Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Being a Prepper - Don't Laugh Too Hard

Modern day survivalists, known as preppers, get a lot of heat for the lifestyle they choose. I mean, who really needs a year supply of food or so many extra batteries?  And why do you need so many flashlights and candles?  What's with the water barrels?  Afraid your water is going to get shut off?

I've heard it all when it comes to being prepared. From some come scoffs and laughter over taking the time to store up just a little more than you need. From others come the "Oh yeah, that's a good idea," and that's about as far as that goes. Then from others comes the "tell me more" conversation.  That's what I want to address today.

It's been awhile since I have had any good ideas for my entries. Most have simply been reviews of some pieces of gear here and there or just me talking about random stuff. However, in light of recent events, it seems it is a good idea to start up the conversation of emergency preparedness once again because right now, there are people who are suffering big time due to Hurricane Sandy.

I have taken a bit of an interest in actually listening to the news as of late because of the reports of devestation, and the potential for more, due to Hurricane Sandy, which at the moment is pounding the East Coast. Notably speaking, it is pounding New York and parts of new Jersey. As water swells its way into lower Manhattan, floods the subways, which has probably killed hundreds of homeless people we'll never know about, emergency shelters have been set up, and hotels have been filled to the lobbies because people have nowhere else to go. One thing I found of interest was that a hotel manager said they were already out of food.  Another report showed a picture of a grocery store. The bread aisle had been completely cleaned out. If you were one of the unlucky ones who got to the store a little too late, you're in deep shit.

In a past blog entry of mine, entitled Should I Stay or Should I Go, I addressed the need to evaluate your personal situation, and look at the area you live in order to be prepared for certain continencies. The people in the Northeast likely aren't as prepared for a hurricane as someone who lives in Florida. Due to the culture of New England, chances are that many people aren't prepared simply because many have this idea that the government will help, or that it won't happen to them.  I call it denial.  Many people, no matter where you happen to be, live in denial everyday.  It's a defense mechanism against the idea that they might not be able to control their situation, and they may be hurt or worse.  It's much easier to go about living your life if you do not have to worry about what could happen down the road.

Not only will denial get yourself killed, it will get other people killed.  When the crap hits the fan, people tend to get desperate.  Reference my blog entry on Civility Breakdown and Total Anarchy.  When your own neighbors live in denial for so many years, it can put a strain on you and your family because you have taken the time, invested the money, and have learned the tricks needed to survive in less than ideal circumstances.

In past entries, I focused primarily on the Bug Out Bag.  In fact, I dedicated an entire series to talk about all facets of it.  From water purification, food, medical supplies, etc, I spent a good deal of time putting together entries that would help anyone who wanted to learn about how to assemble a 72 hour kit without any prior knowledge. Just search "bug out bag" in the search bar above, and you'll find everything I wrote on the matter.

As my creative energy begins to rekindle, I think it is an appropriate time to address prepping for most anything that might come your way, not from the perspective of a hard core survivalist, but from a guy who has been through enough "rainy days" - so to speak.  My goal isn't to convince to to sell all your belongings and move the middle of the Rocky Mountains to live solely off what you grow or kill.  I don't prep that way.  Some view preppers as folks who have 10+ acre farms out in the country and have a root cellar full of goods and closets full of supplies.  You'd be correct.  But not all folks can, or choose to live like that.  I'm no farmer.  I certainly don't have the resources to plow 20 acres to drop seed and wait an entire summer to feed myself and my family.  If you are, and do, then more power to you.  But most people in this world live and work in cities.  A good portion of those folks live in suburban neighborhoods and drive 10+ miles to work everyday.  Do we just abandon them and say "well, if you don't have a bunker in the hills loaded with supplies, then kick rocks?"

Chances are that the hard core solo preppers are going to find themselves overrun when desperate people start knocking at their doors in droves.  The best chance you have at survival is to form a community where everyone has a skill set, supplies, and the big picture in mind.  But let's be honest.  How many of you actually know all your neighbors?  Yeah.

Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't plan for the worst contingencies or try to buy land far away from the city.  No.  I'd love the opportunity to live in small town, far away from major population centers.  But it's not for survivalist reasons.  I just like rural areas where the population density is small enough that you know many of your neighbors and actually rely on one another instead of just going to Wal Mart or whatever.  There's something to be said about small town life that I can really appreciate.  I digress.

Being prepared doesn't mean a complete lifestyle change.  It's about taking little steps to insure your safety.  It's not a government program and it's not about sitting down and waiting for someone else to help you.  It's about empowering yourself.  Preparedness is a mindset more than anything.  It's not about having the most expensive toys or the latest gear.  It's about getting yourself into a position that will allow you to overcome adversity and keep your family safe.

Emergency preparedness is about survival. It's knowing what to do in the event of an earthquake or hurricane, or any other natural disaster.  It's about knowing how to administer first aid to a choking victim or providing life saving CPR until paramedics can arrive.  It's about staying fed when food supplies run out and staying hydrated when the water becomes contaminated.  Think it won't happen to you?  Think again.  There are many people on the east coast right now who didn't think it would happen to them either.

I've been through a few earthquakes.  I've seen my fair share of power outages.  I've witnessed car accidents.  I've lived through floods.  I've seen first hand the power of water and what it can do.  I know what it's like to have to boil my water before drinking it.  Living out in the unforgiving Pacific Northwest for so many years has exposed me to many types of natural disasters.  All of my experiences have helped me learn the skills needed to get through the very crucial first 72 hours of any catastrophe, and has taught me what works and what doesn't.

Nowadays, I'm living somewhere else, but that doesn't mean the lessons don't apply.  Rain is still rain, snow is still snow, ice is still ice, and flooding is still flooding.  Some things have changed that I will really have to adapt to (living in the desert vs the rain forest), but the overriding need to be prepared turns those new challenges into opportunities to continue learning and honing my skills, as well as developing new networks of people, suppliers, and other mediums.

Over the next few weeks (perhaps months), I will dedicate a series of blog entries for those interested in prepping, but who may not have a ton of resources.  No, I will not be digging a bunker in the back of my rental house, and will not be harvesting plants for medicinal purposes.  As I said before.  Most people live in cities or in suburbs.  I'm no different.  My job is in the city.  So I will focus my efforts on the urbanite, or suburbanite prepping methods that I have used, and as I adapt my techniques to my new location, I will bring those to the forefront.  It is my opinion that if we can get as many suburban and urband dwellers prepared, the need to use guns to defend our supplies will be diminished.

I have already taken some pictures of this new food storage system that my wife and I are trying out.  After I have collected some really good data, I will include that because food and water are your most critical assets.  Without it, all the batteries and toilet paper in the world won't matter.  Stay tuned.

-James

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hyper Pet Pooch Post

Owning a big dog is a lot like being a parent to a 3 year old child.  Much of the experience is very rewarding, but along with it comes a lot of challenges, some frustration, and the occasional need to chase him down when he breaks free.  Indeed, an American Akita is a head strong breed.  He's fiercely loyal, but sometimes, no matter how much training and discipline he's had, he thinks it's a good idea to bolt.  As owners of this big responsibility, my wife and I have learned to adapt and have come up with good ways of keeping the pooch in place.  We got a place with tall fences in the backyard, and take care to ensure he's on a leash whenever we are out.

Recently, we camped at Lake Powell, AZ and we wanted to take the dog so he could share in the experience.  Plus, we didn't want to leave him home in the backyard for three days by himself.  With my wife's brother (and his wife and family) going, we thought it might be fun to have Kobun interact with the kids and with their pretty little dog, a Brittany Spaniel.

My wife knew we needed a good way to keep our puppy in the campsite when we were not able to hold onto his leash every minute.  She went down to the local pet store and bought one of those corkscrew type leash anchors that you attach a leash to.  I figured it was a good idea.  Well, it sucked!  The damn thing was more like an auger than anything else, and it churned up the ground pretty good while not providing the best, most secure anchoring point.  Odd, it was rated for dogs up to 130 lbs.  In the end, I tied his 30 foot leash to the picnic table because in spite of that so-called pet anchor, the table wasn't going anywhere.

