Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How many guns does a person need?

Ah, the question. It's come up indirectly a few times recently as I've talked to people that I know, and it's a good question, seeing as how not all guns are created equal. Let's face it, aside from sending lead downrange, there are differences in size, power, magazine capacity and action type as well as intended purposes for which they were designed. I mean, I love my M60 and consider it a great tool, but it's not exactly concealable, nor is it precise enough to use for long-distance game harvesting. Truth be told, it's really only good for denying people access to select terrain on defense or on the advance, keeping their heads down while flanking riflemen advance. Otherwise, it's not terribly handy other than at machine gun shoots and trips to the range when I feel the need to show off. The same can be said for most automatic weapons and other firearms like the .50 BMG rifles.

For regular use though--hunting and self-defense in typically expected situations--most of the experts out there recommend that each gun owner have a basic battery of four guns: A shotgun, a pistol, a centerfire rifle and a .22. I confess to having a tad more than four guns here at the Lair but that's only because I'm indecisive and can't pick just four. I agree with the logic, however, because that four-gun battery can enable the shooter to do most anything from harvesting game of all sorts to managing his/her defense in both close-in and long-range situations.

So let's look at a few choices here.

Pistols. Pistols are great. Everyone should have one, I think, except for felons, the mentally ill, and people who insist on voting for Obama the second time around. (But I repeat myself.) While not the best choice for hunting and generally not phenomenal man-stoppers, they're concealable, quick to bring into action and a great alternative to screaming "please don't attack me!" The caliber choice in pistols is enormous, ranging from the silly and ridiculous on the small end, right on up through a range of excellent choices, and reaching right back to silly and/or ridiculous on the heavy end of the spectrum. .22short or .25ACP as a defensive arm? Well it beats nothing, but not by much. And .454 Casull or .50AE are just too big and recoil too fiercely for most shooters to try to pack for protection when going downtown for a show. But that range between .380 (arguably) and .357 Magnum is going to work pretty good for most people. I usually always have something along those lines on me when I'm out and about, and at home, one of them will be used to fight my way to the gun safe where the rifles are when things go "bump" in the night. Any and every gun owner serious about defending him/herself and/or their loved ones should have a pistol and become proficient with it. Ideally they'll have a well-made one in a caliber that's common and easy to obtain in emergencies. I love my .41 Magnum but the local gun shop doesn't stock rounds for it on a good day so it's probably not the best thing for me to rely on in a crisis.

Shotguns. Mas Ayoob likens the defensive shotgun to artillery: they put a lot of firepower into a pre-designated area, and as defensive tools, they're hard to beat. They also have the advantage of being able to fire shot of all sizes, from #8 birdshot to 1oz slugs. As a game-getter, few things beat the shotgun for putting meat on the table, be it bird or beast. In a survival situation, this could mean the difference between making it through the winter or starving to death. The versatility of this firearm is unmatched and no home should be without one, particularly in rural areas.

Rifles: Way back to the days of the early Americans, it was envisioned that every man have a rifle, both for hunting and military use if need be. Back then it was the muzzle-loader but today the choices are pretty much endless. I recommend sticking to military calibers as they are the easiest to come by, and a proven semi-automatic platform will make more sense as a fighting rifle than that bolt-action rifle that you got on sale at Wal-Mart. Yes, that Remington Model 700 is a nice rifle, but it was intended for the fellow who plans to shoot a box or two of ammo all year, not the guy sending rounds downrange until the finish cooks off of the barrel. The AR-15 is probably top dog today in the lighter fighting rifle category due to it's size, reliability, and commonality, but those preferring a bit more range and punch have many rifles to choose from in calibers like 7.62x51 (.308) or even .30-06. Yep, that old M-1 Garand, if properly maintained, will still serve a shooter well today as a defensive arm and a harvester of large game.

