cutting through, or some neighbor who’s coming to beg a ride to the hospital.

Or, the cop creeping on the violent criminal while his/her partner is running to the house to ask/warn you about them.

Or, a neighbor running up to it with a gun because they just saw a yote chasing your calves or somebody creeping your property on foot or in a vehicle without the lights on, or that the smell is not from the last fire, but a new one about to hit the roadway/horizon.

Be real nice to light them up instead of automatically shooting them, for most of us.

Then there’s ID’g live-in’s, family/friends who have keys and-or alarm codes, or guests or a teen who could be raiding the fridge, any of whom might be potentially stepping outside because they want something from a porch or vehicle.

Or, hey, they heard something.

And, hey, if you live where a gun-toting relative, partner, or neighbor who sees/hears something odd might be sidling along checking that you’re okay, that silhouette might be armed.

Be nice if it was household-property SOP to go ahead and wreck somebody’s night vision instead of automatically putting holes in our own people.

*This is also where having flash-thunder type identification cue and learning to not jump the trigger is super-duper useful, too; ‘Cause, it’d be nice if our family/partner didn’t have to live with having automatically put holes in us when we lit them up.

Doesn’t being prepared for anything mean we should actually be preparing for anything? To include not shooting indiscriminately?

Let There Be Light

I prefer a handheld light and unsupported hold to a gun-mounted light and bracing my wrist. Some prefer to keep their hands on their gun.

Some hate the idea of using a light at all.

Hey, not having a skinny cone pointing to my center of mass is one of the reasons I like that offset handheld, so I’ll give them that one. However, I think how they envision lights getting used has a lot to do with the reluctance.

We do not leave that light on nonstop.

In fact, ideally we have a light that readily allows us to flicker it on and off, and we make free and full use of that function.

*If you have bad hands, consider a tac light with a wider, softer on-off tab than the common rear or side thumb pad or button. We just fix it straight to the light. If our fingers are aggravating, we can even practice holding it with the on-off key against our palm or the pad of our thumb, so we’re squeezing the whole hand, not one thumb or finger.

Loitering With Lights…

…is a good way to give any bad guys a really good idea where we are and provide a nice, visible aim point for them.

That’s where flickering helps. Light on, light off. Light on, light off.

There’s a super-duper important step in there that regularly ends up missed, though: Move.

Anytime we’ve availed ourselves of our light, we relocate.  

If we’re super-duper restricted (hallways, thick brush we’d rather not snag, etc.) a free-hand light becomes even more useful, because we can change where it’s shining from instead of always having that puppy right there inside dessert-plate and copy-paper accuracy ranges of our face and chest.

Even with it gun-mounted, though, or needing to keep two hands on a long gun, move.

Move it, move us, as much as possible.  

As much as we can without losing our footing, as far as we can without risk, even if all we can do is tip a gun and go to tiptoes, then crouch or take a knee, do it.

In a tight hallway, we can lean to use it, and move back 1-2 paces pretty easily, even working with a partner (we train so they know that’s what we’re going to do).

Do not linger where the light was.

Wheelers, hop-alongs, & cane bearers: There is even more argument for you to practice not only one-handed shooting, but also off-hand shooting. With limited mobility, the advantage of moving gun and light back and forth by space and cover is huge.

Seriously think about gluing/taping/tying a tooled 1×1 to your creak-in-the-night gun if it’s not mount-ready, so you can mount a rifle/shotgun tac light with an extended softie-pad control to it (mounted within reach of your thumb for off-hand shooting) or shell out for an ambi that works with your dexterity.

Wheelers: Leave one hand on whichever wheel needs to spin to change your profile and location immediately.

Stick Walkers: By type, you’re even less immediately mobile than wheelers and may have to holster/bag a gun to relocate. It’s even more important that you’re training to do a hand-to-hand gun/light swap at a height where you can be holding cane/crutch against your body or in position to make a hop aside as quickly as possible.

Anyone of Limited Mobility: You must practice awareness of leaning in, light it up, light off, and then leaning away (rather than the light tracking your initial movement away from “there”) because it’s going to take a little longer to move further away from your X.

Don’t Linger Applies Post-Shooting, Too

Even if your target dropped, they may be down and out, or they may have instinctively dropped and now be coming. Don’t count on them being alone, either.


Light on. Fire and kill it, kill it and fire, whichever, and move.

Re-check target with light, light off. Move again. Check flanks and rear with light, light off, move. Sweep original contact front with light, light off, move.

It’s constant, indoors or out.

Don’t Break the Bank

We’re looking for reliable, but it doesn’t have to be run-over-by-a-tank sturdy, and we only need it to at most illuminate the distances that are realistic for us based on our range of sight – not be seen from Mars.

*Range of sight = how far we can see before stuff’s in the way, not necessarily the effective range of our gun or personal shooting capabilities.


Mirrors can help us refine clearing skills, but cameras have added benefits. Even old flip phones usually let us record video, and can be connected to computers directly for reasonable review screen sizes. Many affordable little pocket digital cameras have video capabilities, too.

