14 Useful Gun Lessons for Preppers, Part 2

A Coyote Tan AR with a red dot optic.
If you found this gun in my safe, the color would tell you it is a .300 blackout.

This is part two of this post. Read the first seven reasons.

8. Standardize on Specific Calibers

If you are a hunter, you may have a wide range of calibers for different situations. If you are building your prepper armory, I recommend standardizing on a limited number of calibers.

For me in the 1990s, that was .38 Special/.357 magnum, .40S&W, 12 gauge, .308 and .22LR. Befor elong, 5.56 joined the list. I eventually added 9mm because it is so common; I wanted to have a gun that shot 9mm in case I was scrounging after the SHTF and I could only find 9mm ammo. The last caliber I added was .300 Blackout. These are my “standard” calibers for which I stockpile ammunition. Anyone scheduled to bug out here knows this and is encouraged to bring guns in these calibers.

Somewhere along the line, I bought a 1911, because I think every serious gun person should have a 1911. That added .45 ACP. While I have a few hundred rounds, I don’t aggressively stockpile this round, and I don’t consider it part of my prepper stash. Same goes for my .45 Long Colt revolver, which is my bear gun.

You will note that I don’t have 6.5 Creedmoor, .357 Sig, .243, .17HMR, .380, 5.7×28, .30-06, 7.62×39, .22WMR, and many other popular rounds. That because, where possible, I picked calibers that the police and our military uses or has used. This ensures a good supply and occasionally a good buy on surplus ammo.

Beyond standardizing on a few calibers, there is merit in standardizing on a magazine format. I have multiple guns that use Glock magazines, and not all are Glocks. I also have multiple guns that use AR-15 magazines. Once reason I like the .300 blackout is I didn’t have to buy new magazines for it. See number 13 for how I tell them apart.

9. Store Your Ammo in Ammo Cans

I learned this when our basement flooded and every cardboard box of ammo on my floor soaked up water. It gave me lots of practice ammo, but it also convinced me that buying .50 caliber ammo cans was a good idea. Plastic ammo cans are a valid alternative. Either one will keep your ammo dry and protected. They also stack well and are easy to grab and carry. I’ve written about ammo storage before.

By the way, this implies that you have ammo to store. As a prepper, you should have lots of ammo, especially for your every day rifle or carbine, which probably means 5.56. Prices have dropped, so this is an ideal time to stock up.

10. Don’t Sell Guns

I can think of three guns I would sell in a heartbeat. Problem is, they aren’t worth that much on the used market, probably because I’m not the only person who doesn’t love them. So I keep them, for now. If I ever need to raise a few bucks, they will be the first on my sell list. If I need to arm a friend or neighbor, they will get one of these less desirable but still useful weapons.

As a young shooter hanging out at the gun club, I would run into another young guy who bought a new gun and couldn’t wait to show it off. We’d admire it, and he’d let me shoot it. Then, a month or two later, I’d run into him again and he would have another new gun. I learned he traded in the previous gun and bought this latest one, possibly hoping it would make him a better shooter. A few months later, he’d be showing off yet another new gun, and come to find out, he traded in the last one.

This taught me two things: A new or different gun will not improve your shooting, and selling or trading in your old guns is a waste of money because you only get about half of what you paid for it. In the example above, after six months, he has one gun despite paying enough to buy two. For that expenditure, I’d rather own two guns. He wasted his money.

If you choose carefully and do some research, you should have high-quality guns you like, enjoy shooting and can shoot well.

Avoid trendy guns and what’s hot and you should be satisfied with your purchase for years. One of the guns I’d sell is a “cool” gun that was all the rage years ago. Unfortunately, its an example of the concept being better than the execution. Now it doesn’t leave the safe.

11. When you Carry Concealed, Match your Wardrobe and the Gun

When you carry, you learn to spot others who do. I’ve seen the barrels of guns sticking out a guy’s shirt when he bends over. I’ve seen guys with bulges on their side that scream “I’m carrying!” This defeats the purpose of concealed carry and may make you a target.

On the other hand, I’ve seen guys whip guns out of their crotch that left me wondering how they fit that in there. I’ve also been surprised when a skinny fellow took off a crew neck sweatshirt to reveal a full size Glock in a shoulder holster. If you carry daily, aim to be in this latter group; the people who conceal a gun so well no one knows they are carrying.

