Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What Child is This

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. -Luke 2.

Lying in a manger?
Where else would you expect a Lamb to be born?

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering - Genisis 22
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. - Revelation 5

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another Month Deeper into Recession

Another month has come and gone, and we are a little deeper in recession.  Jobs in the private sector increased by less than 200k and jobs in the manufacturing sector actually decreased. Obama continues to tell us about all the millions and millions of jobs he is responsible for creating but that is just another political lie. As we slide closer to the fiscal cliff, it has become apparent that he will not negotiate to avoid going over the cliff. (And no compromise will stop it anyway, but that is another story) His supposed compromise solution had hidden in it that he could spend as much as he wants, whenever he wants, and for whatever he wants.

Yeah Right.

Tax levies are almost irrelevant in this (fiscal cliff) deal.  They are a symbolic gesture, and increasing them will give the government an excuse to be even more irresponsible, but cutting them won't solve the problem either.It makes little difference if a dollar is taxed out of the economy, or if it is borrowed and never returned.

And that is where the US is.  The budget will never again be balanced. That is a cliff we have already gone over (years ago, to be truthful).  Now the question is only: how soon will it get bad, and how bad will it get?  (and I don't really know the answers)

Spending cuts and changes to "entitlement" programs will slow the descent , but they won't stop it.  Now we are only concerned with how will America look on the way down.

Will we retain our Freedoms, our Rights as given by God, our Constitutional Government?   Or will we be transformed into a communist dictatorship harkening to the liberals who want to destroy us and the Islamists that want to enslave us? Will the rule o f law rule our land, or will international bankers and multinational corporations and unions run our government as a puppet as they steal all we have while operating above the law?  

Fasten your seatbelts, hold on tight, keep your Bible handy and your powder dry.
It is going to be a terrifying ride down.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Obama Reelected

I once again have to consider whether to keep this blog public.  I guess I will, but I am also considering producing a private newsletter only to those who know me and ask for it. (Of course, I also have to know you.)

The newsletter would be monthly, and be part discussion on Biblical Prophesy and part discussion on Prepping and Surviving a collapse of civilization.

I need comments on this subject if I am going to do the newsletter. I would also require some feedback (not every issue) on the newsletter, from time to time. 

I guess I must note that you can leave comments on here and they will remain private if you wish.  That way you can send me your email address or such.   Simply say in the comment that it is private and I will take down the info and delete the comment without it ever showing up on the blog. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

unemployment - the truenumbers are dismal

Well the numbers came in and those who wish to spin them as good news are doing so.  But in truth, the numbers are dismal, maybe even disastrous. There is also speculation that some of the numbers are being manipulated, as one number (800.000 people reporting new jobs) that is a total anomaly among all the rest, but it could simply be a surge in some temporary and insignificant work (700,000 new campaign workers?).

A gain of 144,000 jobs last month, even when coupled with the adjustments recently made to jobs data still amounts to a slowly sinking economy.  (Those adjustments did add about 80,000 more jobs in the previous two months and almost 400,000 jobs in the past year, but that is still a slow, sinking rate)

Even worse is manufacturing, which lost 16,000 jobs in the past month, adding to the losses the previous month.  This means we are, in truth, negative balance for the year. Remember, in July 2010, when this had just begun to be known as "The Great Recession," I said we needed an increase of 40,000 manufacturing jobs a month to get out of the recession.  I later revised this down to 20,000 manufacturing jobs a month, but that is just the break even point. In those days I thought the economy would turn around in 2 to 5 years. I no longer think it will. Maybe not ever.

I had begun to realize this recession may really spell the end for the US as the worlds foremost superpower last July.  That was when I wrote:
just over a year after we elected a new government, bent on breaking out of that malaise, 67% of the people are blaming that new crop of congressmen, just elected, for the problems they are trying to solve.

What this really amounts to is that the public has gotten the first glimpse of the fact that they will have to make some sacrifices to return our nation to a path of prosperity, and they don't want any of it.

Some years ago, I said the American public, having tired of freedom and prosperity, have elected a government that will leave them impoverished and enslaved. Now it looks like they are happy being impoverished and enslaved. At least then they don't have to do the hard work and make the sacrifices that are required for freedom and prosperity.
I began to suspect then, and believe more so now, that the US will for the foreseeable future remain in a  decline. Whether this is a slow decline, or a rapid decline is the only question. 

US manufacturing jobs data:

Manufacturing employment fell by 16,000 in September, the second month in a row employment
in the sector dropped.

Employers added 114,000 workers to payrolls last month, the fewest since June, according
to the Labor Department’s survey of employers released in Washington today. A separate
poll of households showed hiring surged by 873,000, the biggest gain since June 1983
excluding annual Census population adjustments. The surge helped push down the jobless
rate to 7.8 percent, the lowest since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

WASHINGTON—The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month, dropping below 8
percent for the first time in nearly four years and giving President Barack Obama a
potential boost with the election a month away.
The rate dropped from 8.1 percent because the number of people who were employed according
to a government survey soared by 873,000—the biggest monthly jump since 2003.
The job market has been improving, sluggishly but steadily. Jobs have been added for 24
straight months. There are now 325,000 more than when Obama took office.
Still, many of the jobs the economy added last month were part time. The number of people
with part-time jobs who wanted full-time work rose 7.5 percent to 8.6 million, the most
since February 2009.
But overall, Friday's report dispelled some fears about the job market. Average wages
rose. And more people started looking for work.
The jump in the number of employed Americans that the government reported comes from a
survey of 60,000 households that determines the unemployment rate. The government asks a
series of questions, by phone or in person. They include:
Do you own a business? Did you work for pay? If not, did you provide unpaid work for a
family business or farm? (Those who did are considered employed.)
Afterward, the survey participants are asked whether they had a job and, if so, whether it
was full or part time. The government's definition of unemployed is someone who's out of
work and has actively looked for a job in the past four weeks.

The U.S. economy likely created 386,000 more jobs in the 12 months through March than
previously estimated, the Labor Department said
A breakdown by industry sector showed 453,000 more total private sector jobs were created
than initially thought, including 145,000 more jobs in the trade, transportation, and
utilities category, plus 85,000 more in construction.
In contrast, the benchmark revision lowered the estimate for job creation in the
government sector by 65,000, while it found that 25,000 fewer manufacturing jobs had been
generated over the 12 month period than previously thought.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Markets are up, the Economy down

This is the latest trend in the economic world, and not too many are talking about it.  With the open ended QE3, our market numbers are looking better, but the reality is that the economy isn't improving, just the money, whether it is in dollars or euro's, is worth less.

The jobs report was pretty abysmal at the beginning of this month, and I will bet it isn't too good this friday, either. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A note about CombatEffective

Just as an afterthought, I should have posted on here last month that it has been 30 months since the destruction of the CombatEffective.us website.  It is up and running again, and beginning to get back to life.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Some General Notes About Prepping

I have said before that if you have enough money to be able to afford Cable TV, then you have enough money to follow the five rules of finance that I recommend.

I would modify that, ever so slightly today.  As part of a methodical savings plan, I would say we need to be prepping for disaster. I noted that the Red Cross was tapped out in June of 2008.

People, in general, do not learn from past disasters.  This was evidenced by the lack of preparedness when Wilma hit Florida, 3 months after Katrina and Rita, and with plenty of warning.

Here is something I wrote, about 4 years ago about being prepared.
In the foreseeable future (and yes, those of you who know me know that I have said similar things before) disasters will become the norm. If you are not currently recovering from a disaster, then you should be thinking about (and preparing for) the next one. This may sound a little calloused, but most of the people in New Orleans in 2005 and those in Houston and Galveston this month were deluded into thinking it never could happen to them.
Keep in mind, Hurricanes happen every few years along the Gulf Coast

As most people will not be prepared for a major disaster, some things might be kept on hand, just for bartering with other, less prepared people. (Biblical References: Genesis 41:33-57)

The following is clipped from one of those "paper money is worthless and gold is the only real money" web sites.  The web site, as a whole, is pretty much loony, but this article is good:

Begin Clip:
There are a lot of different opinions as to what items will be best for barter in a post-collapse world where the underground economy may be the only viable economy for the passing of goods and services. That said, consider this a starting point as you begin to acquire goods for barter.

In no particular order, consider accumulating some of the following items for barter purposes. And keep in mind that in a post-collapse world, the items do not necessarily have to be new, but simply serviceable.

