The Pre-Election Cycle
In the summer of 2008 I was working as the Small Arms Repair Center Site Lead at Camp Stryker in Iraq and I watched from a computer screen and AFN Television the nation going crazy over a young senator whose bid for president was sweeping not only our nation but the world. But not everyone rallied to this Chicagoan’s side. Those of us that cling to our guns decided one of the first actions he would do when elected would be to institute another firearms ban, place a luxury tax on the ammunition and a host of other things to make it harder for legal citizens of this great nation to obtain, possess and use these mechanical devices that we hold so dear.
What I watched from my computer in my barracks room at night was unmistakable panic within our ranks. Supply and demand went into full effect and wholesalers and retailers throughout the country jacked up prices and we paid them. We paid them because we didn’t think that in a few months we would ever have them again. We didn’t take into account the longevity of our decisions and we didn’t think of the overall effect our decisions would have over the entire industry during the next few years.
I spent a little more time then on the gun forums than I do now and I read posts about how guys were selling an extra car, taking out loans, skipping family vacations and, this is the one that kills me, NOT SHOOTING OR TRAINING, because ammo was so so precious. I watched as ammo prices doubled and the selection of quality ammo diminished and the trash of the industry brought premium prices and we willingly paid it.
We called every dealer we knew looking for the high capacity firearms that we had to have because in a few months they would be gone. They were always out of stock so we went to places like GunBroker and GunsAmerica to have one transferred into our local FFL holder. So we paid premium prices, paid for shipping and then paid for a transfer fee. Or we went back to the store and bought what they had even though they didn’t have what we wanted.
The entire training industry suffered during these times as did the some of the gear manufacturers whose main focus was on the civilian market places. During these times if you were in the manufacturing of support equipment or training industry you had to have some government money coming in to survive and turn a profit. Even then a lot of bank accounts got really thin and more than a few good companies went bankrupt because everyone’s money was going to guns and ammo that they would never use or need.
Beware the Zombies
A few weeks ago I had a shooter at the range who brought up the conversation of stockpiling for a economic collapse or other social breakdown. I keep my mouth shut most of the time about politics, religion and preparation when I’m teaching and unless I am asked a direct question I don’t perceive this topic as what my shooters are paying me for. That said this gentleman who I will call Steve is a long time shooter of mine and friend so I entertained the following question…
Steve: Rob I have 1000 rounds each of all the common calibers in my truck’s tool box in case I have to get out of town. Do you think that is enough?
Me: Steve, I’ve been around the block a time or two and I think if you can survive that many firefights without becoming a causality you will not only be able to resupply your needs but take over the world.
Steve: But, some of it can be used for bartering.
Me: That may be true. But anyone that has water, food, fuel, medical supplies, etc probably doesn’t need your ammo or will kill you for it as soon as you make its presence known.
Steve: But, ummm, I ,
Me: Tell me Steve, If you pay $400 each for three cases of 5.56 you could very easily purchase a Dillon 550 with common dies, powder and bullets enough to produce much of that same quantity and be set up to load more ammo for a lot less money. And you would have something to do when there is no electricity and the UPS truck doesn’t run anymore.
My point being guys is that we tend to forget that there are hundreds of millions of existing firearms in this nation, there are reloading machines on every block in every neighborhood, and a C&C machine in every industrial area. The settlers of this nation built their own firearms in a blacksmith shop. We were able to turn a barrel 200 years ago in a thatch covered shed and mix powder from raw components on the table in the house with a fire burning and the cows, chickens and kids inside so they wouldn’t freeze to death. Have you ever considered that with our technology, books, libraries of information, machinery of today and a little willpower and organization that there will not a be a market for these items. Even if it is a black market.
I want to know what fantasy land that people live in that Mad Max is what is watched to gain perspective.
A Professional Slap in the Face
I’m 41 years old and I got my first rifle at 9. Since that time I’ve bought, sold and traded hundreds of firearms. I’ve shot hundreds of thousands of rounds, I’ve taught the craft for almost two decades now and have a very good understanding of what an AVERAGE SHOOTER is capable of. Trust me folks… You are not as talented as you think you are. I still attend three to four classes from my peers every year. Its tough, its expensive and sacrifices have to be made by my entire family sometimes. But I do it because the one thing I learn I can pass on to one of my students later.
What you need to do is pay for training (from a professional organization), pay for quality gear(for one gun at a time), pay for proper range equipment (like steel and target carriers). What you don’t need to do is spend countless hours on forums talking about arbitrary bullshit that is theory based and subject to a bunch of other average guys giving expert opinions.