Use them to help identify how exposed we are as we practice house clearing, and to get a real count of how long we’re taking to do things like look, how risky that light is to us in varying deployments, and if we’re modifying our trigger speed to meet our accuracy needs in challenging conditions or letting trigger fingers run wild.  


If you have a gun for defense of any kind, particularly grid-down disasters without power and with greater delays or nonexistent 9-1-1 services, you must be practicing. Crazy as it seems, there is actually a difference between shooting one-handed, shooting one-handed with a light at a well-lit range, and actually using that light to identify and then engage a threat target whether it’s gun-mounted or hand-held.

Doing it well one way and in one setting does not necessarily translate.

We also want to practice our light maneuvers at home, in the dark, with little cues, because it’s easy to miss spots and how we angle that light can actually create big shadows for things to hide in, increasing the amount of time we leave it on and delaying identifications.

Go ahead and get a light and a stick some lovely evening and rush out into the yard, too, to save your crops/garden/pet/livestock from a pest or to fill pan and pantry even if you insist you would never risk leaving the house to check an odd noise.

Work fixes for the risk factors – to include turning yourself into a silhouette – and make sure it’s as feasible with your eyes, yard, household, and body as the ones who insist, oh, psh, nah, you don’t need no lights.

Form your own opinion, but make it an informed one, and then act on that.

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What’s Your Trigger Finger Doing?

11 Jun

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

If our accuracy has plateaued or backslid, we may have picked up one of several finger habits. Two we can check for are resigning pacing to our fingers – versus eyes and brains – and the reset portion of our trigger pull. There are some self-check tests we can run for either, and drills that can help restore or engrain better control.

Some of those drills also have benefit for moving-target and stimulus-reaction training, solo or with a partner.

*Disclaimer now: While some of the following images display legitimate problems (particularly grip/finger placement issues), others may have just been caught mid-action. I do not mean to imply they have runaway or slap-happy fingers, I just needed to demonstrate the ideas.   

Coming Off the Trigger Between Shots

Sometimes shooters immediately, entirely and preemptively release the trigger.

Sometimes they only fling it all the way forward or break contact with the trigger in reset, leaving a gap. Sometimes they slide and contact the side of the trigger. Sometimes they immediately straighten the finger when they’re finished shooting.

We should absolutely be cognizant of breaking the magnetic attraction between fingers and the inside of the trigger guard. However, it needs to be a conditional, situationally aware, deliberate selection – not muscle memory.

One, if it’s jerky and too fast, it’s impacting our follow-through and shot placement. 

Two, sometimes we’re not actually done.

When we need those next shots, we can end up rushed and trigger pull suffers for it, with experienced shooters actually losing some of their longtime fundamentals and accuracy as a result.

Just like beginners who come off the trigger and real routinely slap it from the rush, far wider patterns and more chaotic patterns result.

Back up and return to some fundamentals drills now and again.

To combat it, here and there, run drills where you work each stage of trigger pull separately and distinctly. Choose when to break the shot, and when to reset, and when to disengage the trigger; don’t let the finger do it automatically.

(A lot of hunters – including archery – have no idea why that’s going to be a challenge for other types of shooters. Those make excellent finger-watching partners.)

Painfully slowly, ease that trigger back. Break the shot and pull through.

Stop, right there, trigger to the rear. Hold it. Count to random one-up numbers. “Now, I reset.”

Return to slack trigger just as deliberately.

* Dry fire and airsoft/BB gun practice is great if it’s good practice, but diagnose and work maintenance live fire, too.

Add-On: With the pull reinforced, randomly or in cycles, choose whether you’re taking another shot, or whether you’re coming off the trigger. Don’t only work mag-lock or single-shot drills.

(Choose if/when we’re returning to ready, too; don’t let arms decide when it’s time to chest cradle a gun or what ready position is safest – use the brain that makes us more than meat puppets.)

Some other time or later, go through the trigger press and reset in a smooth continuation, but slowly and deliberately and with distractions that engage the brain.

Count backwards from 97, mentally fill in a Sudoku box in some pattern, run through the alphabet backwards, work exponentials of 2, come up with synonyms or rhyming words… The distraction slows us down, engages multiple brain pathways, and helps embed the actions as synonymous with deliberate thought, not just muscle memory that may not actually serve us well.

Also practice taking a beat to actually assessing what’s around.  

A partner can hold a strong light or a laser on a target (and move it between targets) for variable amounts of time and a variable number of shots.

Or, use a cell phone/timer to create random, variable shot counts before we enter assessment and disengagement phases.

Not knowing exactly how many shot’s we’re firing, we stay ready to shoot after each. With a partner, we’re also watching to see if we’re actually clear, and if it stays clear.

That help train us to control our finger and hands/arms, not let them take over.

Problem 2: Shot Pacing Never Changes

For most practical shooting, we need to find a balance between “a lot to the everywhere” and “one shot, one kill” level of precision (“precision” in this case meaning “grow gray and die of old age between shots”).