How you dress will depend on what gun you are carrying, how you are carrying it, your size and weight, its size and weight, and the weather. Obviously, it’s easier to hide a gun under a winter coat than it is in a t-shirt and shorts. However, by downsizing your gun, the latter is possible. Also, guys with a gut may find appendix carry difficult or uncomfortable.

Think also about whether you can draw your gun while seated or wearing a seatbelt. Your concealed carry rig and wardrobe need to match your lifestyle. This may mean leather or kydex, but it rarely means a cheap, floppy nylon holster that collapses when you draw the gun. A good holster and an even better belt is key to successful concealed carry. Checkout our article The Truth About Constant Concealed Carry for more info on concealed carry.

You can see how this inside-the-waistband holster and gun could be easily concealed by draping the shirt over it..
You can see how this inside-the-waistband holster and gun could be easily concealed by draping the shirt over it. Match your clothing to your gun and vice versa to get maximum concealment.

12. Always Carry a Reload

I know people who say things like, “if 17 rounds isn’t enough to solve the problem then I don’t deserve to survive.” Yet how many videos of police shootings do you see where a cop burns through a full magazine in second, executes a sloppy reload, and burns through that magazine? Unless you have been there and done that, none of us can predict how we will react in a shooting. Will we shoot a few rounds or dump the mag? We also can’t predict how tough or drugged the bad guy will be, how many of them you may face, how they are armed, whether they know how to use cover and concealment, etc. After a gun fight, no one has ever said, “damn, I had too much ammo,” but plenty have wished they had more as they lay bleeding in a pile of empty brass with their gun in slide lock.

Magazines are also the part of your gun most likely to fail. The feed lips can get knocked out of alignment. The round on top may not go up the feed ramp because it has taken some damage from being fed into the chamber over and over again. Springs can lose their strength, and base plates can fall off. Carry a spare magazine or two. Same for revolvers. Five or six shots may not be enough, so carry reloads.

I also have additional ammo in my EDC backpack and in my car. In my vehicle there are loaded magazines but more in boxes. A magazine is usually about $25. Having spares is a worthy investment.

13. Color Code Things for Simplicity

When police departments first started allowed women to serve, some departments gave some them 20-gauge shotguns instead of 12-gauge. To tell the guns apart, they painted the stocks on the 20 gauges weapons yellow, just like the 20-gauge shells. What a great idea!

My .300 blackout weapons have coyote tan furniture and use coyote tan magazines. The 5.56 guns and magazines are all black. This helps minimize the chance that I will load a 5.56 round into a .300 or vice versa. I have not done so yet, but I am considering taking a can of coyote tan paint to the ammo cans that hold .300 blackout.

For my Glock magazines, I spray paint the 9mm mags gray because my 9mm has a gray frame. If I were to get a Glock 43X or other single stack Glock, I would spray paint them blue or another color. That way, I won’t try to jam a double stack magazine into a single stack gun or the other way around.

When you are under pressure–whether that’s a sudden need to repel borders or a rush to bug out–you want a simple, visual solution. It’s also easier to yell to someone “Grab the gray magazines” than to explain to them how to determine which ones are 9mm versus .40.

14. Train

My final piece of advice is to seek training. If you are already well trained, practice. Shoot your guns. Develop your skills. Become more accurate. Then become smooth which will translate into fast. Be able to do a tap-rack-bang drill without taking your eyes off the target. Ditto for reloading. Practice different positions, from behind barricades, and with your off hand. Run 100 yards and then shoot while out of breath. Consider shooting at a few competitions because that is one way to train under pressure. Competition will also point out your weaknesses and those of your weapon.

Yes, most competition shoots are a game, and it may teach you bad habits, but you can also learn techniques that might benefit you in the field. Watch the better shooters, especially how they shoot on the move.

You can also dry fire. This will polish your trigger skills. Just check and double check your gun is empty.

If you have a .22LR conversion kit for your gun, use it to practice without buying full price ammo. When my daughter first used an AR-15, I started her out on one with a CMMG 22LR conversion kit in it. It helped her build confidence and familiarity before we switched to the full-power rounds.

You want to reach the point where your gun handling and shooting is natural and automatic, where you can do it without fail without thinking about it. Some practice until they get it right; you want to practice until you can’t get it wrong.

They way things are going, you will probably need weapons, ammo, and skill. Without training, the first two won’t do you much good.