I’ll let you in on a little secret guys. The training community of this industry represents less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the gun owners and shooters in the country and we can’t diagnose your problem or improve your ability till you come see us. We can give suggestions via email and phone but we can’t get you fixed or better till we see you in front of us on the line. No matter how many times you watch the DVD or Youtube Video. Those are promotional spots folks… Much like a tampon or State Farm Insurance commercial it doesn’t really matter till your problem shows up and you have to think about your choices. Problem here is that when your problem shows up in a gunfight we can’t save you and the doc might not be able to either. We are the best for a reason and we hear things like “I’ve been shootin my whole life! What do I need training for?” or “Two Hundred dollars a day! That’s too expensive for me!” and now the worst one yet ”I got the DVD for $50 so I’m good to go!”
Moderation and Pace
I’ve got a safe full of guns guys. I won’t lie. But as I have matured as a shooter I have become selective in my purchases more so than I was 10 and even 5 years ago. Yvonne and I own 6 Glock 19 pistols. We each have a carry gun. We have an extra in the house, one in each car and I have a spare(rental) in the gun safe. Other than the 19s I only have 2 other Glock handguns. I’ve had others, and shot them all at one time or another but have no reason to own them. I have 7 AR platform rifles. Only two of them are what would be considered top of the line models. The rest are franken-guns that I have assembled from parts over the years and use for rental guns or loaners when needed.
My AK rifles are bone stock and simple. Why polish a turd and try to turn it into an AR? Learn it for what it is, accept its shortcomings and move on.
Here’s the way I make a gun purchase. I keep something in layaway. Always no questions asked. $25 – $50 on payday goes towards the purchase. I drop by the shop, hang out with the guys a few, sometimes even stepping up to the plate to help a customer or two make a better decision. While that gun is on layaway I go ahead and order any support gear I need for it so by the time I get the gun I’ve got things like holsters, slings, magazines, etc in hand and ready to go.
Don’t treat the gun shop like the gum and add-on isle at the 7-11. Make your decisions out of needs, not wants.
What Do You Need?
Honestly I can’t tell you what you need. Everyone’s needs are different. A Glock might not work for you, but make sure that you are not basing it off of an emotional decision. I had a group of shooters recently who are all friends and family and there were more Sig 226 pistols on the line at one time since the last time I trained one of our agency groups that use that pistol. Problem is 3 of them NEEDED a different pistol. Not WANT but NEED. My job as a professional instructor is not to dog their gun, their choices or berate them. But I can make those soft suggestions, allow them to see the difference between how well they perform with a Glock vs their gun, etc. Most of all my job is to get them shooting what they have to the best of their ability.
Ability is often diminished by the choices you make.
What you need can usually be very simplified and actually not that expensive.
A quality pistol of major manufacture. Glock, Smith, Springfield. These three represent polymer frame, striker fired pistols that are under $700 dollars
A quality rifle of major manufacture. Bravo Company, Daniel Defense, Colt, Noveske, etc. These represent AR pattern rifles that you can get into for less than $1600
The quality accessories. Custom holsters (if its available at a box store, small retailer, etc then leave it in its mass produced box), magazines (every pistol should have at least 6 mags/10 per rifle), optics, slings, etc. Build your rifle/pistol to completion and then relax. Build a shotgun if you want. We should all have one.
Ammo: This is the tricky part. Don’t be sucked into the box stores or gun shops. If all you can really afford today is 20 bucks for a 50 round box that you are going to shoot TODAY, then by all means TRAIN.
But, if you are just adding to the pile then save your pennies and order it online from a major drop shipper and save a hundred dollars or more on a case.
Training.: A CCW Course or NRA Class is not training. Your firearm is not a magic talisman that has been blessed by Merlin to ward off evil spirits and ensure your bullets fly true and hit their mark every time. I find it appalling that people will spend $75-$125 for a four to eight hour class to get their Certificate of Completion of the State’s minimum requirements for Concealed Carry and think they are competent on the street to carry a firearm, let alone use it in a lethal force encounter. However, that same person scoffs at the thought of spending $150-$250 per day of training on a range expending several hundreds of rounds while learning the life saving techniques that professional instructors and schools teach. Classes across the country should be full with a waiting list for every one of the major schools and instructors. You should be salivating at the thought of standing on a line full of shooters, running drills and being nit-picked in your skill sets by those top 1/2 of 1% of shooters and trainers.
Targets: What you shoot at matters. Eliminating the fiddle factor from your range equipment, gaining instant feedback, not relying on the public ranges chicken wire target hangers and having different target overlays or stencils is paramount to a good training session. Now that I am a manufacturer of quality targets and stands I understand many of your mindsets a bit better. You don’t know what firearms training is and you think that pushing the rounds down-range at any ole’ yard sign, beer can or paper target is sufficient. You don’t know… What you don’t know. But guns are sexy and showing them off to your friends makes you feel good. Telling them you just spent $250 on cardboard targets, wooden uprights, a staple gun, paint, and a few high quality target stands and a range box to keep everything organized in just isn’t that sexy and you can’t sit on the couch fondling it while watching Family Guy.