Sure, sometimes close is enough to wing them, slow them down, make them duck – covering fire, right?

(Uhh …bystanders? …other responders? …flammable/explosives near the target?)

We’re looking for the marriage of speed and accuracy at varying distances, using our slow-fire and near-target groups as a baseline – not the bulls-eye or group size itself.

There are a lot of legitimate reasons that our patterns loosen up at “distance” – distance being variable platform to platform, shooter to shooter.

Sights/optics cover more of the “smaller” target resulting from distance, creating fundamental limits. Tiny and acceptable movements create angles, which get wider apart the further from us they go.

However, we can maintain our level of accuracy at distances, particularly “near” ranges (3-7 to 25-30 yards, or out to 50-75 for shotgun and 75-100 yards for reasonable base-level defensive rifle). It just requires more control, which typically translates to a slower rate of fire.

And that’s what we need to check: That our aim is off because of our inherent and real limitations, not due to runaway trigger finger.

Again, we want to remain in control. Our trigger finger doesn’t get to operate on autopilot.

Without a shot timer or editing software, determining the time between shots at different distances is difficult, particularly working at close range or with dot optics or lasers.

The better and faster a shooter is, the more difficult it gets. Regularly, though, if we record even just the sounds with a cell phone in our pockets, we can hear that there is a difference in the times between sets of shots.

Just like when we take a beat for that one perfect shot at the T or face or drop-dead triangle.

And that’s exactly how we test and practice it if we’re restricted to single-lane and-or single-depth ranges.

Create or buy targets with lollipops, boxes, bulls-eyes, silhouette or even animal shapes of different sizes. Or, for fence rail shooting, set up different sizes and shapes of boxes.

If you have multiple depths/lanes/targets available, by all means set up targets with 8.5”x11” paper stapled to them at reasonable distances for your engagements – handguns ranging 3-7, 10-15, 15-25+ yards; rifle from the same 5-7 yards or start at 15-25 yards going out to 50-100+.  

The further/smaller our target, the more perfectly aligned our sights need to be to avoid deviations.

Getting that alignment takes juuuuuust a little longer, and then juuuuuust a little longer still the tighter we need that shot to be.

If our finger is in control, working off a count timer, instead of our brains registering “now” as our sights align, it’s likely we won’t see a consistent pattern grouping for diagnostics.

But we can hear it, usually.

Review, and if all you’re hearing is a consistent pattern at the first 2-3 distances (past that, if you’re not hearing slowed pacing there, too, but usually it’s the next-closest and the one after that that really sees rushed shots), check the targets to see if your spread is acceptable and still in that letter paper or dessert plate we need.

If not, concentrate on making those clean shots, not just quick ones.

The goal is to engage the bad guy as quickly as possible (or shoot as much dinner as possible; I’m easy).

“Engage” means hit him. “As quickly as possible” means “only as fast as we can land solid hits”.

Sometimes just blanketing an area in lead is okay. Mostly, our target is not the only thing downrange, and we really need our target to drop before they get closer/further.

Too, we need to be able to make that hip-neck-T/triangle/disconnect shot when we’ve determined center mass is not working.

If our finger is used to being in charge, running as fast as it can regardless of our sight picture because we got used to shooting at a certain speed, we can’t make those shots when we need them. We need to know if that’s a problem, so we can correct it.

(The first issue’s fix-it drills can help there, too.)

Habit vs. Control

Muscle memory is great, until it’s not. When training for practical scenarios, whether it’s hunting, self- and home-defense, or some kind of combat, we have to be especially cognizant of what we’re embedding.

Especially if we also shoot sports, with the habits they can instill, we need to spend time on practical practice and engage our brains to avoid having those habits become life threatening to us or others.

Taking control from a trigger finger both in when and how we get off the trigger, and when certain levels of accuracy is required – and slowing down or speeding back up, deliberately, target by target – is a huge part of that. It’s something many shooters either never develop, or actually lose as they fall into the rhythms and ruts of habit.  

A little practice here and there is all it takes, but work them live fire as well as dry. These are both cases where our actual habits tell most at the range, with actual bangs and projectiles punching patterns that don’t lie.

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Upcycling for Preppers – Pool Noodles

5 Jun

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Fear not, you’re not going to see cutesy flowers, beer floats, or kiddie obstacle courses. Pool noodles have way more practical things to offer, whether we’re re-purposing a Star Wars party’s light sabers, scraps from assembling lightweight and challenging shooting targets, or buying fresh.

They’re handy enough, it’s worth keeping an eye out for end-of-summer salvage or even hitting a Dollar Tree to keep a few on hand – and nice and neat, if we can source one of my all-time salvages, the humble and versatile shipping pallet or DVD rack.

While cruising through, keep alternative resources of the same basic type in mind, like conduit insulation. Also keep in mind similar-shape goodies like wrapping paper and paper towel rolls, and items that are nowhere near the same, but can very well perform the same or similar functions, like plastic bottles.

