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Are You Forgetting These Prepper Gun Skills?

Practical prepping means more than just stocking up on food, water and ammunition, or having a portable generator at the ready. While most American adults still know how to cook (we can hope) and can handle basic repairs around the house, there are those more specialized skills like automotive maintenance — which is complicated by ever more complex cars — and of course medical care.

Complete prepping involves preparing for a wide range of threats — from job loss to major catastrophe. Firearms are a realistic portion of comprehensive preparations.

Being able to rebuild an engine or perform basic surgery requires a fair amount of training. Most preppers understand that fact.

Shown in this digital photograph is a sealed surplus ammunition container with Russian writing on it. It holds 440 rounds of 7.62x39 ammunition for long term storage.
Surplus ammunition can be an affordable way to stockpile ammo for difficult times. So-called “spam cans” are specifically intended for long term storage. They tend to be available in just a few calibers.

Yet, when it comes to firearms, there is all too often the belief that shooting is easy, or at least can be quickly mastered. That could be a very deadly mistake, especially if things truly go sideways, and law enforcement won’t be coming. This is when there may be the need to defend not only property but loved ones.

Know the Shooting Basics

Knowing how to properly use a firearm is so much more than simply pointing it and pulling the trigger. The most basic of the basics is that firearms are tools that need to be treated with the ultimate amount of respect. They must not be mishandled, and everyone who comes in contact with them must understand its capabilities and limitations.

Shown here is Richard Johnson, the managing editor of The Armory Life, shooting a Springfield Armory Emissary 1911 pistol. The Springfield 1911 is a modern version of the M1911 pistol used by the United States of America.
Owning a gun is only part of the equation. You should invest in quality firearms training and practice regularly to gain proficiency.

Firearms also require a great deal of responsibility, and that means following laws and regulations. Being prepared doesn’t exempt anyone from local, state, and federal firearms laws. Nor does fear for home and personal safety mean that laws can or should ever be broken.

That being said, even many responsible firearms owners still lack anything resembling defensive shooting skills.

This photo is of a woman drawing a Springfield Hellcat OSP from a CCW holster. The woman is wearing denim blue jeans, a pullover blouse and a red suit jacket. She is also wearing a black leather belt. The strong side outside the waistband holster is made of Kydex.
Prepping can include the ability to deal with seemingly common threats including muggers. You are more likely to encounter one of these threats than a complete breakdown of civilization, so preparing for it is a good idea.

It would be beyond the scope of a single article to discuss the finer facets of personal and home defense, but there are those key skills that any prepper should learn and hone. These include rapid target assessment and acquisition — which can help determine who or what is the greatest and most imminent threat. Likewise, multiple target transition means not focusing on a single target, but rather being able to determine how to follow up those shots accordingly.

In this photograph, we see Richard Johnson, the Managing Editor of The Armory Life, with a Springfield Armory Hellcat 9mm pistol. The semi-automatic pistol is perfect for self-defense and personal protection. Richard Johnson is wearing a ballcap hat and a weatherproof jacket. It is raining.
Major storms — such as hurricanes and tornados — can disrupt communities. Violent felons may take advantage of these situations as they know that law enforcement response can be extremely delayed.

Preppers need to know how to deal with shooting in low-light conditions as well as foul weather. The fact remains that bad things are all the more likely to happen when the sun isn’t shining. Whether the threat is from humans or animals, it can easily happen at night. Spending a nice day at the range can certainly improve shooting skills, but it won’t prepare you for shooting in the dark.

Serious shooters will try to hone their skills in such conditions while understanding the limitations of their firearms.

Firearm Maintenance Basics

The practical prepper certainly needs to be a “jack-of-all-trades,” and that can mean keeping the car running, knowing a bit more than first aid, and not having to rely on outsiders when things get a bit tough. Again, it doesn’t mean being able to conduct open heart surgery or having the skills of MacGyver, but when it comes to firearms, it should include knowing how to clean and maintain them.

In this full color photograph we see a Springfield sa-35 9mm semi-automatic pistol with a Hoppe's cleaning kit. The gun and the kit are sitting on a large cleaning map that has a political map of the Earth on it. The sa-35 is based on the original P-35 handgun designed by John Moses Browning. The gun is better known as the Browning Hi Power. It is a single-action firearm that many people say is superior to the M1911A1.
A cleaning kit should already be in your shooting supplies. Consider adding additional cleaning supplies to your inventory for times when these things may not be as readily available.