    Water purification supplies including purification tabs and filters
    Hand tools including hatchets, saws, machetes and general fix-it tools
    Fire making supplies, including lighters, matches, flint fire steel
    Sanitary supplies including toilet paper, feminine products and diapers
    Disposable razors and razor blades
    Fuel, any and all kinds (gas, diesel, propane, kerosene)
    Prescription drugs, painkillers, and antibiotics
    First aid remedies such as cough syrup, cortisone cream, boil-ese, calamine lotion and topical pain relievers
    Spirits such as bourbon, rum, gin, and vodka
    Coffee and tea (instant coffee is okay)
    Solar battery charger and rechargeable batteries
    Standard Batteries
    Reading glasses
    Bags, including large garbage bags as well as smaller zip-close bags
    Plastic sheeting
    Duct tape
    Tie Wraps
    Heavy plastic sheets and tarps
    Toiletries including toothpaste, dental floss soaps, shampoo (tip: save those small sized toiletries that are provided by hotels and motels)
    Latex or Nitrile gloves in a variety of sizes
    Hard candy
    Fishing supplies
    Knives of various types including fixed blades, kitchen knives, and box cutters
    Condiments and Spices
    Paperback books on a variety of subjects
    Tobacco and cigarette rolling supplies
    Amusements such as playing cards, crossword puzzle books, Sudoku
    Pencils & paper
    Pepper spray
    Garden seeds
    Vinegar and baking soda to use in DIY cleaning supplies
    Empty spray bottles and squirt bottles
    Hand pumps for both air and liquids
    Mylar blankets and tents
    Hand warmers
    Sewing and mending supplies
    Knitting or crochet needles and yarn

One thing you will notice that I have not included firearms or ammo and for good reason. In a post-collapse society, you might not know your barter partners well and may run the risk that they will use these items against you so that they can steal the rest of your stuff. One person’s opinion, anyway.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Not Much Happening in the Economic World

After a couple months of not much happening in the economic world, it looks like the economy might be improving.  Or not.  Remembering that the all important numbers for our nation's economy are jobs and manufacturing, these will come out again on Friday (the 7th).

Meanwhile, I ran across a couple of good tidbits on how the global economy works that might be of interest.  Ugg, they are from the NY Times.   Well, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

First, showing the inter-connectivity of our economy with Japan and Europe, the economics blog from nov of 2011 has an article about the Euro-zone crisis. That article contains a link to a neat graphic showing which nations' banks are debtors to whom. Of course, they don't look at anything owed to China, and this seems to be banks that are independent of the US "sovereign" debt.

Something almost everyone seems to be ignoring is the decline in investing in the machinery of our economic engines.  The equipment and software that make our country run. This is a bad thing.  Without this investment, the US will ultimately deteriorate, no matter what any other numbers might pretend.  But, it is a deterioration that might be years from now. Or not, no one knows how long it will take to come home to roost. 

But ultimately, the worst sign of the times, from the economic world, is that the whole world looks at the US Treasury bond as a GOOD and safe investment. So much so that interest rates on the 10 year treasury bond have been under 2% for most of the past couple of years. Since a 4% growth is considered good, and 2% or less growth is considered poor or worse, it is pretty much elementary that the whole world's economy is going nowhere good for several years to come.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Interest Rate Primer

Interest Rate Primer

This is a Quick Primer On Interest Rates and how to read the medium to long term economic outlook for many countries by looking at them.

The first thing to look at when looking into interest rates for any particular country (or corporation, for that matter) is to look at their credit rating.  Unlike an individual credit rating, governments (sovereigns?) and corporations are rated by entities like Moody's and S&P. 

To get a feel for the general economic outlook for the world, look first at the counties that are rated highest.  Germany and the US are generally rated AAA or AA+.  These are good ratings.  The interest rate on their bonds over the next few years can tell if the country, and the world economy, is expected to do well. 

If countries with good ratings are paying 1% to 3% in interest, it is an indication that it is easy for them to sell their bonds, and that is the key to this whole puzzle. If it becomes more difficult for a particular bond to be sold, the interest rate on that bonds will go up.  If the smart money starts going into stocks, or gets invested somewhere else, there is less money available to buy their bonds, and the interest rates will go up.  Conversely, if the global market is expected to do poorly, with no growth (or even a recession), money will move to the safety of bond markets and governments will be required to pay less interest to sell their bonds. 

In general, the interest rates for the next few years on German and US bonds can be used as a rough guide to world economic growth for the next few years.  Subtract 1% from the interest rate and look at what is left.  In the case of US 2 and 5 year bonds, currently the result is a negative number. This tells me that the outlook for the next 5 years or so is a slight negative growth (We are currently moving into another recessionary dip). Note that I am talking about real growth, not what is advertized.  The difference should be obvious if you have read my previous economic articles.  The nation has been in a very slow downward trend since 2008.

In looking at countries with "less than good" credit, again, a higher interest rate indicates investors are less willing to buy the bonds.  This could be looked at as a reluctance because the investors are not certain the government will be able to repay the debts. This recently happened as Greece defaulted on its debts earlier this year, and has happened with smaller government bodies around the globe, from time to time. 

Returning to the situation in countries with good credit, one of the most obvious harbingers of a coming recession is what is called an inverse yield curve.  This is when the yield on long term bonds is less than on short term bonds.  In good times, investors will buy short term bonds, believing in a short time they will be able to move their money back out of the bond market into stocks and things that will make them more money. In bad times, they will seek long term bonds to keep their money safe until the recession is over.  More people buying long term bonds means their interest rates go down more than short term bonds, resulting in an inverse yield curve.

Looking at sudden movements or trends in the interest rates can reveal market trends before the more obvious indicators do.  In May, yield on the 2 year US bond went up, as the yield on the 10 year US bond went down.  This tells me that people are moving money from shorter term to longer term bonds, out beyond 5 years.  It tells me that we are moving towards a dip in the economic climate that will last beyond 5 years.

Now, all of these observations and forecasts are based on what other investors see.  I don't have a crystal ball to look through, but rather, I look at this through the eyes of other people, and they don't really know the future either.  They do, however, collectively, have a much greater insight into what is happening behind the scenes and around the world, in economics than I would have myself.  I just use this technique to distill their collective knowledge and vision into something a lay person like myself can use.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gun advice for the newbe -5

Follow up advise and re-considerations

Over the past couple of months I have had to do some reconsidering of the 9mm automatic vs the 357 revolver.  Also, it seems the prices have gone up in the past couple years, and you will need to budget an extra $100, unless you were just real fortunate, as I was, in finding good quality low cost firearms. 

One of the biggest re-considerations I had to make is in the area of economics and reliability.  Or economics of reliability.  While at the low end, where I live, a revolver is likely to cost about $100 more than an automatic, shooting a dozen rounds of a particular ammo through it is sufficient to say it is reliable.   Shooting 4 dozen rounds of a particular ammo through an automatic is also sufficient, if it never jams once.  I recently came across a troublesome gun and had to shoot off about 3 dozen rounds in the process of troubleshooting it and repairing it, and will now need to shoot 5 to 7 dozen rounds through it to prove its reliability. That is personal defense ammo, not practice ammo, so it will cost upwards of $70 to insure this firearm is reliable. 

Secondly, the revolver is much easier to clean.  No disassemble, just brush it out and oil it up.  Most automatics require disassemble for cleaning.  To a former military man as myself, this is second nature.  Not to most people.  Hence, the revolver is simpler to use and maintain. 

Between those two considerations, I now must favor the 357 for anyone who wouldn't normally have a gun but needs one now in these increasingly dangerous times.  Sure, it won't have the firepower and it isn't really a good carry gun, but if those are what you want, they come with a much higher budget.  These article are all about the minimalist gun in the home. 

The remainder of this article, while it may be of interest to others, is mainly aimed at new owners of 357 revolvers.

Over the past couple of years, there have been some improvements in ammo.   But to understand these improvements, you must first understand the relationships in energy, recoil, and shock.  As those things are somewhat beyond the scope of this article, I will try to give a very, very sketchy and brief overview of them.

If you want to skip this part, my former advise, of making a decision on a personal defense ammo that is within your budget and sticking with it, is still good.  But if you are thinking about a more effective line of ammo, here is a quick overview of the considerations. 