Sometimes there are far less expensive ways to do things, and pool noodles really qualify only if they’re already there looking for a job to do. Sometimes, though, they or a similar chunk or tube of foam really is best.


These guys excel at protecting stuff from crashes and rubs.

In an emergency, some of damages might not be worth fretting – like cord rubbing paint off a car while lashing everything it will hold to the top. While we’re building up to that disaster, though, it doesn’t hurt. And sometimes, that damage is more than cosmetic – like if it’s the cord fraying with every bump and jostle.

Squeeze them between furniture and walls, pad the rockers on a rocking chair that pinches toes or scrapes walls, and keep from dinging doors or bumpers against stuff in the garage. Wad them under sofas to keep pet or kiddie toys from accumulating underneath, or to discourage small animals from getting under there and then higher up into the furniture.

Bumpers are also handy while we’re rearranging houses, or we can attach them to a cart somebody uses indoors to offset physical limitations.

While we’re padding things around the house, consider keeping a split noodle available if you sit on the edge of a tub/shower with a track for a door to bathe kids or animals.  

And, #1 Mostest-Importantest Bumper Ever: Ceasing the attacks on toes by vicious bed frames.

(Seriously. You need 12” of a $1 noodle to never do the gasping flamingo getting dressed or making the bed again. That is an incredible return on the investment.)

Another really awesome one is cutting out the shape of your tow hitch to save shins.

Handy Holders

While we’re more in the “convenience” vein than grrr-survival stuff, slice another foot or so and then cut a flat side and slit pathway through the length to hold playing cards or tiles from games like Tsuro.

It’s useful for injuries, old age, and little kids (and obnoxious games), and works if you make yourself some cardboard/pasteboard Scrabble or Dominoes while bunkering in somewhere.

People also do versions where they use just a slice, and there’s an alternate where you use old CDs/DVDs and a binder clip, but one of the things I like most about the long holders is that you can play while you eat or shell peas/beans, etc., without constantly picking up and putting down the cards or tiles.

(If there’s not a pool noodle handy, Lego and Lincoln Logs work a treat, or you can split some sticks to tie together.)

On a more practical side, pool noodles also give us a helping hand with paintbrushes.

That quick holder is also handy for preventing contact (cross-pollination) when you’re using paintbrushes to hand-pollinate squashes and melons to protect the seed line, boost harvest, or because they’re indoors or covered in mesh due to pest threats.

Also In The Garden…

Use them as fills and to increase drainage in pots, or to hold reservoir space in sub-irrigated planters. They’re also handy-dandy root pods or floats for rafts in aquaponics or hydroponics systems.

I’m more inclined to use the very many options involving plastic bottles and fast-fill slow-release irrigation in the garden, but we can poke holes in pool noodles (cap the ends) to create sprinklers or, if we can control the water pressure, slow soaker hoses.

The sprinkler adaptation is also plenty handy as an animal or foot wash or cool-down station.

Cut into spirals, they can also help protect our young garden trees (and stakes) from animals and tool bumps/mowers.

In aquaculture or aquaponics – or when fishing – they can be attached to laundry baskets or simple frames covered in netting for breeding seclusion, segregating adults and fingerlings, or purging harvest-able fish, or as a live fish basket to keep everybody fresh until we’re ready to go home.

Speaking of Fishing…

Since pool noodles float, they are absolute winners for anybody on the water. Cut a slice to loop onto key chains or a short segment to balance small flashlights or fillet knives, glasses cases, or anything else valuable.

It’s also fast and easy to attach them to poles themselves. Go as simple or as “pretty” as you like with it.

There are all kinds of ways to make jugs and bobbers or buoys out of them – some of which are adaptable to bottles, but some of which see real benefits using pool noodles. 

A few inches of pool noodle can help keep hooks out of trouble and lines from tangling between poles. A few feet, and we can keep whole racks of poles neat and tidy and ready for the next trip.

This video showcases a few additional uses for anglers, and highlights some of pool noodles’ specific benefits perfectly. (Yes, it’s the second of a series. No, I did not watch the first; this one had what I was looking for).

Remember to be adaptable – The video above showcases fishing gear, but hollowed out a little more, longer, shorter, or using an alternative like cardboard rolls, the same premises apply to other gear as well, off the water as well as on it.

A little slice with some strategic divots can prop our phones for hands-free DIY follow-along if we find something we like.

Back at Base Camp

Pool noodles are light enough with flexible enough storage options (like padding breakables in a bag or the microwave plate in an RV during travel), they can be toted easily, then unpacked to serve as water catchment “gutters” or to make lines and poles more visible and protect toes from those, too, if they’re as vicious as bed frames.

They can protect us from vicious segments of RV pop-outs, too.

There are limitations, but a pool noodle or three can also make for some handy insulation for hookups if temperature drops unexpectedly or something happens to our kit. (That applies to other outdoor hoses as well.)

Two Wheeling It

While staying in shape, saving fuel, or scouting and practicing for a bugout, throw a pool noodle on your bike – whichever side traffic is going to be passing on.