While taking a stroll through the new Scheels store here in Utah, I discovered this device made by Hyper Pet, called a Pooch Post.  No joke.  It's claim to fame is that it is essentially a giant spike that you hammer into the ground.  You can then remove the inner post from the sleeve, so it can be mowed over, or the dog located somewhere else, without having to pull the entire thing up from the ground.  Cool!  At $12, it was a steal compared to that other contraption.  I found that the inner shaft is held by three keys (as seen in the pic to the right) and you have to align them all to get it out.  Well, Akita's are smart dogs, but they aren't that smart.  There is also a cap that you install so you can hammer the spike into the ground prior to installing the swiveling shaft, which allows 360 degrees of rotation to keep the dog from getting tangled in the device (another downfall of the other thing we bought).

In this picture, you can see the three separate components that make this thing up.  After you insert the cap into the spike, you them grab your favorite BFH and send this thing home into the ground wherever you want your dog to roam.  I made sure not to pound into the septic tank, or sprinkler lines, underground power lines, etc before doing so.  It takes a bit of effort to pound this thing all the way into the ground, so be sure to wear gloves for additional safety.  After it is in, you simply remove the cap, and then key in the inner piece until the head contacts the top of the outer spike.  You are then ready to attach your leash or cable, and then let your dog run wild within the parameters you have set.

Now, the website says that it is good for dogs up to 150 lbs, where the packaging said any size dog.  That's a bit confusing, but in this instance, I'll trust the weight limit stated on the website.  If you have big dogs, you know that weight limitations are always a buzz kill when trying to outfit for your beloved family member.  So  when a product comes along that is actually made for bigger dogs, I naturally get excited.

I think the biggest advantage of this invention is that you can remove the internal spike.  This is good for two reasons:  First, if you want to mow the lawn, you don't have to unscrew the anchor only to put it back in, or try to mow around it and just use the weed whacker.  What a pain in the butt!  Having to go through extra steps is a surefire way to make it so you won't set it up again.  Plus, your dog loses out.  With this, you simply line up the key ways and pull it out.  Easy.  It takes less than 10 seconds.  Another benefit is that if you bought two or more, you can pound the stakes in various locations around your property.  If you happen to be working in the side yard, and want your dog back there, you simply pull the stake and move it to another sleeve without having to unscrew or screw or pound anything.  That's a freaking great idea!

Removing the entire assembly wasn't hard.  I just put the inner piece back into the spike, and used the handle of my hammer to tug on it.  Then it came out pretty easy.  As for your dog being able to remove the whole thing, forget about it.

It's all about physics.  If the dog pulls as hard as he can, he's still pulling laterally against a spike that is over a foot long, driven into the ground.  The compression of the soil around the spike alone means that it has plenty of grip.  This is precisely why we use spikes to hold down tents.  As for the weight limit, well I think that's a disclaimer just in case some big ass dog manages to break the weld that holds the eyelet on the head of the spike, not the dog yanking the entire thing out of the ground.  But nothing surprises me anymore.  As for my dog, he was plenty happy to be in the front yard (which is fenced, but the driveway does not have a gate yet).  He got to play with the kids while I was in the garage working.  I was able to see him, and he could see me, and that always makes him happy.  My dog tends to get a little anxious when he can't see the members of his pack, which is understandable.

Another good test of the system was when Kobun saw a guy walking his pit bull across the street.  My 100 lb dog, who for all intents and purposes is still a puppy, went charging as fast as he could until he used up all 30 feet of his cable.  He was quickly reminded that he was not able to leave the yard (not even touch the driveway).  That little spring attached to the cable helps keep him from hurting himself should he decide to bolt.  Either way, when the pit bull came by 15 minutes later, my dog was alert, but had no desire to go chasing after him again.  Instead, he just went on eating this stuffed dragon toy that has like 15 squeakers in it.

Stay safe.

-James

Monday, October 8, 2012

MBUS Shakedown

I was actually able to get out shooting twice in two weeks.  I know, I wouldn't have believed it either.  Last week, I was chomping at the bit to get my SR556 out into the desert for some shooting, and to give these new MBUS sights a shakedown test. 