More velocity and more bullet weight (measured in grains) makes more effective ammo.  But increasing both will increase recoil dramatically.  Increasing velocity while maintaining same bullet weight increases effectiveness while increasing recoil proportionately.  But too much velocity (or too little, for that matter) means the bullet is more likely to pass right through the bad guy and take a lot of its energy with it.  Thus modern defense ammunitions use an "engineered" bullet that is almost guaranteed to expand to 40% or more over its original size, to insure it delivers maximum shock almost immediately on impact. 

Now there is no combination that performs best in every situation, and no ammo that is guaranteed to perform the best, so you may have to do some reasoning for yourself. How much recoil can you handle?  If you can handle 357 ammo, great.  But that puts you in about 20% of the population.  For the other 80% of us, after practicing with standard 38+P practice ammo (see note1)  for a while, make a decision, can you handle twice the recoil? If so, there are some light 357 loads that you might want to try.  (See Note2)  If not, go with a good 38+P personal defense ammo.  Hitting the target is much more important than what you shoot at it.

There are two tests to see if you are proficient at using your weapon and not going overboard on hot ammunition. 

Test number one I call Load, Roll and Shoot. In this simple test, load 4 or 5 rounds and leave one or two empty chambers.  Without looking at the weapon, roll the cylinder and close it, so you aren't sure where the empty chambers are.  While shooting, if the barrel jerks (usually down) when you click on an empty chamber, you are flinching as you shoot.

A second and more complex test, for proficiency, is to see if you can fire  5 bullets into a 5 inch circle at 5 yards in 5 seconds.  This is a scaled down version of a test created by a guy named  Richard Mann.  I read his article in a gun magazine.  The test is a good one.  He developed it for really well trained shooters drawing a subcompact pistol from a concealed holster.  Here, I recommend it, without the drawing from concealed holster and stuff, as a yardstick just to see if you can consider yourself basically proficient on your weapon. 

NOTE1:  For practice ammo, I use "Winchester White Box," sold under the name "USA" and I use JHP's, just because they are easy to find around here. They cost about $20 for a box of 50.  Because of the cost and the light recoil, this is what you should be firing most of the time.  This is also a reasonably effective defense round, should you decide to just go with one and only one type of ammo.  (Remember, this article is for those on a budget.)

NOTE2:  The following types of ammo should produce a recoil somewhere about halfway between a 38+P and  fully loaded 357 round.  They should each be about 50% more effective than what I used as my standard practice ammo.  I did a calculation (no particular units, just comparison) on what I expect the recoil to be for each of them, using the manufactures specifications.  For reference, I added practice ammo and full load 357 ammo afterwards. 

Remington Golden Saber     recoil=153    This is a fairly easy to find ammo

Winchester PDX1 Defender     recoil=166 

Buffalo Bore  38+P HeavyLoad   recoil=157  This ammo can be used in a 38, but I don't recommend it due to the excessive stress it would put on the weapon.  It is also hard to find, unless you order it. 

 Practice ammo  (Winchester White Box)    recoil=119

Full Load 357 ammo ranges from about 180 to around 200.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Oddsmaker's Outlook

So, Europe is looking like a slow motion train wreck.  The economic outlook on the continent as a whole is slowly growing dimmer, as half dozen of the weaker countries reject austerity measures.  They have declared they don't want to live within their means and the stronger countries are slowly getting weary of carrying their dead weight. This is a harbinger of the prophesy found in Daniel ch 2.

While the true "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" will not ride until after the Rapture (see note), foreshadowing events of their arrival seem certain to arrive before the Rapture, and very likely in the next couple of years. I said before that I would post a forecast of some of the disasters that might befall this world, and some details about them. So here are some odds, with short explanations of each type of event.

Currently Barrak Obama has about a 40% chance of being reelected.  There is better than a 50-50 chance that this would be followed by the Executive Branch of our government imposing draconian measure to stifle free speech and press, an immediate move to embrace Islam and persecute Christians, financial chaos, and movement towards a police state.  These items will be simultaneous to an uprising among various factions of the citizens.  Black "support groups" (such as the "New Black Panthers."  Self serving parasites, in reality,  using "Black Liberation" as an excuse for their dastardly plans) demanding a free lunch and an end to accountability for criminal actions.  Socialists (unions), anarchists, drug gangs (that is pretty much all major gangs today), and busy-body liberals (like the "occupy" movements) will all rise up trying to get their slice of the pie.  Until it all comes crashing down.

In 2014 and beyond, there is about a 10% chance a weather related phenomenon (like el Nino) will create havoc in the agricultural world and cause world wide famine. We are on the verge of that today, resulting from the weather disruptions of 2011. And even without some disaster, wheat has doubled in 7 years and because of the droughts last year cattle are up 30% this year, with no sign of any relief anywhere.

There is an ever increasing chance of pandemic.  This is because of transportation, the over use of antibiotics (giving rise to germs that don't respond to antibiotic treatment) and because of the introduction of various species into areas of the world where they had not been before.  Note that this pre-rapture pandemic will be of an ordinary nature, and normal measures taken by individuals and communities will be somewhat effective against it.

Each of the next 3 years, there is about a 3% chance that a major solar flare will impact earth, killing a major electrical power grid, and leaving millions of people without electrical power for weeks or even months.

There is a very likely chance that as the money flees European banks (this money flight is happening now, in slow motion) for the "safety" of eastern or US banks, the European Banking system, and indeed, the entire European Union may collapse into chaos. (again, this will be in accord with Daniel ch2) This may happen within the next year, and indeed, I'll be surprised if they last until Christmas.  If this follows the pattern many of us see in prophesy, the collapse will lead to the rise of a dictator that will bring order, by and Iron Fisted rule, to the European continent.

In each of the above scenarios, the Islamists will almost certainly rise up against Christendom, attacking governments, churches, civil infrastructure, and anybody who tells the truth about them. They will attempt to take advantage of a weak moment in history to bring in the new Caliphate and summon the 12th Imam (our Antichrist) to rule the world for their moon god (called Allah).

In each of the next several years, the odds the Rapture will occur in any particular year will rise, starting at about 4% for next year and increasing to about 10% per year by 2020.  While no man knows the day or the hour (or even the year), the season is upon us, and the Bible gives unmistakable signs that it is to happen soon. 

NOTE:  For years I struggle with the question of whether Revelation 4:1 represents the Rapture of The Church and that ALL events of chapters 5, 6, and 7 occur after the Rapture. Until recently, I was not completely certain, and searched the Scriptures, other writings, and looked into the original language wording of some of those passages.  Now I am certain the actual events described in those chapters will occur after the Rapture, however, I am also convinced there will be forerunners, a foreshadowing of those events, in the years leading up to the Rapture.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Coming Disaster - part-1

Will a world wide disaster destroy civilization? Or even a regional disaster destroy our nation? Will the end of the world come next December? Or TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it)? This is the first of a small series of articles I intend to write on the subject. The number of people preparing for TEOTWAWKI has risen dramatically in the past couple years, rivaling the Y2K scare. "Preppers" has become a regular show on TV in the past year, and even some of the warehouse stores are catering to the survivalist crowd.

A couple years ago, I made a general forecast of what disasters might befall this world, and came out with about 7% chance of some world changing event occurring in the following 12 months. I had intended to update that number the following year, but in truth there wasn't much change the year after, and it slipped my mind. Things have changed somewhat now, and I will make a similar forecast in the near future, but with a little more detail than the last one. But that doesn't mean I am not preparing. But I am not preparing for TEOTWAWKI. Those people are preparing for the end of the road. I am simply preparing for any sort of bump in the road.

God told the Church that He would spare them from the last hour of tribulation (and in truth, the idea that someone can prepare for that is laughable). But history shows that God will not spare His people from the little tribulations that occur along the way. In the past, there have been economic disasters, weather disasters, volcanoes, earthquakes, wars, famines, pandemics, and pestilences. In many cases, Christians (and Jews) did better than others, and in a few cases they fared worse. In Proverbs 6, the Bible tells us to "consider the ant" and in Luke 25:32-38 Jesus told His disciples that after He departed from them, to keep a sword and a purse (a weapon and money).