Drivers won’t be any happier about sharing the road with cyclists, but there’s some compelling anecdotal evidence that they do give riders a bigger berth with that visual reminder sticking out at them, and stay better aware of bike traffic.

The noodle is flexible enough that if it does get bumped, it’s no worse than being passed at 35-80 mph by a truck.

Be smart about it, though, and arrange a cup holder or hook somewhere so you can pull it and brace it for a little while if you’re maneuvering around slower vehicle traffic or alongside pedestrians.

Shorty Adaptable Hose

Not everybody has a faucet that’s convenient for filling buckets. Instead of buying adapters, try a $1-$2 pool noodle. Most have plenty of sealant on the interior to prevent messes.

Do keep a hand on that puppy, though, or use wire tires, a clamp, tape, etc. to keep it in that bucket if you’re going to step away.

(I see people who’ve affixed it to the faucet; that has never actually been my problem.)

They can also work as quickie extensions for pumps and other hoses that don’t quite reach.

Doors Stoppers x2

They’re not great on carpet and heavier draft stoppers are more effective, but for regularly used doors, pool noodles can work really well either in pairs connected by fabric or sliced down the length to clamp around the bottom of a door.

They’re also handy in keeping doors from closing all the way, whether it’s to keep pets from locking themselves in the cool bathroom or basement, or to make it easier to repeatedly open a door while carrying loads in or out.

Wiggle that slice on the side with the hinges instead of the knob to keep a door from shutting at all.

Pool Noodles for the Save

I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest pool noodles can pull of quite as much as shipping pallets, empty bottles, or wire coat hangers, but they can check an awful lot of boxes for us, pre-planned because they’re just that good at something – like padding, floating, or spiral cutting to use as instantly expanding-contracting binders for pipe, stakes, and light handles – or filling a need that crops up because they happen to be available.

As spacers they can help us create stackable grates for drying projects or dehydrating food, or inexpensive light-duty shelving.

Float a small net or a foraging basket, create stall bumpers, or mod a hoe or rake into a squeegee or broom. Pad crutches after an accident, protect windows or siding from shutters that rattle, or silence a bed frame.

The list for how we can use inexpensive pool noodles is pretty expansive way before we get to the many ways people use them for babies or highly questionable uses like padding a porta-potty bucket “seat” or using them instead of hose or ABS/PVC for garden hoops.

Cheap, versatile, easy to source, fairly durable depending on use, and easy to work with for the not-quite-DIY’er. What more could we ask for in a prep?

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Modern Minuteman – Yes-No-Maybe Skillsets

31 May

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

As if preparedness alone didn’t have enough to learn and do, along with the modern minuteman movement comes additional taskers.

I’m going to cover a handful of the common ones we see on lists when the topic comes up, but from a slightly different perspective. I’m hitting not the skill, the how-to, or the skill’s subsets to consider, but how competitive they are for our valuable time and resources.

(Which means, I’m writing it understanding that there is going to be “bah” and “but” and kickback. Kick away. Multiple perspectives benefit everyone.) 

Remember, we’re answering whether it’s yes-no-maybe right now, or early, not at all.

That yes-no-maybe is also universally contingent on whether or not our preps cover 30-90 days of normal everyday life, +/- additional longevity in food storage and supplies.

Even when it’s yes, or an alternative is offered, if you have to put it on credit, hold off. Do something free until finances are fit, too. Don’t go into debt for any preps, but especially minuteman skills.

Do you need to know how to operate with a map and compass?

Maybe, maybe not.

It’s a good skill, but not universally either super-good or vital. Your location and – more than any other on this list – how far along the rest of your preps are determines how high of a priority it is.

The same skills have a lot to offer for intel as well as travel, even in urban environments, so keep that in mind as other priorities get checked off.

Are you in city or ‘burbs you’re familiar with? Can you or somebody else describe landmarks to get somewhere else? How far out do you have to go before you lose that ability and landmarks become few and far between?

Can you outlast a crisis of the level where some agency or time/wear itself takes down the street signs, rendering them unusable for navigation?

Could you leave your family to go be a soldier who’s not coming back for hours/days on end (or ever) for planning, scouting, and training, then actual engagements, whatever type they may be?

(Practically, can they function; Personally/emotionally has to be answered, too, but that’s based on a lot of situationally dependent factors and scenarios, and has less to do with how far out you’ll be operating – thus needing land nav and orienteering skills – and more whether you can risk joining up at all.)  

Flip side, if you’re out where the only navigation aids are stars, streams (which may deviate in some scenarios), similar fields/pastures, and mountains, with only the odd dirt road and highway you may have to hike 1-5 miles down to find a mile marker and identifier…

Oh, yeah, that’s a much more likely case for taking the time to learn (for more than minuteman capabilities).