Originally, my wife and I were going to go to the outdoor range, but after realizing their hours just plain suck, we turned the Jeep south and headed for the hills, literally.  We found a good location to set up shop, so we set a target out 50 yards from the hood of my Jeep, and started to go to work.  My first task was to get the sights on target.  So, I loaded a 5 round magazine and rested the rifle and my hand on the A-pillar of the Jeep's windshield.  Since we originally thought we were going to the range, we left the table and the rifle rest at home.  Oh well, I figured I'd give it a shot over the Jeep's hood anyway.  Maybe I'd get lucky. 

My first group went center high, about 2" above the bullseye.  Fortunately, I remembered my little 10x monocular, so I didn't have to walk out to the target every time to verify my hits.  From my position, I could see a little 1.5" group of 5 sitting over the bullseye at 12 o'clock.  Well, one thing's for sure: the MBUS sights didn't need any windage adjustments, and there wasn't a breath of wind at all outside. 

I fired another group of 5 just to be sure the first wasn't a fluke.  Sure enough, when I looked at the target through my little monocular, I could see that same group with some more tiny holes and one ragged one 2" up from the bullseye at 12 o'clock.  Satisfied that my rifle and me were on the same page, I adjusted the front sight up to lower my point of impact (POI) on the target.

My third group sailed right through the bullseye with a very tight group.  I fired another set of 5 rounds to verify.  As before, the bullseye was now a ragged hole.  Not bad for shooting over the hood of the Jeep.

Zeroing the red dot was even quicker.  After lining the red dot up with the front post of the MBUS sight, I fired a three round group.  Upon seeing the group to the left of the target, I made the proper windage adjustment, referenced the front sight and fired another three round group.  All three rounds went through the bullseye.  I fired one more group to verify with the same results. 

All told that day, I fired 40 rounds out of my AR15.  About 32 shots to verify all zeroes on both the sights and the scope.  The last few remaining rounds, I just took pot shots at the target offhand at 50 yards.  My wife was itching to shoot some pistols, so I put the AR15 away for the day.

Yesterday, Oct 7th, was the fun day for me.  This time, instead of trying to punch tiny holes in paper, I brought my steel 8x8" target and stand.  I initially set the target up 50 yards from my Jeep.  After warming up on my 22 pistol (taking 50 yard shots and hitting the steel), I switched to the AR15.  After loading 20 rounds into the magazine, I flipped the scope caps down and started firing.  Of course, I shot off the red dot sight first because I wanted to make sure it was okay.  Yep, all 20 rounds hit home on the steel, and I could hear the distinct "TUNK" sound they made upon impact.  I flipped up the MBUS sights and took another 20 rounds to the target.  I missed two, but it was due to me rushing the shot and getting careless.  After telling myself to calm down, I shot the rest of the magazine out without a single miss.  Okay, I was bored.

I looked back to see how far away I could get, and noticed a ridge high up above where I was shooting.  I decided to load a couple magazines full and take a short hike away from the target.  After climbing into and out of a shallow ravine, I hiked straight up the hill to a ridge line high above the target.  Prior to leaving, I had walked over to the target and marked it's position with my GPS, as well as it's elevation so I could range it.  Without the convenience of a range finder (next thing on my list), I would need to use some trigonometry to range the target. 

The first ridge looked like a challenging spot to shoot from.  I was already having trouble seeing the target with the naked eye, so I sat down and caught my breath before loading the weapon and taking the first shot.  While waiting for my heart rate to slow down enough (so that the first shots weren't wasted), I calculated my range was about 250 yards.  Not a bad start.  It'd been awhile since I shot guns at that distance, and I've never shot an AR15 that far away.  I decided not to use the MBUS sights because I couldn't see the target when the front post covered it.  Instead, I used the RDS because with a 2 MOA dot, it only appeared about 4" or so over the 8" plate. 

Without a spotter, I thought it would be challenging to see where the bullet hit the dirt if I missed.  I took aim dead center on the target and squeezed the trigger.  I watched the dirt just above the target fling up as the bullet slammed into it.  I knew I needed to aim low.  Fortunately, my sight picture was never lost when I fired, and I was shooting with both eyes open so as to negate the astigmatism in my right eye.