A couple days ago, the most important monthly economic factor came out. The monthly payroll report on how many jobs have been gained or lost in several areas of the economy. I look mostly at private sector jobs, and at manufacturing. This month, private sector added 130,000 after adding 166,000 last month. To break even, we need 200,000 each month, so this basically erased the gains we had made in some of the preceding months. In manufacturing, we need 20,000 a month to call it good news, and this month only got 16,000. With the exception of a few months here and there, when we buoyed up, the US and even the world economy have been slowly sinking. Oh, the numbers can be made to look good, especially for short periods of time, but the reality is that a few people at the top are getting richer, and most of us at the bottom are getting poorer. Some of it is a "great conspiracy" against us, but most of it is our own doing.

We the people spent, years ago, the money we need now, and we continue to spend more than we can afford. When I tell people what they actually need to do to get their financial house in order, they look at me like I am crazy and tell me "they deserve better." Well, maybe they do, but things are not getting any better, and in not too distant a future, their choices will be taken away from them. Still, the US economy is one of the most resilient in the world, with many layers of security and multiple safety nets and other safety mechanisms, so it is not likely to completely crash anytime soon. But in other places in the world, economic chaos is just around the corner.

Europe has likely already passed the tipping point, and there will be no rescue from a slow slide into disaster. Greece has already defaulted once, and may again. Spain, Portugal, Italy and possibly France may default sometime in the next couple of years. While a wholesale run on the banks is unlikely in Europe, a couple of small scale runs have already happened, removing more than a quarter of the deposits from banks in Greece, for instance. A repeat of that will likely happen in other countries, and each time it happens, it will require another bailout.

France and Greece just had elections. The people in those countries, asked to try to live within their means responded with a hearty "Hell No! Give us our freebies, consequences be damned!" They through out the governments that were trying to help them, and elected socialists. Things are not going to get better in Europe. Every time the Central Banks try to drag them back from the brink, it is harder to do, and has less of a lasting effect. As the situation worsens, one country after another will default on their debts, as Greece did, and people will pull their money out of that nation's banks ahead of such defaults. Where that money will go, I don't know.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gun advice for the newbe -4

Shotguns and Rifles

First, Shotguns

Some people will wonder why I wrote my first three articles almost entirely on handguns. What about using a shotgun for home defense? Well, mostly, I don't have much experience with shotguns, though I have some experience with rifles.

There are some things I do understand fairly well though, and I will go over them in this article.

Pro's and Con's

As a home defense weapon, the shotgun has some advantages, and some disadvantages.

In general shotgun more effective than a handgun, from 10ft up to, maybe, 100 feet. Closer than 10 feet, there is too much chance of the invader getting a hand on the barrel, which because of its length, makes a good handle for the bad guy to control the weapon's aim. Beyond about 100 feet, the shot tends to lose too much energy, and spread out too much. (And that is for a 12 gauge, for smaller shotguns, the distance is less, for a 410, it is about 60 feet.).

It takes about as much familiarization training, but only about half as much range time to be proficient with a shotgun. But, since most people think all you have to do is point and shoot, training tends to get even more neglected than it does with a handgun.


Use buckshot and buckshot only.

Oh, yes, I have heard it all. Rock salt. Bird Shot. Dimes. Slugs. The first three are too lite to be effective, and the last one is too hard to aim. For home defense use buckshot, and buckshot only. Pretty much any buckshot will do, though I prefer #4, since you get more pellets, and they are just heavy enough to do the job. You will want the hottest and heaviest load your gun will take (if you have a lightweight gun) and that you can handle (if you are not too big, yourself).

Now, if will you need to deal with snakes, small animals, game animals, you will need different loads. The lightest birdshot load (commonly used for trap and skeet shooting, aka clay pigeons) will deal with even a big snake. And from twice as far as the best snakeshot load in a handgun.


Just as with a hand gun, you need to handle this weapon every three days for a couple months to insure you are familiar with its operation and to get accustomed to the weight of it in your hands. You will need to make at least two trips to the range, to get accustomed to aiming it, and the recoil it creates, when fired.


Just as with a handgun, you will need a locked container or rack to store it. Everything else I said about handgun safety, prove if it is loaded or not, do not believe in trigger locks, store in a safe, etc, all apply to a shotgun.


Rifles are generally used for long distances and/or game bigger than a human. They are generally not used for home defense, though they can be. They have some of the same problems as a shotgun, requiring a larger storage container and having the problem that a bad guy within 10 feet has a possibility of getting an hand on the barrel. In addition, walls, with the exception of brick, offer little resistance to rifle bullets. Therefore bullets, even after passing through the bad guy, will likely penetrate the outside wall of the house.

Outdoors, things are different. If you have to defend a farm or ranch, or if you are hunting any kind of game, a rifle is definitely a good weapon to have. There is simply too much variety for me to cover everything in this area, so to learn more about rifles and rifle cartridges, I suggest starting with the following readings.

Rifle Cartridges - Reader's Choice
Bullet Guide 1
Rifle Cartridges

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gun advice for the newbe -3

Training and Storage and Carry

One of the most overlooked and a very important aspect of becoming armed is training. If you don't hit the bad guy, you generally won't stop the bad guy. Training is also important for safety. Each and every lesson, The First Step in picking up or handling a weapon is to determine if it is loaded.

I recommend a person new to shooting handle their weapon about once every 3 days for a month or so. Check to see if it is loaded, and look at how each of the components function. If you haven't already had some experience with guns, have someone you trust give you lessons. On an automatic, pick up and hold the weapon and operate the safety at least 300 times in the first few months you own it. Make it a habit to know what position the safety is in.

How you hold and grip the weapon is extremely important. Your finger should never be on the trigger, unless you are ready to shoot. Get in the habit of picking up the weapon with your finger along the side of the frame. Get in the habit of holding it with both hands. It takes about 300 repetitions to build a habit, so if you pick up and hold your weapon 5 times every 3 days, that will be about 300 times in about two months.

I also recommend you do not chamber a round in an auto, until you have taken it to the range at least once. Also, any round you chamber and then remove from the chamber is no longer fit to be considered for defense, but should be taken to the range next time you go and practice. Repeatedly chambering the same round will damage it. If you do not know where some good ranges are, this site might provide an answer.


Most ranges charge about $15 per person to shoot, and about $1 per target. There is a lot of variation from one range to another, so the price could be a little less, or could be double.

Your first goals at the range are to shoot enough ammo to insure the weapon works flawlessly, and enough to get the feel of the weapon's recoil. If you can choose your practice distance, practice at the longest distance you might shoot inside your house.

You don't have to be the most accurate shot in the world, but you should be able to hit the upper half of a man's chest (about an 8 inch target) reliably. Plan on shooting 50 to 100 rounds each time you go to the range.

A word here about the 357. Great gun, but the 357 personal defense ammo has a LOT of recoil, and I have seen 220 pound men in good physical shape have trouble with it. Also, the 357 ammo uses a slightly harder primer, so if you choose that ammo, you need to fire at least 50 to insure the weapon functions reliably. All in all, unless you are really serious, I don't recommend the 357 magnum ammo, even though I recommend the 357 gun.

On your second or third trips to the range, you may want to practice double tap (shooting the same target two or three times) and multiple engagements. The thing you want to prevent is seizing up even for a moment, or stopping to see the effect, after the first shot.

How much or how often you need to practice does depend on how much responsibility you have. Will your family, or even you neighbors be depending on you? If so, that means more training is in order.

SnapCaps are dummy bullets, designed to be placed in a gun while dry fired, or stacked with other ammo in a magazine, so as to simulate a misfire. Their primary use is to be used to prevent damage to the weapon when the weapon is dry fired during practice, but as so many weapons now (be certain to consult the manufacture's paperwork on this matter) can be dry fired without damage, the main use I have seen for these is to add one at random to the ammo the shooter is firing. This does two things. It reveals if the shooter is "flinching" when they pull the trigger (which will kill accuracy) and it allows the shooter to practice what to do in the case of a misfire.


Along with the importance of safety when handling a weapon is safe and secure storage. About the last thing you want is for that weapon to be used, in someone else's hand, to harm someone. Since 87% of burglaries happen when no one is home (see note below), if you own a gun, you simply must own a safe of some sort. The particular type or design isn't important, with one notable exception, and a couple of things that some people simply overlook.

First and foremost, do not use one of the small lock boxes that are designed expressly to keep documents safe in a fire. Besides the fact that these safes are not hard to pry open, they use an insulation that is impregnated with water, and tend to build up humidity inside.