Even if orienteering slid to the backburner, do still develop…

– A fairly constant general awareness of what direction you’re facing/moving

– Local maps with road names (nearby hotels/tourism boards can be an excellent source)

If you do want to review or learn (or anticipate learning or having to teach it), this is the best writeup I have possibly ever seen. I thought it was a quick enough read, but I could turn “See Spot Run” into “War & Peace”. Point in case, my review:

Having seen this taught in the military, SAR/CERT, and with BSA, I cannot commend that writer enough. This article easily could have sub’ed for live presentation training … and some muddy-boots training as well.

(Practice in known locations before striking out anyway.)

It covers A-Z basic compass parts and thumbnails: how to use them, orienting a map with declination accounted for at the very beginning, shooting travel bearings, way-point and “missed” landmark awareness along bearings, and developing a present location using a map and compass to create DF-type intersects (and how you know you’ve mis-ID’d one of your landmarks).

If you’re going to have any how-to in your vehicle or bag, this is the one to print and e-export.

If you already know land nav, capture it as a base for future classes/training. That author nailed every aspect of teaching the gear, operation, and troubleshooting.

(Plus, it’s a REALLY well laid-out page with excellent imagery and a jump-to index.)

The only things missing are an image showing how far off track you can end up if you’re just a few degrees off over even just a mile or two, and possibly an image from boots on the ground how different …or same… that can look, and how easy it is to then slide further or end up second-guessing.

And now, having used a fifth of my word limit for the day singing praises…

Do you need to know pace count?

Firm yes.

Even urban/’burbs and gun-control states/countries!

Whether I need you to get within 10-100 yards of one more rock or tree in a prairie or mountain, or am giving directions using roadways and landmarks to walking you in, you need to know how far you’ve gone. In some/many scenarios, you need to know it without an odometer, gps, or pedometer.

I also need you to fairly accurately pace off distances for numerous tactical applications (known-range landmarks for ambush & defense, for one).

By person and location, I may need you to accurately tell me how far or big something was based off your pace count for intel purposes.

*Pssst… There’s abundant non-minuteman applications that make a pace count valuable, too.

Learn your 100 and 1K yard/meter pace count on your most-common surfaces first, and learn it in light pack, heavy pack, and free-moving versus holding one arm still (rifle or injury). Then hit other surfaces: hardpack, meadow/pasture, scree/leaves, rough rock, ‘schwacking/woods.

Do I need battlefield tactics?


Not right now. Point in fact, irregulars and militia have learned as they go throughout history (although not always successfully).

Depending on whether you’re aiming for grunt infantry (yes) or support (not really), it’s “eventually” but extremely low on the list, and the run-n-gun tactics come after and then hand-in-hand, 1:1 with initial defensive/ambush deployment by team/squad/platoon/company sized units.

Learn defensive shooting instead – rifle, shotgun and especially wear-and-carry home- and public-handgun tactics and theory.

One, it’s much more likely to be used, everyday “normal” conflicts that continue into the End of Days or standing up as an on-call fighting force to augment the sheriff/marshall or fend off the NOW/EROL jackboots.

Two, especially at somewhat higher levels of training (or IDPA, 3-gun, and 2-gun sports), it forms a solid foundation that can be added to successively, much of which immediately crosses over to battlefield rifle and primary+sidearm shooting.

Do I need to know combat medic and wilderness trauma aid?

Maybe, maybe not.

Solely from the militiaman aspect, it depends entirely on how much medical support is waiting behind the lines.

Remember, for most of human history even relatively minor puncture wounds were maiming, laming, and killing. As soon as we figured out how to take a limb off with even 30% survival rates, it became the go-to treatment because survival was so unlikely without amputation.

If we’re operating without even the herbal and physiology skills available in the 1700s-1900s, the chances immediate aid that is designed around supporting a patient until they enter a modern medical facility is pretty poor.

That being so, in that scenario, no. It would be a waste of time (+/- money).

However, if we’re anticipating something akin to the national guard’s and sheriff’s reserves’ role in riot control, or something more similar to the resistances from World War I onward, where we can fake a hunting accident or find sympathetic support…

Heck yeah, absolutely.

(Same goes for any prepper scenario and learning as a bugout skill.)

Unless we’re also through packers and kayakers, back-country hunters, etc., though, the priority isn’t immediate.

Even before wilderness/combat medicine, learn basic hiking-injury and illness care.

Most of the injuries we face in modern combat, past history, and in a much more manual-laborer and foot-travel settings (today and yesteryear) are not gunshot and shrapnel wounds. They’re sprains, strains, and burns. Tweaked backs, hyper-extensions, and overuse/repetitive-use injuries are right there with them.

Those skills are out there to learn for free, and worth the time.

The supplies to care for them apply to any disaster, personal income reduction to widespread regional/national crisis, and many of those supplies have nearly indefinite storage life as well as naturally occurring and herb garden remedies to apply. Spend the money there first, and expand as you like.

After sprains-strains-burns, then add in breaks, dehydration/illness support, and backpackers’/foot soldiers’ foot and boot care.

In that order, ideally.

How about man-tracker & deer-stalker spore and stealth skills?