I leveled to red dot just beneath the target, so that it appeared as if it they were stacked on top of each other.  I held my breath, squeezed the trigger, and heard the shot break.  A half second or so later, I heard the distinct "TUNK" of the bullet slamming into the steel.  I waited another couple seconds, squeezed the trigger, and heard the same "TUNK" sound again.  After about 10 rounds, I was satisfied that I could do this all day.  So, I looked up the hill and saw another ridge, this one was almost all the way at the top.  So, I safed the weapon and hiked straight up. 

As I hiked in the loose gravel, dirt, and rocks, I could not help but bang my rifle a couple of times.  It was nothing serious, but it would have been enough to knock a lesser scope and sights out of alignment.  I figured it might be a good idea to shoot the target from 100 yards away with the MBUS sights when I got back down to the ravine. 

I set up shop on the ridge line.  From here, the target was barely visible.  The steel blended into the earth behind it.  The only reference I had was this tire I found and used as an anchor, and the wooden 2x4 that holds the plate 4 feet off the ground.  I calculated my distance, referencing elevation differences, my new coordinates, as well as the angle I was shooting at toward the target.  A squared, plus B squared equals see you later.  The hypotenuse (the distance the bullet would travel) was 425 yards, give or take.  Now mind you, I have only shot this far once in my life with bolt action guns, at a range, resting on a bipod.  I had never done it sitting up on a ridge in the desert, in wind, using only my arms and legs as the rifle support.  So this was a first.  Plus, my visual acuity at that distance isn't so great.  it was damn hard for me to see the tiny plate, which now would be completely covered by the red dot, since it would appear to be over 8" across.

After settling down, I peered through the Aimpoint Comp ML3.  From this distance, I could see the Jeep in my field of view, as it was parked 50 yards away from the target.  I figured that, at this distance, a jerked trigger might leave me stranded, so I paid close attention to everything my body was doing.  After one final check to make sure no one was in the area (I had the microphones on my ear muffs cranked up so high that I could hear a mouse fart from 150 yards away), I reacquired my target.  After a few seconds, I pressed the trigger as slowly and deliberately as I could.  When the shot broke, the ear muffs attenuated it so it didn't blow my ear drums out, but quickly went back to listening to everything around me. I never saw any dirt fling up through the scope, so I assumed I hit a rock.  Then I heard it.  For what seemed like forever, the bullet sailed from the top of the ridge down to the target well on the other side of the narrow valley, and slammed into the steel, making a different, but distinctive "CLUNK" sound.

"Holy crap!" I said as I watched the 2x4 swing back and forth.  I actually hit it, on my first try no less!  I decided to give the backup irons a chance.  I flipped them up and left the red dot running.  I covered the target with the front sight post, and fired.  MISS!  The round sailed right over the top.  I adjusted my aim down a bit and fired again.  Within a short time, but what seemed like an eternity the steel target confirmed a hit with another "CLUNK" sound.  I was pretty sure that the rounds weren't hitting as hard at this distance because the target feedback didn't sound like it had the authority of a 50 yard shot.

I was convinced I was at the limit of what these 55 grain PMC rounds were capable of, and decided that unless I really wanted to watch someone suffer, I wouldn't be taking 400 yard shots with my Ruger SR556 unless I absolutely had to.  That being said, I still wanted to shoot, so I fired another ten rounds with the irons, missing a few, but doing quite well overall.  I was impressed with not only myself for shooting a small target at that distance with irons, but because the irons were so precise.  I had still not adjusted windage at all.  The rears sit dead center.  You have no idea how awesome that makes my brain feel! 

For the last few shots, I used only the RDS and after missing the first one, I corrected my point of aim (POA) and sent the rest home.  I don't know what the time of flight for the bullets were, but it sounded like it took awhile for them to reach the target.  And 223rem moves pretty quickly.

With only 10 rounds left, I hiked back down to the ravine, which I calculated was just under 100 yards away from the target.  I fired the remaining 10 rounds with the irons only, and sent them all home.  I was pretty happy. 

All told, I've got about about 200 rounds fired since putting the new sights on and they haven't come loose at all.  These sights are fantastic.  I must say also, the red dot was impressive at longer ranges, and even with an unmagnified optic, I didn't seem to have a problem shooting that little steel plate despite the fact that it was difficult to see. 