Next most important is that the safe must be easy for you to open and difficult for a thief to either open or take with him. For this reason, I do not recommend trigger locks (gun can be taken somewhere and the lock removed), and I do not recommend dial locks (too hard to operate at night). And the safe (unless it is extraordinarily heavy) needs to be nailed or screwed down to prevent a thief from simply walking away with it. I also am not convinced of the reliability of biometric locks.

There are many good safes on the market, and many people have one already have one, so I won't go into much detail, but there are a couple things to remember. A safe loses about half its security if the thief already knows it is there when he enters a home, and many thieves have already been in the home they intend to steal from, though maybe no further inside than the front room (that magazine salesman who spent 20 minutes pitching to you last month, or that alarm company representative trying to tell you how bad crime is getting). So your safe shouldn't be visible to the casual visitor. Also, you should be able to open it and remove your gun quietly in the night. This means using sound deadening material on the safe walls and practicing a couple of times.

Carrying a weapon

While the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to possess and carry weapons, the governments in most cities and several states do not recognize the Constitution, and therefore it is imperative you learn the laws concerning carrying and even transporting a weapon in your location.

One good thing, though, has come from the fight between those who insist on following the Constitution and those who insist on depriving people of their liberty, and that is gun safety courses, usually in connection with getting a concealed carry permit. The most important things these courses teach are when to shoot, or not shoot, and the laws concerning deadly force in your location.

As I intend this article for those who have little or no prior training in firearms, I won't go into how to clear your house once an intruder has been inside. My primary advice is that if you don't have to, don't. Arm yourself, call 911, and then back off into a concealed position and wait it out. If the intruder grabs your TV and runs, let them go. A firearm is to defend your life, and generally not to defend your property.

While accidental shootings are fairly rare (see note below), absolute insistence on safety as a part of training is important, as zero is the only acceptable number of accidental shootings. That is why I stress the importance of verifying whether it is loaded when you pick it up, and locking it up when not needed.

Note: I ran across a good article discussing the myths promoted by the anti gun lobby. The Linkquotes below are from page 2 of that article.

"Then there is the argument that more private gun ownership will lead to more accidents because the average citizen isn’t sufficiently trained to use a weapon defensively. While gun accidents do occur, the Cato study indicates that they are the most overstated risks. There were 535 accidental firearms deaths in 2006 within a population of almost 300 million people. Although every lost life is tragic, the proportion is not particularly startling.

On the other hand, Newsweek has reported that law-abiding American citizens using guns in self-defense during 2003 shot and killed two and one-half times as many criminals as police did, and with fewer than one-fifth as many incidents as police where an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal (2% versus 11%).

Finally, on the subject of public safety, just how well have gun bans worked in other countries? Take the number of home break-ins while residents are present as an indication. In Canada and Britain, both with tough gun-control laws, nearly half of all burglaries occur when residents are present. But in the U.S. where many households are armed, only about 13% happen when someone is home."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gun advice for the newbe -2


There are several basic types of ammunition (ammo) for handguns. In fact, there is so many different kinds of ammo, by so many different manufactures, and each having people who swear by them, that it is a very complicated part of becoming armed. As I spent far too much time researching ammo, this article is designed to cut through all the BS and give the new shooter a basic knowledge of what he needs to feed his (or her) firearm. It should also help cut down the tendency to have a hodgepodge of ammo sitting next to the gun in the home.

For us, they can be divided into four major categories.

1. Practice ammo
2. Personal Defense ammo
3. Shot, for birds, snakes, or rats.
4. Exotic ammo

Then there are a couple categories for Rifles and Shotguns
5. Various Shotgun Shells
6. Hunting Rifle ammo
I may deal with these in a later article.

1. For practice ammo, cost is the main consideration. Generally many of us think of full metal jacket (FMJ) ammo, but I haven't found cheap FMJ ammo for the 38 or 357. There is also "Metal Case" or "Total Metal Jacket" ammo, as in the "Lawman" series of ammo. This is meant for indoor ranges, or any other range that is concerned with lead from regular ammo.

With the 38 or 357, (or pretty much any gun other than the 9mm for that matter) you will just have to make do with whatever you can find. Typically, Winchester White Box (WWB) 38+P Personal Defense ammo gives you the most for your money. I have seen this in both FMJ and JHP (personal defense), but the JHP is much more common. Generally I can find them in boxes of 50 for about $22. If you can find something in bulk from a well known manufacturer, and can pick up two or three hundred rounds, that would be better. If you decide you are really serious about learning, You could look into buying a case (a case is almost always 10 boxes) of ammo, which would save a few dollars, in the long run.

For the 9mm, it has the advantage of being the choice weapon of the US military, and many police departments. It is also the most popular caliber among all other shooters, all of which is to say a LOT of 9mm ammo is produced. Bulk packages of 100 ($24) and 250 ($59) rounds of 9mm FMJ ammo are commonly found in sporting goods stores and gun supply stores. Since most people (amateurs on a budget) shoot 60 to 100 rounds each time they go to the range, three trips to the range will require about 200 rounds.

2. Personal defense ammo.

By far, the most common form of personal defense ammo is some kind of jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammo, since the (typical or average) effectiveness of JHP ammo is about twice that of FMJ ammo. There are, however at least 20 different kinds of JHP ammo, and because of this, the bulk of my research time (way too much time) on guns and ammunition over the past two years has been investigating the various kinds of ammo, its cost and its effectiveness.

A good rule of thumb is: any good JHP ammo is good ammo, as long as it feeds and shoots reliably in your weapon. Really good ammo is marginally better (maybe 20% more effective) than middle of the road ammo, but might cost twice as much. And once you move beyond the average, there is all sorts of arguments as to what is the "best" personal defense ammo.

Now, a little about the names you will be hearing when reading here, or other places or discussing ammo with others.

For the powder charge, there are basically four levels of powder charge for a 38 or 357.
1. 38 Special - the lightest load.
2. 38 special +P or just 38+P is about 50% more powerful. This has been the most common load for 40 years.
3. 38+P+ somewhat more powerful than +P, but there is no exact standard. Usually about 20% more than +P. While this one will fit in a 38, firing it in a 38 may damage the weapon, therefore it is uncommon and you might never see it.
4. 357 Magnum is about 50% more powerful than 38+P. Since firing it from a 38 would seriously damage the weapon, it is about 1/4 inch longer than the 38 round, and therefore will not fit in the lighter weapon. (I highly recommend you read the section on training before buying 357 magnum ammo)

For the 9mm, the only two loads are standard and +P loads, +P having about 15% more power.

OK, so much for the powder charge, the other half of ammo is the bullet. As I have stated before, the JHP is the central figure here. The whole point of this is that they tend to spread out (expand) when they hit, making a 38 caliber round hit like a 45 caliber round, and tend to carry less energy when exiting out the back side of the target. Now, JHP's of 30 years ago were pretty much untested, and maybe they would expand, or maybe they wouldn't. Today's bullets expand much more reliably.

Bullet weight, measured in grains, is somewhat important, but only in that at the extremes it will reduce the effectiveness. In 38+P loads, 110 to 135 grain is common, and up to 148 grain acceptable. In 357 loads, the weight can rise to 158 grain. In 9mm (whether +P or not), 115 to 125 grain is common, with up to 147 grain acceptable. The heavier bullets perform a little better at longer ranges. Not usually an issue in home defense. Be aware they also kick a little harder.

There are a few good articles on the Web that discuss various personal defense ammo, here is one of the best. Mostly aimed at police or paramilitary, much of this article is not really of interest to the home defense crowd.

Before moving on to other types of ammo, just a few notes on types of ammo and some acronyms you might run across. Presented in somewhat of a logical order.

Historically the 38 Special Winchester USA 125gr +P Jacketed Hollow Point (aka, WWB) was, I think, one of the oldest of the "modern" ammo, some 70 years ago, designed as an upgrade to the rather anemic 38 Special with a solid lead bullet.

Guard Dog rounds are an Expanding Full Metal Jacket round, useful (only) in places where Hollow Point ammo has been declared illegal. Similar to a Jacketed Soft Point, which does basically the same thing.

Hydra-Shok was to be an improvement to standard JHP that would expand faster and further, but it didn't work as well as expected (worked well, just not as well as expected), possibly due to clothing or other barriers between the gun and the skin.