And then there's the "lowly" .22 rifle. Some armchair commandos mock the idea, but the little .22 has it role, too. It'll take rabbits, squirrel and similar small game animals without destroying the meant and/or telling everyone for five miles that you're there, and it's a great training tool that you can use to brush up on your marksmanship or teach others the fundamentals. There's really no excuse not to have one around, and in a survival situation, a good one will be worth its weight in gold.

Now with those basics set out, people can, will and have argued ad infinitum about which ones are "the best". If not for choices and differing opinions, most gun magazines would have nothing to produce articles about. I won't even try to to tell you what you should have, but I'll explain my own choices and recommend that if you haven't made your own selections yet, that you do your homework and make some informed choices based on what works best for you.

Pistol-wise, I'm happiest with my Model 1911 .45 Automatic pistols and 4" .357 Smith and Wesson revolvers. But then I'm old and not horribly imaginative so I find comfort in things that have always worked before. The designs are proven and reliable, the ammo widely available just about everywhere, and the power is sufficient to do what a handgun should do: stop a close-in immediate threat.
That said, there are many wonderful pistols out there in 9mm and .40 and even some decent .380s. The one that will be the best for you is probably going to be the one that you shoot the best, all other things being equal.

For a shotgun, I love the Remington 870 pump in 12 gauge. It's a proven design, tough and reliable, and 12 gauge ammo is the most common shotgun ammunition available. I also trained with and qualified on this weapon for a number of years and am intimately familiar with it, so that's a plus for me personally.

Rifle-wise, I just never could decide. I've got a lot of them, but come the bad times, I think that I'll be settling on an AR-15 carbine and my M-1A in .308 for that added smack at longer ranges. But if you're fond of the H&K platforms in either .223 or .308, the Ruger Mini, the FAL, or even an M1 carbine or an AK platform, good on ya so long as you're familiar enough with it to operate it by feel, hit what you aim at at various distances, and fix it when it breaks, as all thinks mechanical do. remember also that in any semi-automatic weapon, the magazines are it's heart and soul, so make sure that you've got good ones and plenty of them.

As for .22s, One of my very first firearms ever was a Ruger 10-22 that I got not long after leaving high school. I still have it and it's seen thousands of rounds fired. I know it like few other firearms and would trust it with my life.

Now as to ammo, this is important, too. You need to have plenty in advance of the bad times, as it's likely to be the first thing to disappear from the store shelves when catastrophe hits or even threatens. I try to hold at least a thousand rounds in reserve for any rifle and half that for my defensive pistol. This gives me enough that I can practice a bit or train up another shooter if need be and still gives me enough left that I won't have to fix a bayonet or wield it like a club when the zombies come around. A 4-5 25rd boxes of each of the shotshell types that you plan to use is a good minimum, and a brick of .22 ammo takes of next to no room at all.

I'm not here to tell you that if you have these four guns that you can survive anything anywhere and go on to take down an island of mercenaries like Schwartzenegger did in Commando, but having the right tools and the know-how and willingness to use them will put you far ahead of the curve when bad times come around. But you need to have this all up front, because if you wait until after the hurricane/nuclear attack/second Obama inauguration, you're not likely to find what you want or have the time needed to train up with it. So if you don't have these things, go shopping. And if you do have them, go practice.

So how about it, readers? What are YOUR "favorite four?"


  1. Good post.

    I have a general policy that if I go into a gun store and find nothing of interest, I should at least walk out with .22 ammo if it is in the ballpark of reasonably priced. Should the hurricane/zombie invasion/Obama inaugural come some believe .22LR will be the new currency.

  2. Great post! I completely agree with your "Core Four". Me being a family man, I would add the phrase "for each member of the family" to it, but Murphy not having opposable thumbs, you're probably set!

    For me, my everyday pistol is a Springfield XD9 subcompact (9mm). It's 13+1 with 16 more on the belt. My wife has an identical one, so we can use the same mags and accessories. Since the terminal performance of handgun rounds is pretty much equal, I'll take capacity over caliber any day. I do love my .45 ACP though - my next pistol purchase will be either an XDm45 or a Glock 21.