So far, everything about this Ruger SR556, the sights, and the scope have impressed me.  I would bet my life on this gun any day of the week.

-James

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pay Attention - It Bears Repeating: Home Carry

On October 4, 2012, an elderly couple had a frightening run-in with burglars posing as police officers.  The homeowner went to answer the door, and saw a man with a badge.  When he opened the door, another man entered the home and put a gun to his head.  You can read the story here: Story

Almost two years ago, in December of 2010, I addressed this very issue in my blog entry, titled: Carrying in Your Home.  In that entry, I outlined some very graphic examples of what could happen should you be taken by surprise in your house.  Just having a loaded firearm in your home is not good enough.  You need to have sufficient means to access your weapon quickly.  The quickest method, by far, is to have one in a holster, on your person.  Whether you carry a concealed weapon in the house, or practice open carry, your chances of surviving an encounter, like the one in the news story (linked above) and the dramatic scenario I laid out in my entry, are much higher than if you are unarmed.

I'll be the first to admit that I've been taken by surprise myself.  I don't always carry a gun in the house.  There are times, when I'm getting out of the shower, or haven't yet gotten dressed in the morning, that I'm unarmed, or perhaps I just got home from work (where I'm not allowed to carry).  The odd thing is, it seems these are the times when people decide to knock on my door.  People never seem to knock when I'm armed, of course.  But that is beside the point.  In any event, I exercise extreme caution when answering an unannounced knock at the door.

There have been times when I've heard a surprise knock at the door, and I was armed.  As above, I still exercise caution when answering the door.  Many times, I will just sit where I can see the person and wait for them to leave.  This is especially useful if the person looks a little shady.  I have encouraged my wife to NEVER answer the door to a stranger.  Just let them leave.  Hopefully, if they come back, I will be there to address them.

In the instance above, where the burglars posed as police officers, the homeowner's believed that a public safety officer was at the door.  That's a reasonable assumption, but even then I'd be leery of a cop just showing up at my house without warning.  I don't even roll my window down but a few inches when I get pulled over.  It's far too easy to fool people by pretending to be something you are not.  In this case, the attack was well coordinated, and will probably happen again to some other unlucky soul who didn't get the memo.  In fact, in another new story (here), the police are chomping at the bit to find these bastards before they can strike again.  And why not?  Aside from a couple of ethnic descriptions, a boring cargo van, and a well thought-out coordinated attack, it's highly conceivable that these people might strike again.

You want to know what else is disturbing about this, for me?  It happened 2 1/2 miles from my house!  Yeah buddy!  You know I'm watching my back!  And this just reaffirms my belief that you should always carry a gun, even in your own house.  I made sure to tell my wife about this so she is aware of what could happen on our block.  Just today, I decided to carry a little bit more firepower than the LC9, so I broke out the SR9c with my 17rd spare and strapped it on.  Mowing the lawn with a concealed weapon on your hip and the 100 lb attack dog watching the back yard gives a sense of security knowing that you can't just be rushed by someone while you're completely unaware.

Now, of course, the best defense is a good offense, and the moment you have to pull your gun, you are not on the offensive anymore.  You are playing catch up, and that sucks!  Here's some tips to help keep you safe in your home and on your property.

1. LOCK YOUR DOORS!  Even if you are home, or working in the yard, it is highly recommended that you lock your doors if you're not going in and out of the house.  While it may seem unlikely, it is possible that a burglar could sneak into your home right through your front door when you're screwing around in the garage totally unaware of what's going on outside.  Walking into an ambush in your own home is no fun.

2. DON'T GET COMPLACENT! Even when you're doing yard work, or cleaning up the house, or just relaxing, keep your eyes up and your ears open.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Watch the cars that go up and down the road.  Memorize your neighbor's cars and watch for their patterns as they come and go.  Be thoughtful of their friend's cars that come and go.  Note any suspicious vehicles that go up and down the street or park, especially if the people inside don't get out.

3. NEVER ANSWER A DOOR IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO! Even if the person looks official, you can always call dispatch and ask them to verify that a police officer is in your area.  Chances are, if you don't see a police car parked outside, the person isn't legit.  Always ask for Identification and deny access if they look shady.  Remember, unless a police officer is serving a warrant, they have no right to enter your home uninvited!