XTP and its cousin DPX are designed to penetrate deeper than standard JHP ammo.

Bonded rounds and "solid copper" rounds (which are still hollow point) removed the tendency for the brass jacket to shed as the bullet passes through a leather jacket.

Hornady Critical Defense added a soft plastic plug in the hollow point dramatically reducing the tendency clog with cloth as it passes through a jacket and then not expand. (Which doesn't happen very often with normal hollow points)

HST stands for Hydra-Shok Two or hi-shok-two and may be replacing the older Hydra-shok. HST's are the super expanding line of ammo. They usually expand to over double their original size. They are newer, and I haven't actually seen any performance tests yet.

All of these are considered top of the line right now, but it is easy to double the price of the ammo to get only marginal improvement: Remington Golden Saber, Speer Gold Dot, Federal HST, Winchester Ranger (PDX1), Hornady TAP/Critical Defense.

All of these rounds work well. Some better under certain circumstances, some better under other. I presented them in order, in which I would rate them, with some reservation, from least to best.

My advise is to find a brand and type you think will be happy with, shoot at least 100 rounds of it (or 20 rounds for a revolver) to insure it will fire reliably, and then stick with it, ignoring all those who will swear by some other ammo.

3. Shot, for birds, snakes, or rats.

Most calibers of handguns ammo can be gotten with a shot load. Whether called snakeshot, birdshot, or ratshot, it is pretty much the same thing. They use fairly small shot, and because the shot isn't very heavy, it won't penetrate more than an inch or two. That is fine for snakes, or rats, which generally have quite a bit to loose when shot with such a load. If you shoot a bad guy with ratshot, it will only make him mad.

Even when shooting snakes or rats with pistol loads, you have to be aware of its limitations. Standing a pistol shell next to a 20 gauge shotgun shell will provide an immediate contrast in size. Also, the rifling in the barrel, which makes a bullet fly straight, causes the shot load to spread out fast. About an inch or so for every foot. That limits the effective range of a 38 or 9mm shot shell to about 6 feet. Beyond that, most of the shot will miss the snake.

Also, be aware that, while an automatic might eject the shell from a shot-shell, it most certainly not feed them reliably, so don't mix shot and defense loads in any magazine. If you want to mix loads (something only for advanced shooters) that include shot shells, you need a revolver.

Most shot-shells are sold in boxes of ten. You need to shoot at least one or two, and keep the rest. You might want to find someone with the same caliber weapon and split a box.

4. Exotic ammo

There are several varieties of specialty or exotic ammo. I want to touch on a couple of the ones that might, at first, appeal to someone new to personal defense.

Limited Recoil or Controlled Recoil ammo is fairly similar to normal ammo, but with a lighter bullet than standard. In addition to not being very well suited to personal defense, it tends to not cycle an automatic hand gun reliably.

Frangible, prefragmented or safety slugs are made up of fragments basically glued together or in shot capsules that will remain intact until they strike an object, then they act like a shot-shell. Glaser is probably the most recognized name. They tend to be on the light side, 80 - 96 grains, and so may not be reliable in an automatic. In addition, they are less effective than a regular JHP round. Also, they cost $1.50 - $2 each, making it an expensive ammo that may not perform well.

Oddly, at least one manufacture of this kind of exotic ammo names and advertises its ammo in such a way as to make a beginner believe it is more effective than standard ammo. It is not. My best advice is: stay away from exotic ammo.

Something similar to ammo is the Snapcap. Snapcaps are not really ammo but are a training aid, and I'll deal with them under "training"

In Conclusion

You will generally need at least two kinds of ammo. Your practice ammo should be based almost entirely on cost per round. Buy enough for at least three trips to the range. Your primary defense ammo should be a trade off between cost and performance, but at least in the beginning, cost should be the main factor. Shoot at least a box of it through your gun to insure it works reliably in your particular gun. Then begin stocking up on it until your gut says you have enough. You may want to get some shot shells, if you live an an area where snakes or rats (and I mean the 2 pound variety, not mice) are frequent.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gun advice for the newbe -1

Choosing a hand gun

This article is a spinoff from an article I read, telling gun owners what kind of gun NOT to buy for a survival gun. It occurred to me that a great many well meaning, but naive, people might not have a gun at all. While the relative calm of the 19th and 20th centuries made this responsibility less obvious, the days are coming that we need to take this responsibility more seriously. In the fierce days ahead, not having a gun is going to become more and more irresponsible.

Note: Biblical Reference Luke 24:35-38 (Young's Literal Translation)
And he said to them, 'When I sent you without bag, and scrip, and sandals, did ye lack anything?' and they said, 'Nothing.' Then said he to them, 'But, now, he who is having a bag, let him take it up, and in like manner also a scrip; and he who is not having, let him sell his garment, and buy a sword, for I say to you, that yet this that hath been written it behoveth to be fulfilled in me: And with lawless ones he was reckoned, for also the things concerning me have an end.' And they said, 'Sir, lo, here are two swords;' and he said to them, 'It is sufficient.'

The original article that got me thinking on this subject is:
Five Guns Not to Buy as Survival Firearms Monday, April 4, 2011

But becoming responsibly armed is not just a matter of going out and getting a gun. I see it as a process of acquiring the weapon, ammunition, and the know how to use them safely and effectively. This series of articles won't tell you exactly what gun to buy, but will point out factors to narrow the search. You will still need to shop around, look at a lot of different models and see how they fit in your hand.

There are really four or five questions that need to be answered

Question 1 - What is your budget?

For this article, it is assumed you don't have thousands of extra dollars to invest in guns, so most of the focus is on getting effective weapons (and learning how to shoot them) for not too much money. So quite a bit of the following advise is economically driven. Still, you can count on the cost being a few hundred dollars, at best, and it will take about a year, or more, to accomplish what I am writing about.

The following process mirrors, somewhat, what myself and some of the people I know went through over the past few years, so it is mostly a baseline, and you might be able to do better.

As a baseline, a good automatic handgun will cost around $200 or more, and a good revolver will cost around $300 or so. You will be needing at least $100 worth of ammunition and will probably need to spend about $100 or so, on going to the range. If you opt for a concealed carry permit, expect that to cost more than another $100. So the very least you will need to budget is $500, and I recommend budgeting $800 to $1000.

Question 2 - What is your previous experience?

Some of this does depend on just how new you are to shooting. Never shot? Never played with BB guns? You might want to go through a couple of preliminary steps. Have someone you trust show you how to shoot. Mostly, you want them to show you how to handle the weapon, hold it, aim it etc. The correct grip is very important. You can use a borrowed 22 to go to the range for this, just buy a box of "standard velocity" 22 ammo. Or whatever ammo is recommended by whoever loaned you the gun. Ammo in this caliber only costs 3 to 5 cents a round, so a couple hundred rounds is not too hard on the budget.

Safety is always the most important thing, and anyone new to guns must be taught how to know if a gun is loaded, and how the safety works. The first thing you must do, any time you pick up a gun, or if a gun is handed to you, is determine if the gun is loaded. Always consider it loaded until proven otherwise.

Question 3 - Do you have good grip strength?

What kind of a gun you buy will, of a necessity, depend on how much grip strength you have. Automatics are almost always a better choice, as they carry more ammo, and cost less. But you have to have enough grip strength to chamber a round easily. I know at least three people who cannot easily chamber a round in an automatic pistol. For those who cannot easily chamber a round in an automatic, a revolver (or wheel gun) is the correct gun to buy.

There is also a matter of simplicity. For those who find an automatic too complicated, a revolver may be the answer, though I recommend finishing this article and getting some training on an auto before making that decision.

Question 4 - How big of a gun do you need?

I ask this somewhat rhetorically, as I only recommend a couple of different calibers. (Of course, there is frame size to consider, for those whose hand is either very small or very large. But I am not addressing that, here)

For those who choose an automatic, I recommend a 9mm. If you find a really good deal on a 380, 40S&W, or a 45, you could go with one of those, but ammo will cost more, and in the case of the 380, it isn't as effective a weapon, so more range time will be in order.

For those who need a revolver, my first choice is, without a doubt, the 357. There are a few reasons for this choice. First, it is a very common revolver, firing fairly common ammunition. Second, it can also fire 38+P ammunition, which is, in fact, the most common revolver ammunition. The 357 JHP is one of the most effective handgun cartridges normally available, rivaling, even, the 44 Magnum. The less powerful 38+P is still very effective, and easier to control. It is just about equal to a 9mm cartridge.