Almost no serious shooter today will believe any firearm is “self-cleaning” or requires zero maintenance — yet, some firearms do require a bit less than others. Many of today’s polymer-framed handguns can get by between serious cleanings with a quick wipe down with an oil-moistened cloth, a nylon brush down the barrel, and a few drops of oil. Yet, that should be still seen as the absolute bare minimum, and doing less is never advisable. As is often said, it doesn’t matter if it is one shot or a dozen, the cleaning is the same.

Shown are gunsmith tools. In this photo we see Wheeler Engineering punches that were specially designed for for gunsmith work. They make it easier to repair guns or upgrading them with new parts like triggers and sights.
Many shooters are capable of undertaking basic gunsmithing tasks. The various tasks are made easier when you have the right tools like these punches specifically made for firearms work.

If you’re counting on your firearms, you’ll want them to be clean and ready. That brings us to the next point. Preppers should know how to field strip — as in take apart and put back together — all of their firearms. This can ensure that every part is in working order and gets the TLC required.

Shown in this photo is a man installing the magazine release on an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO. Learning how to build a firearm from an 80% lower can help you with basic gun repair skills later.
Replacing parts on a firearm is generally easy to do. Learning how to build an AR-15 today can give you the skills to repair one in tough times.

It may also not be a bad idea to consider the calibers of your firearms. While you can have a variety of guns in the arsenal, it is worth considering the calibers. This is especially true with military surplus firearms — and some ammunition is going to be a lot more expensive than others. Without a supply of ammunition, a rifle is just a club — or with a bayonet, a spear!

Basic Gunsmithing

Being a gun-owning prepper doesn’t mean you’ll have to train as a gunsmith, or even have a dedicated workbench for firearms — even though it can be very handy. Many basic gunsmith tools can also be used to service firearms. With the addition of a few specialty tools, preppers will be ready to service their firearms.

In this photo, we see where a prepper disassembled a Springfield 9mm pistol. We see the trigger assembly, slide stop, pins and other parts next to the polymer frame.
Guns like the Springfield Hellcat are relatively easy to work on. Having a good set of screwdrivers and punches will help you accomplish many, if not most, tasks.

Of course, preventative maintenance only goes so far.

Things will break over time, and when they break someone needs to repair them. Firearms aren’t terribly complicated devices, and even the most modern gun differs little from those introduced 100 or more years ago. That’s why John Browning’s M1911 is still being produced — it’s truly a timeless design. However, when there is an issue, it is a big problem that can require a small fix, at least for those with a certain degree of training and skills.

Gunsmiths use many of the same skills as other trained craftsmen, and that can include welding, drawing, and a not-so-basic understanding of math. Precise measurements are critical, and in addition to gun safety, gunsmiths must have experience with machining, metalworking and often woodworking. Professionals know how to operate tools like drills and lathes. However, hobbyists can get by with learning how to rivet and correctly form a spring. While welding can be beyond the skills of some preppers or hobbyists, some firearms parts are soldered in place.

Load Up on the Reloading

There is no shortage of reloading kits available, and as with gunsmithing tools, it is something that can start simple and expand over time as the budget allows. A lot has been written about handloading so there isn’t the need to go into the how’s or why’s. The key is that it does not require a huge sum of money to get started. For a few hundred dollars, you can acquire solid tools and supplies.

Here we see the various parts of a centerfire pistol cartridge. The bullet is a Hornady XTP hollow point bullet, ball smokeless powder, a brass case and a Boxer small pistol primer.
Centerfire cartridges consist of four parts. Shown here the parts of a cartridge: the bullet, powder, case and primer.

There are only four components to a rifle or pistol cartridge, and these include the primer, the powder, the bullet, and the brass case. For preppers on a budget, handloading can also be more cost-effective — especially if the same brass case is reused.

In this photograph, we see three different bottles of smokeless powder developed for handgun cartridges. We see smokeless powder for reloading cartridges from Alliant Powder, Hodgdon and Accurate. Each formulation offers different benefits.
Smokeless powder is a critical component for reloading cartridges. It’s something that cannot be recycled or made by a hobbyist. If you don’t stock up on it, your reloading efforts will be short-lived.

Of special note is the Classic Lee Loader. This is a complete loading kit that can fit into a pant cargo pocket, allowing you to tune your handloads at the range or while in the woods. The kits cost less than $50 — often less than $40 — not including the component costs.


These are just some of the top-line skills that a well-armed prepper should consider, but the key point is that a well-stocked collection serves no purpose without the ability to properly use, maintain, and service the firearms in it!

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