Super tough one… “Maybe, maybe not” but more “yes, even urban, but not right now, maybe.”

Exact tight-urban conditions vary, but the same skills have a lot of application even in today’s bustling cities and the ‘burbs, not just the rurals. (For non-minuteman preppers, too.)

One, the actual abilities are fantastic to have, but even bigger is the impact from learning awareness.

Two, we’re not only directly looking for and gaining intel from our immediate target, we’re learning to interpret what the surroundings and its inhabitants are telling us about what’s around and what’s happened. That has all kinds of not only semi-shadow work but also intel benefits.

Three, once we’re paying attention and looking for tells, we become aware of our own, and almost automatically start working on our “footprint”.

Four, learning anti-tracking requires a solid understanding of being the hunter (although, watch for tunnel vision based on how we do our people-animal tracking).

That list can continue for a while.

Start with defensive shooting and basic injury/illness aid anyway, and advance 1:1:1 with them and tracking/stalking.

See, it only applies to some types of minuteman activation scenarios (despite the situational awareness boost that applies universally, even now). Start with what’s most universally needed, now and “after”, for and outside guardian and war-fighter scenarios.

Modern Minuteman Skills

Skills are absolutely as or more important than things. However, they’re situationally dependent, too, and should be prioritized not only within our envisioned minuteman scenario(s), but also against our current preparation levels, location, and family situation.

All of these are good to have, but when we need them varies.

Hopefully, the structuring of when and why they become viable in my opinion can help you create your own matrix to apply, to these as well as others.

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Practical Prep: Range Tips

28 May

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

For many preppers, static square ranges are the only opportunity to put rounds through the barrel. They do have some limitations, and they can be pricey, but we can make a few tweaks here and there to both cut costs and make our time on them more effective.

Basic Supplies

Depending on firearm, shooting purpose, and range, what we need to carry changes a little. If we have a dedicated range bag (can be a lunchbox, laptop bag, backpack, whatever), a lot of the supplies can just live there.

Most of us will want something to fasten targets. Staples work on wood and cardboard. Tape covers all. Duct tape is excellent, but unless we’re using it to hang a chunk of cardboard on poles, we can go cheaper.

If the range has overhead lines, we may want to bring string, binder clips, or clothespins even if it’s supposed to already have them ($1 packs; don’t break the bank). For most indoor ranges and ranges that provide stands that go in pipes or holes, those fasteners are less of an issue.

(You still want the tape/stapler.)

Many shooters carry some patches and swabs, a little oil, and whatever tool they need to adjust sights.

If there’s not already a multi-tool in the house, snag a pair of needle-nosed pliers and a fairly sturdy but fairly small screwdriver. They end up doing oh so many things.

Most ranges require eyes and ears. Some have very specific requirements about side panels and visible hearing protection. Most are flexible. 

I have very inexpensive binoculars or Redhead scopes in my bags. They’re sufficient for spotting targets at my distances. If you’re shooting 100-yards+ on the regular, you’ll probably want better, but unless you really are going to be engaging at 200-500+ yards, don’t break the bank.

Other common adds include a ball cap, bandanna and-or hand wipes, tissue (ladies, dudes with ladies: tissue), a boo-boo level first aid kit (tissue or patches + duct tape = Band-Aids), and bug repellent.

Some carry tape measures. If you’re working on a zero without square-grid paper or going for super accuracy, go for it (or a schoolkid’s ruler).

Water is a biggie, although it’s sometimes restricted at indoor ranges.

Stash Stigmas

Class or training, private club to low-cost public, ranges seem to bring out the need to compete. That’s bad enough when it’s skills or hardware on display, but for heaven’s sake, do not feel the need to buy “good” targets.

Or to buy targets, period.

(Unless the range requires you to buy their overpriced paper and cardboard. We do have to follow the rules.)

There are too many freebie options and mods using what would otherwise be trash/recycling, to include salvaged skinny kitchen/bath shelves, election signs, DVD racks, dilapidated tomato cages, and kiddie wiffleball/t-ball stands.

If we do have to buy, buy lower-cost alternates – copy paper, paper plates, hanging plant/light hooks, folding stepstools, garden stakes we can duct tape into tripods if we don’t have soft soil or post holes waiting for us and then string line between or tape cardboard to, etc.

*Some ranges have restrictions about shooting at the ground, and want your bullets to impact the vertical berms. That means we either sit, or find a way to elevate targets.

The more we can save on targets, the more budget we retain for training and prepping other areas.

That goes for everything else on the range.

The next stall down isn’t going to clear pests from our garden, put venison in our freezer, or roll out of bed for our creak in the night. So don’t sweat them, whether it’s platform, ammo, or fancy gear, tight groups, or speed. We’re there to shoot, not compare.

*By all means ask if they have something you’re looking for, stuff or skill (but be mindful if it’s a pay-per-minute range or lunchtime).