Again, if you get a really good deal, a 44 or 38 is acceptable, but will limit your ammunition choices, and your ammunition could be considerably more expensive.

A couple of articles illustrate why I insist that a person not buy an underpowered gun.

One, from Waco TX, is somewhat humorous (note that the first news story contains a factual error, as the man had a collapsed lung, therefore the shot was fairly square, not a "grazing" wound).
Net-News Story
Same story from TV station

Police said the 41-year-old man, whose name was not released, attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a .22 caliber rifle. Afterward he evidently changed his mind and drove himself to the fire station to request medical assistance. He suffered a collapse lung, but is expected to recover, police said.

Not Nearly So Nice Story don't read the full version of this one unless you have a strong stomach.
Sammie Foust had never fired a gun in her life. She aimed for the man's center of mass and pulled the trigger. It sounded like a little cap pistol. There was no recoil, no blood. She figured the gun had misfired.

The medical examiner concluded the first shot had entered his mouth, the second his heart, the third and fourth bullets his abdomen and groin. He had taken nearly an hour to bleed to death.

The results of shooting someone with a small caliber weapon are unpredictable. In all likelihood, the results will not be immediate. But they could still very easily bleed to death later. This is the intimidation factor of a small caliber weapon, that the person will suffer serious injury and might die.

But there is a vast difference between what a robber might use to intimidate someone he doesn't think will be armed, and what a person should use to defend his or her home. The first one chooses to intimidate, the second has little choice, but to fight.

When faced with a situation where you must fight, your objective isn't that, sometime later, they might die. The objective is that they will immediately not be able to carry through with the attack.

Barrel length issues.

The length of the barrel in a handgun is quite important. Shorter barrel length might make it easier to conceal, if that should ever become an objective, but a shorter barrel length will work against you in many other ways. It generally takes between 2 and 3 inches of barrel length before the powder charge is completely burned. After that, while the gasses in the barrel are getting cooler and losing pressure, the bullet is gaining energy. So a shorter barrel means more flash and a louder bang, but a less effective bullet. And the flash and bang usually work against the shooter, making follow up shots less effective and harder to aim. As the barrel length drops below 3 inches, the powder charge doesn't complete burning, so this effect is exaggerated.

Over the past several years, substantial number of tests on compact pistols of interest have been done. Some of the results are here.

One note stands out. For the 38 snubby, "There seems to be no JHP bullet cartridge that is capable of providing a reasonable balance of adequate penetration and reliable expansion. " This is with a 2 inch barrel. It puts the 38 snubby in the same category as the 22. As in, not appropriate for home defense.

As the barrel gets longer, not only does the bullet become more effective, but it gets easier to aim the weapon accurately. Somewhere, out beyond 4 inches, takes longer to aim the weapon because the weight of the barrel slows down how fast you can bring it to aiming point, but the trade off is accuracy to a greater distance, though this is not usually an issue with home defense.

Therefore it is best to look for a weapon with a barrel between 3 and 5 inches in length.

Conclusion and afterward.

So, here, we have covered the first four basic questions that need to be answered before buying a gun, and took a brief look at one issue that isn't really a question. The next article will be about storage, carry, and about types of ammunition. Followed by one on shotguns and rifles, where we will be looking at another question or two. And lastly one about training

Sunday, March 11, 2012

General Update

There isn't much to report this month in economics. Things are going much the same as they were last month. Slow growth in the economy, in all sectors of the US economy. But the government continues to spend like a drunken sailor on shore leave and both the government and the people are sliding further into debt, keeping us on a course to follow Greece into financial meltdown in a few years.

In spite of all the liberals have done, the economy is gaining, even if it is at a snails pace (200,000 is neutral).

Payrolls in U.S. Climb 227,000
Employers in the U.S. boosted payrolls more than forecast in February, capping the best six- month streak of job growth since 2006 and sending stocks higher.

The 227,000 increase followed a revised 284,000 gain in January that was bigger than first estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington.

The following, also, is actually good news for our economy.
The participation rate, which indicates the share of working-age people in the labor force, rose to 63.9 percent from 63.7 percent.

Private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, rose 233,000 in February after a revised gain of 285,000 the prior month that made it the biggest increase since February 2006. They were projected to climb by 225,000. Manufacturing payrolls increased by 31,000 after a revised 52,000 gain.

Still, at this rate, it will take something over 10 years to fully recover our employment, and 10 years will not make a scratch on our debts.

Moody's has cut Greece's credit rating again, citing a risk of default despite a recent debt write-off deal. Moody's cut Greece's rating to "C" from "Ca", the lowest level on its scale. The firm said on Friday: "Today's rating decision was prompted by the recently announced debt exchange proposals for Greece, which imply expected losses to investors in excess of 70%."

I will have an article on Smartcards and Biometrics in a few more days. This took longer to research and, while I did learn quite a bit, I have less to report than I expected.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Economy Getting Better - Maybe

OK, so the economy is getting better. Maybe.

We added 243,000 jobs last month, and 50,000 of those were in manufacturing. Those are both very good good numbers. Especially after a gain of 220,000 the month before.

But we need many months in a row of that to really begin turning around. And, in fact, about 20 years like that to get back on top of things. That is not likely to happen. In fact, it is not going to happen. Don't expect our nation to ever live on easy street like we did in the 80's and 90's. Never again. It just isn't going to happen. Of course, there is still room for some of us to make good money and live comfortably, but that is an article for another day.

The situation with Greece (and Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland) isn't crashing down around us. Yet. And in fact, they seem to be real good at putting off real progress or real disaster. Just kicking the can down the road some more. I guess they have been kicking the can down the road for many years. It looks now like they can keep doing it for several more months.

It is looking like those who purchased treasuries from the Greek government will only get back about 1/3 of what they loaned that country. An article back in late Oct said they were willing to take 1/2 but everyone kept stalling. And they are still stalling.

Until this all comes to a head, no real progress can be made in the world economy. No progress either towards gain, or towards disaster. Just stagnant.

Still, this does give us a breather. Maybe.

Related Links.

The gains in employment were broad-based, including manufacturing, construction, temporary help agencies, accounting firms, restaurants and retailers. The number of industries showing job gains climbed to 64.1 in January from 62.4 a month earlier.
Factory workers put in an average 41.9 hours of work each week, the most since January 1998, while overtime hours climbed to the highest since March 2007. Manufacturing payrolls increased by 50,000 in January, the most in a year.
Private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, rose 257,000 in January after a revised gain of 220,000 the prior month, marking the biggest back-to-back gain since March-April. It was projected to climb by 160,000.
The so-called underemployment rate -- which includes part- time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want work but have given up looking -- decreased to 15.1 percent from 15.2 percent.

European leaders cajoled bondholders into accepting 50 percent writedowns on Greek debt and boosted their rescue fund’s capacity to 1 trillion euros ($1.4 trillion) in a crisis-fighting package intended to shield the euro area.
The 17-nation euro and stocks climbed while bond spreads narrowed after leaders emerged early today from a 10-hour summit in Brussels armed with a plan they said points the way out of the quagmire, albeit with some details still to be ironed out.

Look at link vs title
U.S. Stocks Advance on Italian Optimism
By Rita Nazareth - Nov 15, 2011
“It was good to hear about retail sales,” Randy Bateman, chief investment officer of Huntington Asset Management in Columbus, Ohio, said in a telephone interview. His firm oversees $14.5 billion. “People are getting tired of hearing about Europe. They are trying to resolve their issues. With Mario, Italy has an economist. Europe will muddle through.”
Equities recovered as Monti, an economist and former adviser to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said he’s “convinced” that the country can overcome the current crisis as he prepares to meet with President Giorgio Napolitano tomorrow to present his new government. Stocks had fallen earlier after Spain’s borrowing costs rose at an auction. Italian 10-year yields topped 7 percent and rates on French, Belgian, Spanish and Austrian debt rose to euro-era records above German bunds.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Word is a light for my path

Many of us have seen a big ole 4 battery flashlight. The aluminum ones that were the mainstay of civil service workers and police for 40 years.

They are powerful, reliable, and last a long time.

The Scriptures are much like that big ole 4 battery flashlight. And like that big ole 4 battery flashlight, there are three things the Scriptures can be used for.