    The only shotty I own is a Mossberg 20ga. Originally I bought it because it would be easier for my wife to handle than a 12ga, and I got the combo package with both smooth and rifled barrels, so it can take anything from squirrel to turkey to deer (5 of those so far!). I'm reconsidering this gun, however, as the ammo choices are much more limited than for 12ga., and not as readily available. I'm considering the Mossberg and the Remington.

    My go-to rifle is a Romanian AK47 (7.62x39). This rifle is the approximate ballistic equivalent to a .30-30, and so is as good of a deer stopper as it is a man-stopper, and ammo is relatively inexpensive compared to .308 or .223.

    I'm with you on the 10-22, and we have 2 of them. One I bought about 30 years ago, and have recently upgraded the trigger and sights, and I enjoy this little feller even more now than I did when I bought it. Made the same tweaks to my daughters youth-stocked model I bought her a couple of years ago, and she shoots really well with it.

    We also have a Marlin 25, which is terrifically accurate for as cheap as it is mag fed bolt action. It needs better sights, but is still a lot of fun to shoot.

  3. Hey,

    My favorite is my old school Ar-15,bought before the CLinton Ban in 1994. I actually bought it in 1991 right after I came back from the Gulf. I also have my 03 Springfield, my 870 pump from remington that says "police"..bought it back in the mid 80's. My favorite pistol is my S&W 681 revolver. I also have a .22 rifle made by Remington, the Nylon series.
    They are older firearms but I know that they will work when I need them.

  4. I don't have a shotgun (which is entirely my own fault) but agree with your points & conclusions. I like the .45 auto, and my hunting rifle is zeroed at 200 yards, with a 300-yd MPBR.

    My .38 +P revolver is a nice backup, and a .22 rifle with peep sights (or a small scope) is handy for all the reasons you mention.

    Good post.

  5. 1)Romak PSL 7.62 x 54
    2)Saiga AK-74 variant 5.45 x 39
    3)Glock 23 .40cal
    4)Ruger Mk. III.22 cal. pistol

  6. How many guns does a person need? that's easy only one more than I currently have.
    If I HAD to pick 4 it would probably be my M1A, Ruger 10-22, 12 gauge and a 357 Mag revolver. Of course I would never limit myself to that.

    1. I will have to second Duke's selection. Solid and versatile.

  7. My choices are:
    Glock 17
    Remington 870 or Mossberg 930SPX
    DSA SA58 FAL and Steyr AUG
    Browning takedown 22LR

    I sure like my Garand too

  8. The question is always answered by saying "One More".

  9. "How many restaurants does a town need?

    How many lamps does a house need?

    How many... well, you get my drift.

    Need gots nuffin tado widit.

  10. @ ASM: I was looking at more of a bare minimum number. You can never have too many.

  11. Hmmm.

    Ok, First I'd get a Glock 33, .357 Sig, and add a Wolf .40 S&W barrel and a Wolf 9mm barrel. Add a AACK .22 unit and now I'd have FOUR-N-ONE! (that way never worry about ammo shortages.)

    That way I can add my beloved 2 1/2 M66-1 Combat Magnum to the fold. Can't leave that gun behind!

    Then the Springfield Armory M-1A Scout! But replace the muzzle break with a flash hider.

    Lastingly a Mossberg 930 spx semi auto with ghost ring sights and Tac-star 4 shot side saddle.

    BTW I'm a pretty good shot so even a AACK .22 unit on a Glock is a squirrel gun to me!

  12. My basic five is the same as your basic four except I think you need a pistol and a revolver.

  13. I'm actually very close to you.
    M1A or AR.
    Sig 226 (I have them in both 9 and 40)

    Alternatives that are in the armory are my Glock 35 and our MkII's.

    I've also got a nice selection of both fixed blade and folders for cutting duties.

    Good list and great post.

  14. I tend to think of a "Set of Six" - a "Core Four" with a couple specialty guns:

    Pistol: Walther P99 AS. Great for range, and not too big to conceal (though you have to dress for it). For my wife, it would be a tossup between her Ruger SR9c and her Kimber Custom Aegis II.