Work Fundamentals At Home

Long before you get to the range, you should already be quickly gaining proper grip, familiar with trigger, snapping into the front sight, and quickly acquiring good sight alignment and picture. Carry your lifesaver to TV time, or lock yourself in the bathroom to aim in at the fine print on your ID if you can’t beg or bribe some “me” time otherwise.

That means you’ll probably want some…

Snap Caps

I like snap caps, but any kind of dummy/dud that protects from over travel by the firing pin is fine. They cost less than a box of ammo and provide thousands of trigger pulls, trigger pulls you can make anywhere, anytime.

If you don’t get snap caps, still work on drawing/presentation, grip, reloads, and sight picture.

Practice Like You Play

As often as possible, wear what you will be when using that gun (boxers and nighties are always exceptions; battle rattle is conditional), and go to an outdoor range in all kinds of weather – cold, wet, windy, blazing hot, early or late on bright days with sun in your eyes, nighttime, as close to sunset/sunrise as they’ll let you shoot.

Dry fire and dummy guns are always options, but seeing the tangible proof of what conditions can do to patterns can be highly educational.

Practice like you play also applies to shooting positions.

Use tables and rests to check the zero and test ammo, then get off them. Every fundamental can be practiced at home. Whether it’s hunting using position or rests of opportunity, or defensive and combat tactics, do it for real. And…

Get Rounds Downrange

Again, cover fundamentals in spare minutes at home. If you’re practicing just for hunting, take all the time you need (and practice paused/interrupted and terminated trigger pulls). If you’re practicing for a gunfight, ride the recoil, put the front sight back on the target, and pull the trigger again as fast as possible.

*As fast as possible includes blade-on-target sighting and proper trigger pull.

You don’t need bulls-eyes. You need a pattern mostly the size of a human head or a dessert plate.

If you can blast 3-7 shots at contact distances with your contact platform in a few seconds, then take a couple seconds for a shot that lands in a playing card, soup can, or even a 20-oz. bottle, that is really and truly all you need.   

*Again, hunting is an exception; ultimately aim for golf ball/light bulb accuracy.

If your pattern is bigger than that, absolutely, slow down until it is – unless you’re shooting pistol past 25-30 yards or rifle past 100-200 yards, in which case a K-5 ring or double stack of paper plates or notebook/copy paper is good enough. 

If you can get it tighter without sacrificing speed, great.

One shot, one kill slow fire is for scoped-rifle snipers. Most of Special Ops are landing multiple shots. Plan on it taking more to drop your target, too.

If you only ever practice slow shots, your range habits are going to do you a disservice one of two unfortunate ways if you ever actually need that gun.

Also practice multiple, random-count shots, not only either emptying the gun or using a Mozambique 2-1 or 3-1, 666-Devil, or similar. (They can be handy, but should not be the only.) A shooting partner or even having random timers set for 3-5 to 15-20 seconds tell you a target is down and out can help make practice less unpredictable.  

Take A Lap

In most potential scenarios for firearm use, some alert is going to send us darting – for a gun, for a more appropriate gun, or straight for The Bad Thing if we’re carrying; for cover; for loved ones.

If we’re practicing for combat or a bugout-contact situation, we’re even more likely to be exerting energy and darting around before and during a firefight.

Adrenaline alone – be it hunting, combat, or defensive situations – can send hearts pounding and hands shaking.

So simulate that.

Stressing and then taking a shot can also be worked on at home with snap caps (or air-soft guns, with some target prep), however, like weather, the bullet holes can be informative in ways dry fire isn’t.

Some ranges, it’s more than possible to do eight-count bodybuilders to simulate stress.

When we don’t want to attract the attention or are paying by the quarter-hour, instead, hold your breath while you hang and send the target, load mags, and sweep brass – repeatedly and as long as possible. Take your shots while you’re still trying to get your breath back.    

Mime What You Can’t Do

Range by range, we face varied restrictions on movement of all sorts. Some take a dim view on popping up and down, even. Even with at-home dry fire, eventually we do need to get the barrel dirty.

We can reduce motions to work inside a very small box for leaning, crouching, and footwork.

Holster limitations are among the most common. If a restrictive range is your only opportunity for live-fire first-shot drills, fake it by holding the barrel with the off hand (like the NRA side-by-side pistol pass) and mime the presentation steps, then drop the off hand once you have your shooting grip.

*Psst…practice that switch at home, unloaded, before trying it at the range.

Save the upper level shots – like from the hip or sternum/chin, or extending a fend-off hand while shooting from the ribs – but most ranges are fine for practicing one-handed pistol shots holding your range bag to simulate a child’s hand or leash, or the various flashlight stances.

Make The Square Range Pay Off

If we go just to blast now and then, that’s fine. But it’s hobby shooting, not training.

If it’s training, get the most out of that time.

Save money where possible, so it can be applied to other preps or more practice and training. Work fundamentals and movements at home. Don’t let hobbyists’ shooting standards or gear influence your practice. Find workarounds that are inside the rules if available ranges have tight restrictions.

Hunting or fighting, make range shots as similar to real-world scenarios as possible. It’ll pay off if you ever really need that gun.

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