If someone pops off a verse to scold someone, that is like hitting someone over the head with that big ole 4 battery flashlight. It can be effective, but it isn't what they were designed for.

If someone pops off verses from time to time to tell others what they should think of the Bible or God, it is like shining that big ole 4 battery flashlight in people's eyes. They may see the light, but it isn't what they were designed for.

If someone shines the light down the path, they can tell a person where the path is. It can keep people on the right path.

Or, if someone has the light in their own hands, they can shine it on the path themselves (though someone may have to initially show them how to operate it, where the batteries are and the switch).

They can use the light themselves to light the path. It can keep them on the path, and keep them from harm. In their hands, it can be used for defense, for illumination, and for guidance.

That is what the Scriptures were designed for. For each of us to hold, to light the path, to give us illumination, and to keep us from harm.

But we have to grasp them, use them, and wield them our own selves.

The Scriptures are powerful, reliable, and they last a long time.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalms 119:105

It is appointed unto man (mankind) once to die, and after that the judgment. Will you stand before God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, or stand before him in your sin? This is the all important question.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Passwords Hacking and Encryption

I studied encryption in the late 90's and some into the 21st century. I haven't made much mention of it here, despite the word "crypt" showing up in the title of this blog.

But with the recent hacking of the Zappos section of Amazon, I thought I would put a few comments about passwords and encryption in here. This is the first of about 4 to 6 articles I plan to write on the subject.

I would have thought the handling of passwords in the commercial world would improve over time, but alas, there is no profit incentive for things to improve. And, in fact, there is some cost involved, so it seems that most passwords today are handled in much the same way they were 10 years ago.

A little bit of history.

The first encrypted password storage system that I am aware of was crypt3. This system, while merely designed to prevent the local unassisted hacker from gaining access to passwords on a system, was very advanced for its day. The password was salted, that is, a random number was added to the end of the password. Then it was put through a fairly complex encryption formula and the result was stored, along with the salt. When you logged in, the salt was read and added to what you typed and then it was encrypted and compared with the stored value. In addition to a fairly complex encryption formula that ate up some time to compute, the salt insured (at the time) no one would build a dictionary of words and their stored values.

Earlier versions of network long on systems used a simpler formula and no salt, leaving them more vulnerable. To counter that, system administrators began insisting their users use more complex passwords.

Ideas were put forth on how to make the passwords stronger by using very sophisticated salting techniques (called stretching and strengthening), and I have seen systems that use such techniques.

I haven't studied, in detail, the current state of the systems that are in use, but I can tell you that the system of stretching and strengthening passwords that I studied 10 years ago is still considered good. And I can tell you it is not widely used. This is a sad commentary on how commerce will use a quick and dirty system rather than a good one.

So, how does this impact us today?

When a website gets hacked, the hackers often try to get a copy of the password database. This was one of the things done when Zappos website was hacked. Then they will proceed to try every conceivable password (and today, this will include foreign languages and such things as "LEET" alphabets) in an attempt at gaining access to the accounts where they may order products, change addresses, or create some other chaos.

With the current system, weak passwords will fall very quickly (even instantly) and even those with modest strength can be cracked very quickly. To resist this attack, a password must be extraordinarily long and complex. Current guidelines to government computer users who don't have "smart card" access is 14 characters, with lots of things like numbers and punctuation included. And don't use the same password for any two systems. And they want to change them every few months. This, of course, leads to writing down passwords or other such things the system administrators don't like.

In the past passwords could be tried at a rate of millions per day. Today, but using cloud computing to imitate a supercomputer, that has become billions per day.

In the past, I told people to use a secret word and either a word or some letters related to the website they are logging into. This is still good enough for things like leaving comments on product reviews or newspaper forums, but with some hackers using cloud computing to imitate a supercomputer, the threat has become much greater when there is money involved.

What can the common user do?

Well, for those of us unfortunate to not have "smart card" access, but fortunate enough not to have to deal with government administrators (or those who were trained by government), those of us who live in the real world, there is hope.

Two things provide hope for real world passwords. First is the reality that the hackers will not expend a huge amount of resources to crack every last password from a database they acquired. This isn't about national secrets, and the particular hackers we are worried about aren't in this for much more than either a quick thrill or money. So, the effort to crack passwords will be practical.

They will attack the easiest ones, and probably crack most of them. But if there are a few that stand up to that attack, they don't know if a sustained attack will yield any further results. So, at some practical point, they will give up. The bad news for people in general, is that the attack is likely to yield more than 98% of the passwords, as most will not take that much effort. But the good news for us is that it is not too hard to be in the other 2%.

In reality, most people will have to defend against two separate threats. Those threats are "shoulder surfing" and hackers. The shoulder surfer is the person who, simply observes you typing in your password and writes it down. In reality, the more common threat is they find where you wrote it down, and copy it. The hackers most of us have to contend with are very remote from us. Nigeria, China and Russia are the places that come to mind, though in reality, they are in every country in the world. But, chances are, they don't have access to your physical area. On the other hand, commercial hackers, driven by greed, have vast computer resources at their disposal.

To defend against two threats, I suggest a three step approach. To contend with the vast computational resources, create a sting of numbers and letters. These can be too long to memorize, but you can write them down (preferably were your web cam cannot clearly see them, just in case one of your videos goes "viral"). An example would be "7tPwa5" which is 6 characters long and includes upper case, lower case, and numbers. I don't include punctuation, since some sites don't allow that.

Next, you need to take care of the requirement to use a different password for each web site. I suggest, for each website, use a couple letters or a letter and number that you can easily associate with the site. For Zappos, for instance "Zs" (first and last letters) or for Amazon, you could use A6 (there are six letters in Amazon). Keep this pretty consistent, so you will remember what the method is.

Finally create a secret word. This is the only part of your password that will change from time to time, and is your primary defense against the shoulder surfer.

To put them together, use your two letter site designator, followed by the random string of numbers and letters. This would make Amazon "A67Pwa5" for the first 8 characters. Then follow that with your secret word. If "Grinch" is your secret word, that would make the result in a password of "A67Pwa5Grinch" which is 14 characters long.

You may want to change that last part from time to time, if you think someone has figured out what your secret word is, but there is generally no reason to change the rest of the process, unless you know a complete copy of one or more of your passwords has been compromised and is available to hackers.

The methodology here may not work on many networks as many log-on programs in use defeat their own security by keeping a copy (theoretically encrypted) of your older passwords, and on the periodically required password change, will flag that you are reusing some part of your old password. While this keeping of old passwords is self defeating, it provides a lot of self aggrandizement for network administrators who think they are doing more than the next guy.

Also, some government network log-on's will flag portions of the password that appear to be a dictionary word. Fortunately, most of these networks already use smart card log-on so none of this article applies.

Links and further information.

hacking of the Zappos

In today's Internet driven world, all of us use one or other applications starting from browsers, mail clients to instant messengers. Most of these applications store the sensitive information such as user name, password in their private location using proprietary methods. This prevents hassle of entering the credentials every time during the authentication.

However it is important to know that this secret information if landed in other person's hands either accidentally or by destiny then it can easily put your privacy at risk. Some applications take utmost care to secure these sensitive information from prying eyes. But most applications use simple methods or rather obscure methods to store the credentials which can easily put your privacy in jeopardy as any spyware on your system can easily uncover these secrets. Also it is equally true with any one who has access to your system.

. . .

Here are the highlights of top features of ThunderbirdPassDecryptor which makes it stand apart from other similar tools including commercial ones.
Instantly decrypt and recover the stored encrypted mail account passwords from 'Thunderbird Password Store'
Supports recovery of passwords from local system as well as remote system. User can specify Thunderbird profile location from the remote system to recover the passwords.
It can recover passwords from 'Thunderbird Password Store' even when it is protected with master password. In such case user have to enter the correct master password to successfully decrypt the mail account passwords.
If you have set the master password for your Thunderbird, then you need to enter the same in the 'master password box'.

Passwords with simple character substitution are weak
and this includes hackerspeak like LEET

The fact that cloud computing can be used is found in many articles, as below, but the conclusions of most of the articles are completely wrong.

"I think that cloud cracking can be useful in the future because of its massive parallel nature. You can start a 100 node cracking cluster with just a few clicks," Roth told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

Next time: smart cards and biometrics