School Shootings, Elections and Panic
School and Mass Shootings are tragic and every time it happens I always watch the spin-off of the anti-gunners about how we would be safer without guns in this country. So everyone rushes to the gun store because some politician is going to produce some canned gun law legislation and hit the news show circuit talking about how he and 5 others are going to push it through into law. REALLY!
Elections always bring up the gun control debate. Last time it was all those folks “Clinging to their Guns and Religion” We got scared and we bought and bought and bought. We collectively drove prices through the roof, destroyed availability and brought attention to the community, much of it negative.
The Zombies are coming… You know what… Stop being so stupid. I’m so sick of the Zombies that I want to puke. If you are stockpiling that is your own choice but when you try to laugh it off and tell people its for the zombie apocalypse then you make yourself and all of us look like retarded, back country, no tooth hillbillies. You know who the majority of gun owners are? Professional upper middle class voters with families and a career. Show some damn common sense people. The reason the other side has a “their crazy” argument is because you give them the ammunition to make it seem like we are.
Stop panic buying. Stop maxing out your credit cards on shit you don’t need. Stop putting your families future at financial risk by purchasing thousands of rounds of overpriced ammo that you won’t live to shoot or carry out of the city if the “Zombies Come”
Better yet by a reloading machine and make reloading a family affair. Little Johnie can process the brass, Little Suzy and trim and lube cases and all of you can go shooting together.
Gun and Gear Manufacturers and Their Need to Market
News Flash! Guns and the Gear Associated with them are Durable Goods! This means that they last for a long damn time. The rifle you have today will be your child’s, your grandchild’s and even your great grandchild’s rifle if taken care of and passed down properly with knowledge and passion. So for the rifle company to sell you another rifle they need to create a demand. They change a grip angle, add a rail, and get some Nascar like add campaign going to get you to buy it even though you don’t need it. Do you really think that Pat Rogers, Larry Vickers, Chris Costa, or Travis Haley (to name a few) couldn’t pick up the biggest piece of shit rifle on the range and stomp your ass with it on a man to man run? That’s because its not the gun folks. Its not the price tag. Its not the internet forums that gave them the knowledge to stand up there and do that.
They did it because each one of them to this day trains. They train hard. They know what they like and they T&E new things. They endorse an item or service from time to time (we all have friends in the industry) and that item normally is sold out within a few hours or days on its first production run. Because each of you want to be more like them.
Fair enough… Know how they got there? They went to schools. They still go to schools. They shoot the ammo that they buy. They understand the importance of quality range equipment and they have a plan. Not only a plan of attack for every range trip, but they dry-fire, A LOT!
The top shooters of the country understand that multi-cam doesn’t make you a better shooter, that NVGs aren’t needed by everyone and that $3000 rifles and $2500 handguns are not needed to learn this craft on. Like the 16 year old driving a brand new BMW that she didn’t earn. You need rounds down range and training under your belt before the justification of such items.
Consider the benefit of buying a $500 Glock and leaving it stock (Trust me it works that way) instead of a $2500 Nighthawk (Great gun and I own one)
Taking the $2000 difference and buying 5 additional magazines ($100) , A quality Belt, Holster, and Magazine Pouches ($200), A quality set of electronic ear pro ($250) so you can hear what the instructor is saying when you spend a couple of days training with a professional instructor ($500) and shoot a 1000 rounds of ammo over two days ($300) and then buy a couple of target stands and a steel reactive target to practice what you’ve learned so far ($400).
Amazingly you have $250 left over to buy another case of ammo, upgrade your sights, or take the wife out to dinner.
Guess what? When you do get around to buying that Nighthawk you’ll now have a better understanding of how to utilize it.
The economy sucks, unemployment is high, and the future is unknown and 24/7 news and talk radio keep telling us its not getting any better. We make ourselves better by small increments. By choosing a salad instead of a hamburger, by choosing to take a walk with our wife instead of watching another episode of some mind-numbing tv sitcom or investing in our own advancement as shooters instead of buying another sword when you can only wield one at a time.
Make yourself better by spending your money and time wisely and in a logical way. Pick a goal to obtain and get there first before becoming sidetracked on a path that leads you back to the same spot you are in right now.
Winter is upon us and we all tend not to shoot as much this time of year. The holidays are here and we all eat a little worse than normal during these times. Christmas is coming and budgets get tight. But, if we are smart and focus on becoming better shooters, better men and women, and better informed we will, in the end, be better spokespersons for the right to keep and bear arms and keep our freedoms in place. Thus eliminating the need for panic buying.
Owner: TacStrike Systems
Senior Instructor: Pat Goodale and Practical Firearms Training