Thursday, September 01, 2005

First Guns

John posted this:
I need to buy a gun and to learn how to use it.

Anarchy is a heartbeat away from civilization.
Yup. For gun nuts like me this is not a surprise. Go on any firearms forum and you will see discussions about what happens when shit hits the fan (SHTF). To some extent these sorts of things are just paranoid navel contemplation, however the LA Riots or post-Katrina New Orleans show that they can happen.

If you are worried and want a gun in your house here are my suggestions:
  • Don't buy a handgun.
  • Don't buy a hunting rifle.
  • Pump shotguns are good choices.
  • Intermediate caliber rifles are also good choices.
  • Pistol calibers carbines are great.
But Jeff, don't you own handguns? Sure I do, but I also train with them on a regular basis. Do you plan on doing that?

In many ways, handguns are the crappiest guns ever. They require complex motor skills that must be regularly refreshed through training. If you don't shoot regularly you will be a horrible shot. (This explains why cops can't shoot very well, they only train once a year.) They are also the weakest weapons in the world o' firepower. A handgun is what you use to shoot your way to something better. Their only advantage is portability. Practice ammo tends to be cheap, but you should load more expensive hollowpoints (and test them for reliability) when you intend to stop people instead of paper. But yes, pistols are better than throwing rocks.

Hunting rifles have lots of power right? Yes, but in some ways too much. With these you are generally talking about more power than you need with less capacity than you want. Typical hunting rifles are bolt guns in larger rifle rounds like .30-06, .270, or .308. Bolt actions tend to be slow although accurate and powerful at range. But are you really going to be shooting people at over a hundred yards? Not likely. Lever guns are faster with shorter range and are probably a better choice than bolts. Some hunting calibers, like .30-30, are also ridiculously expensive because the typical hunter only fires a few rounds a year. You want a reasonable supply of ammo, at least a hundred rounds, so cheaper is better.

Pump shotguns are cheap, but not in the "shoddy" sense. Shotguns require some training, mostly because you need to learn to handle the recoil. The training itself can be pretty fun. Go skeet or trap shooting. Trust me, you'll love it. Get a model with a long barrel for hunting and fun, and a short riot barrel for menacing two-legged animals alone or in groups. Make sure the short barrel is not rifled for slugs, that will ruin its pattern with shot. Buckshot and Slugs (the people stoppers) can be expensive but a little goes a long way. My Mossberg 590 fits this bill. The Maverick 88 is the bargain model made by the same company if money is tight.

Intermediate rifles could be expensive like the AR, cheaper like the AK47, or very inexpensive like the SKS. The AR-15 is one of the best guns in this class and widely available, but it is also expensive. Those on a budget can purchase a surplus SKS for between $100 and $200. It takes 7.62x39mm, which is the same round as the AK47 and the ammo is insanely cheap because the Russians export tons of it. The SKS is reliable and somewhat modifiable. They require a little training, but not that much. The only disadvantage for this class of weapons is that some states like California won't let you have them.

In WWII, the Army realized that pistols suck and big rifles are unnecessary for most jobs. Does that sound familiar to my advice? It should. Their answer was the M1 carbine. I own one of these too. Similar pistol caliber carbines have also been made by Ruger, Marlin, Keltec, and others. Marlin, Winchester, and Rossi also make pistol caliber lever actions which will fit the bill at lower cost. None of these guns are evil or black, but this means they also aren't heavily regulated. They have very little recoil, point naturally, and pack a bigger punch than a standard pistol because they have longer barrels. Their ammunition (and even their magazines) may be interchangeable with your pistols.

So there you go. Buy a good shotgun or a good little rifle and learn to shoot it. Keep an emergency supply of ammo at the house. Lock the thing up properly so your kids can't get at it. If you want to spend more money buy another good shotgun or a good little rifle for your wife. Be careful these these things get addictive.

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