4. CARRY YOUR GUN! It would seem appropriate to make this my first recommendation; after all, the message here is about carrying a gun in your house.  But your gun is only as effective as you are, and as I said before, the need to draw your weapon means you've already made critical errors in the first place.  But as they say, the first rule of getting into a gun fight is to have a gun.

5. WATCH THE SIGHT LINES AND ACCESS POINTS! What I mean is you control access onto your property and into your home.  Putting up sturdy fences, locked gates and sturdy doors increases your odds of a favorable outcome, while at the same time decreasing a burglar's chances.  If it looks too hard, they will move one.  If you make yourself an inviting target, then you're done.  Now, some of these things are difficult if you are renting a home, as I am now.  But installing gate locks and making barricades can be cheap and easy to do.  In my case, sturdy locks are just part of the price you pay for security, whether you rent or own.   If you can work it out with your landlord, you might be able to have him or her deduct it from the rent!  Or you can just do what I do and put them on because if you're like me, you don't need permission to protect yourself.

6. KEEP YOUR YARD NEAT! Yes, yard work not only makes a man feel good about the home he keeps, but it also gives you the opportunity to walk your property and pay attention to inadequacies in security as well as repair damage from mother nature, stupid kids, or the weaknesses your big-ass dog finds in the back yard perimeter.  Yep, my dog's a digger.  No doubt!

7. GET A DOG! Seriously, get a dog that would scare the bejeezus out of a fully grown man.  My (almost) 1 year old American Akita male does just that.  His bark will wake the dead.  Every time the pizza guy shows up, I know when he gets here because my dog lets out this big WOOOOOOF!!!  He doesn't go berserk.  He just lets out a big enough bark to get everyone's attention.  And no, do not scold your dog for barking at strangers.  Now, of course, if you have a dog that barks all the damn time, he's no good.  Fortunately, the American Akita does not bark unless it needs to.  Thank god.  Otherwise, I'd probably shoot him myself.  When we leave the house, we put the dog out in the back yard.  Heaven have mercy on whatever person thinks it is a good idea to jump my fence when I'm not home.  As for the front, well, when I get my wireless fence installed, then my big boy can be on guard out front too, but only if I'm out there with him because big dogs attract attention, especially big beautiful pure bred American Akita dogs!

8. HIDE YOUR CAR! If your garage can accommodate your car, or cars, then use it.  One of the best ways for criminals to know you are, or aren't home, is to see when your cars are there or not.  I keep both my cars parked in the garage so anyone driving by doesn't know whether I'm home or not.

9. DON'T TURN ON EVERY LIGHT WHEN YOU LEAVE!  I know this sounds kind of counter-intuitive, but turning on every light when you leave is a sure fire way of telling everyone "Hey, I'm gone.  Come rob my house!"  Seriously, who leaves their bedroom light on all night?  I use timer switches for my lights when I'm gone for any length of time, and I tell a neighbor I can trust to watch the property for me.  Also, if you have someone in your church or circle of friends that can stop by and check the mail as well as feed your cats, then that's an asset too.

10. LASTLY, TRAIN YOUR KIDS!  Kids can be the worst when it comes to answering the door, or the phone, or when someone comes up to them.  My parents used to play this old VHS Winnie the Pooh movie called "Too Smart for Strangers" for me when I was 5-6 years old, and I still remember that really dumb song that they sing every time Christopher Robin would snub a stranger offering him a ride or candy or some other thing.  But the lessons are valid even as an adult.  Never let your kid answer a door without you present, and train them NOT say you're in the shower or at the store or some other damn thing.  When they get old enough, teach them to use a gun and know where they are.  I can hear the protectionists screaming at their computer screen now!  But when I was a kid, Dad told me where the guns where, how to use them, load them, and if need be, shoot a burglar.  There was a report of a 12 year old doing just that.  He grabbed Daddy's AR15 and went to work on a burglar that invaded his home when he and his younger brother were there alone.

Okay, enough ranting.  Be safe, and pay attention to what's out there.  This world isn't safe!

-James