    Rifle: Colt 6920. I have a pair of uppers for it - a 16" with red dot, and a 24" bull barrel with scope. For my wife, it would be her MAC-90.

    Shotgun: Remington 870 in 20 gauge, set up for home defense. 12 has more ammo available, but both my wife and I shoot the 20 gauge comfortably.

    .22 - if I had to pick ONE, I'd have to go with my Ruger 77/22 with scope. The runner up choice is my Remington 510 single shot. My wife's .22 is a Savage Mark 2 thumb hole bolt action with scope.

    That's the "Core Four". A couple more for rounding out:

    CCW pistol - Walther PPS. The P99 is concealable with some work, but it's typically my range gun. The Walther PPS is much more suited for concealment, and what I typically carry. For my wife, it is the Sig P238.

    Revolver - I go for the Ruger LCR in .357 (I'm more CCW oriented), while my wife likes her Ruger SP101 in .357.

  15. Our gun safe is a little taller, wider, and deeper than our full size kitchen 'fridge... and there's a bumper sticker on it that says, "if you know how many guns you have, you don't have enough"...

    I think we have the core four cubed and multiplied... it might be time to part with a few... nah... amazing how much you can acquire after a few decades...

    I never saw a gun I didn't like... that doesn't mean I'd own every gun...

    Dann in Ohio

  16. I, too, love the 1911, and my Kimber Custom TLE-II meets that need.
    My wife has a S&W TRR-8 357, and is very good with it.
    Shotguns are handled with my 870, and my 1100 with a rifled barrel. It's deadly accurate with sabot slugs well past 100 yards.
    My 22 is a Marlin 60, and my centerfires are a Marlin 336 in 30-30, and a Marlin 1894 in 357.
    And I'm waiting for the CMP to ship my M1 in 308 for those times when I might have to reach out and 'touch' someone.

  17. I am compelled to comment. I've been offline for a while, but I'm back, and this question has always taken my fancy. Me?

    .38 revolver, 6" barrel preferably, with fixed sights, first and foremost. Colt or S&W, good shape, good quality, take down anything from a squirrel to a deer. Defense against the two-legs? Not a problem.

    .22 rifle, bolt action. Decent enough anything, as long as it's light and takes down. Believe it or not, the Stevens 15 single shot series has likely taken as many deer as any 30-30. I've seen it done.

    Shotguns? Surprisingly, the .410 bore. The Marble Game Getter was a winner until FDR pushed the 1936 act through, and it was good. For shotguns, .410. If you're talking simple survival for meat, and no DNR? .22 and .410 will kill game birds on the ground. No 12 gauge necessary.

    Which leads me to: the 12 gauge. Honestly, I prefer 16 gauge, but it's far and away the best chambering in the 1897 Winchester shotgun, and it's a winner in that gun... but these days? the 12. You can always make a sawed-off out of 3/4" water pipe.

    And? Honorable mention? A wrist rocket; and a good air rifle with the capability to shoot lead balls. The Sheridan or Benjamin is always a good choice. The Sheridan Silver Streak, I swear will kill a man at close range. Really.

    Take care.

  18. Anonymous3:53 AM

    Nice post. I have Accuracy International AX50 Rifle 6800B.It has follwing features

    Trigger: Accuracy International two stage adjustable from 1.5-2.0kg (3.3-4.4lbs)

    Scope Mount: Accuracy International integral Picatinny Rail

    Rifle Barrel Length: 692mm (27") free floating stainless steel match grade with high efficiency muzzle brake.

    Rifle Barrel Twist: 1:15"

    Action: Accuracy International AX50 one piece, machined from high grade steel

    Safety: Accuracy International two positon safety lever (‘Safe’ and ‘Fire’)

    Caliber: .50 caliber BMG (12.7 x 99mm)
    Rifle Overall Length: 1370mm (53.9")
    extended, 1115mm (43.9") folded
    Weight: 12.5kg (27.5lb)

    Amazing functionality and like 50 cal very much.