I get this question a lot from friends that were brought up in cities or larger towns where you don’t find as many gun owners. “What gun should I buy?” My friends who ask me this usually did not grow up around guns, their parents didn’t own guns, and they’re new to the concept of owning a firearm. A lot of folks who didn’t learn about firearms when they were young now see them as mysterious and a little scary and dangerous.
Me, I was raised in a very small town that backed up to a state forest so pretty much every family had at least a couple of guns. I recall sitting at my kitchen table eating breakfast and hearing gunshots from hunters who were clearly not very far away. I never thought this was unusual nor was it any reason for alarm. I simply wondered if someone had just nailed a large buck or was just shooting at cans out in a nearby field.
And so it is that my friends who are less acquainted with firearms come to ask me my advice. It’s a weighty question and one that I could drone on and on about forever but here I’ll try to be reasonable.*
“Why do you want to buy a gun?” is the first question I ask in return. Why? Are you suddenly taking up hunting or target shooting? Unlikely. Almost every time the answer is, “For home defense.” Excellent. Let’s just be clear about the reason you want to buy a gun. There are lots of great guns out there. Reliable, accurate, etc… but they fall into many different categories and are not all, or even mostly, the right choice for home defense. (Although I will say having any gun is better than having no gun at all)
So first off, before you get a gun, Get A Dog. Yup, when you’re considering general home security there’s nothing like a big angry growling dog to let any visitor with less than pure intentions know they’ve got the Wrong House. No permits required**. A good guard dog will keep badguys away so there is less likelihood of a confrontation or potentially dangerous situation happening at all. For everyday security for my family, I’ll go with a good strong working dog every time.
Still, a dog doesn’t fit everyone’s lifestyle and the need to have a firearm and to be well trained on how to use one safely is important. Now I’ve been shooting for a long time and own a variety of firearms but if I were to do it all over again my first purchase would be a 12 gauge shotgun. There are lots of great makes and models out there but personally I prefer a nice reliable pump gun. Something like the Mossberg 500 Thunder Ranch would be top of my list today. You can check it out here. More inexperienced folks may question the choice of a scatter gun as a first purchase but to me it’s a no-brainer. The shotgun is reliable, easy to point and shoot, offers a wide range of options for ammunition, and is intimidating as hell. The sound of a shotgun shell being racked into the chamber is universally terrifying and will hopefully have the badguys retreating before you’re forced to fire a single shot.
Next on my list would be a good high quality revolver. This is the one piece of advice I give that brings out the most immediate protests. It seems these days everyone wants to start out with a semi-auto, which they view as “cooler” and they’re disappointed by the fact that a good revolver is really the smarter choice and therefore should be their first purchase. To me it’s clear that for a first handgun purchase by an inexperienced shooter the revolver is superior. In my opinion they’re generally easier to operate, more reliable, and less likely to jam up. Have a problem with one round and the gun doesn’t fire? Just squeeze the trigger again. This is much simpler for the average person than trying to operate an automatic that has a malfunction.
While I’m partial to the Colt King Cobra, which fires both .357 magnum rounds as well as .38 special, there are some great new products that are currently tempting me. Chief among them would have to be the Taurus Judge. You can check them out here. The Judge is a medium frame revolver that is capable of chambering Both .410 shotshells as well as .45 Colt ammunition. You can even mix and match both types of ammo in the same cylinder allowing you to fire a couple rounds of buckshot followed up by a few rounds of Colt 45. A great self defense weapon made even more effective by some of the new self defense loads by Winchester that fire special “self defense discs” mixed with plated BBs.
If/when you’re ready to move up to an automatic there are a ton of great choices out there. Personally I like the Beretta PX4 Storm in 9mm. I find it to be reliable, accurate, and just plain fun to shoot. I also like the 9mm round in general. I’m trying hard to keep all of my firearms in just a few easy to find and inexpensive calibers. .22 Long Rifle, 9mm, and 12 gauge are all very common and even in tough times there should be a decent supply of them around. This is probably the biggest reason I haven’t purchased the Taurus Judge yet. I’m shying away a bit because once I buy it I’ll have to stock up on two additional calibers of bullets. I’m trying to keep it simple here so probably my next purchase will be a second PX4. Having two of the same guns is nice because in addition to sharing the same ammo, the magazines are interchangeable and if one happens to break you can always use it for spare parts to keep the other one up and running.
Once you’ve got your shotgun and a pistol or two you’re going to be in the market for a rifle. This is Prudent, Reasonable Emergency Preparedness, so I don’t recommend running out to get an AR-15 style battle rifle in a heavy caliber. I do, however, like several of the rifles in .22 Long Rifle, another very common and extremely inexpensive ammunition. I recently purchased 1,000 rounds of high velocity hollow point .22 ammo from AmmunitionToGo.com for just under $60 including tax! One of the ways I think about a gun purchase is to take the price of the firearm and add the cost of 1,000 rounds of ammunition. After all, one is no good without the other and you need to regularly practice with your weapons to remain safe and proficient with them. Keeping enough .223 or .308 ammo around for this can be quite costly. Meanwhile I’m out blasting away with my little .22 every weekend and knowing that I can make a bull’s-eye from 100 yards with almost every shot. Sure, many people will say there’s just not enough (or hardly any) stopping power with a .22 and those people would be right but I’m thinking more about taking down small game than anything else. For rifles in this category I like the Volquartsen line, a link to which can be found on our site. They’re a little pricey but super cool and accurate. I also like the little Henry U.S. Survival Rifle. This is a neat little gun that comes apart into three pieces all of which fit inside the butt stock. The whole thing weighs about two pounds, assembles in under a minute, and puts out pretty accurate shots at decent distances. It’s the perfect gun to have in a backpack to take along with you on a camping trip or if you ever had to actually Bug-Out.
If you feel like you absolutely need a heavy caliber rifle around for a more serious emergency situation or because you live in an area where there may be larger game to hunt or even bears to defend against then I recommend the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle. You can take a look at it here. It’s reasonably priced, accurate, and fires a very nice .308 caliber round. There are also a lot of options in AR-15 style rifles that are extremely popular these days I just haven’t moved in that direction yet. I think Thoreau may know quite a bit about them though. We’ll all have to look for posts from him on the topic in the future.
*Expect more articles on this topic in the future from me though…
** Okay fine, you need a dog license and a rabies vaccine. Man, our readers are tough….