Monday, August 8, 2011

So you wanna buy a gun...

... but you have no idea what to get. 

Luckily for you, I went through the same conundrum a year ago as I was anxiously awaiting 2+ months permission from the state to buy said firearm.  I'm by no means a firearms expert but I have read dozens upon dozens of articles written by experts, bought a couple guns, and shot 2500ish rounds/shells over the past year.  I feel qualified to at least share my opinion on the process. 

First thing's first.  Before you even think about what firearm you want to buy, you need to check your state/county/city's laws on owning a firearm.  These laws can vary wildly.  For example anyone in IL has to submit an application and wait a couple months while the state police check to see if they're a felon or mental and mail them out a Firearm Owners Identification Card.  However, there are a great many states where you can just walk in to a gun store, run a background check and you're good to go.  (Must be nice.)  A few states and some cities will limit  magazine capacity to 10 rounds or make it illegal to have a detachable magazine.  As much as you might disagree with the law, you still have to follow it.

Although it doesn't factor at all into gun selection, I would be remiss to not advise an aspiring gun owner to learn the 4 rules.  If you have done much research into the world of firearms, you'll find these are universally preached. (And for good reason.)  They consist of:
  1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded.  Don't be "that guy".  You know, the one who shoots himself in the junk by stuffing a gun "he could've swore" was unloaded into his waistband. 
  2. Never point a gun at something unless you  to destroy it.  Goes hand in hand with #1.  If you assume it's loaded, you should always be cognizant of what direction the gun is.  If you failed to treat the gun as if it were loaded, following this rule will put a hole in the wall or floor instead of your TV or cat.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and ready to shoot.  No matter which gun you choose, as long as it was made in the past 20 years, it was made to only go off when you pull the trigger.  If you failed to follow rules 1&2 and you're pointing your loaded gun at your cat while cleaning it, it won't go off unless you pull the trigger.  (In most cases, even if you drop it!)  So don't touch it dammit!
  4. Identify your target and what is behind it.  So you've successfully bought a gun and cleaned it without killing the cat.  You and buddy go to a family member's field a mile out of town, toss some cans on the ground and go to town right?  Not so much.  You have to be sure your bullets are going to go into the dirt when they go thru that can or you miss.  You are responsible for every bullet that leaves your gun.  Depending on the bullet, it can travel up to 5-6 miles and still mess someone up.  Make sure every bullet goes into the dirt.
I know none of that makes a difference in what gun you choose, but these are all unspoken rules as far as firearms.  If you walk into a gun store, ask to see a gun, and then point it at the employee with your finger on the trigger he's gonna think you're a tool and not take you seriously.  Plus I don't want you to go to all the trouble of buying a gun and then accidentally kill yourself.  Be careful.

Ok, now that we got all of that out of the way, what do you want a gun for?  For me, it breaks down into 3 categories:
  • Home defense 
  • Hunting
  • Because this is America, I'm an American and I can.  (This would include zombie preparedness, OMG the sky is falling, I need a gun for when the Chinese come collect their debt, and other theoretical scenarios.)
Unless you're in an area that allows you to use rifles to hunt (IL doesn't for the most part), my reccommendation for self defense is the same as my reccomendation for hunting:  a 12 gauge pump shotgun.  One of the most versatile guns out there, with it you can hunt everything from squirrels and doves with birdshot to whitetails with slugs.  Put five shells of 00 (double ought) buckshot in it and you have one of the most formidible home defense guns available.  (It even comes with the built in "SHIK-SHIK!!!" noise that universally says GET THE F*** OUT!!!.)  For roughly $225 (new), you have a hunting gun and something to put under the bed in case something goes bump in the night.

If your state allows you to hunt with a rifle, I wouldn't say that I reccommend going out and buying that rifle right away, first thing.  I would recommend a .22 in a similar configuration to what you see yourself hunting with. 

For example, if you plan on hunting with a Remington 700 bolt action in .308 someday, get a Savage Accutrigger or Ruger 77/22. 

Savage .22, alot of fun to shoot.  My gun nut uncle has one.

Why would I suggest such a thing?  Well, because you have to do your part to be a successful marksman.  You have to learn how to squeeeeeze the trigger, where you need to weld our cheek to a stock, etc.  Practice makes perfect.  Practice requires ammo.  A box of 20 rounds of .308 will run you $15.  A box of 500 rounds of .22 will run you $15 dollars. Plus a quality .22 bolt action is less than half the cost of a similar quality .308 rifle.   While you will need to practice some when you move up in caliber, you can spend alot less learning the basics and getting some experience with your preferred hunting system.

Ah finally, the OMFG, when SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan), its TEOTWAKI (The End Of The World As We Know It), Zombpocalypse gun.  Or if you prefer, just a gun for fun.  Get whatever the hell you want.  I will say that you shouldn't listen to internet hype.  There are fanboys for every system out there.  Just like any other piece of equipment, there are fanboys and they will trash a product just for being different.  Don't let the AR vs. AK, Polymer vs. Metal, Battle-tested vs. New Hotness, 1911 vs. Glock, 5.56 vs. .308 arguments sway you.  Pick a gun that you like and go with it.

In fact, take my word for what it is, just my opinion.  If you feel like getting a super accessorized AR10 as your first gun to protect your home (and your neighbor house 800 yards away), go for it.  It's your money. I will say that it's probably a good idea to look for something in a similar configuration in .22 for the same reason as the hunting rifle, cheap practice.  For example, when I got my first gun, I knew I'd want a centerfire rifle of some kind but I had no idea what.  So my first gun was a Ruger 10/22. It was only $200.  Firing 2250+ rounds thru it and taking it completely apart a couple times has gotten me familiar with how semiautos work.

With any gun that you're thinking about buying, try to find a few honest reviews (preferably from somebody who as put several hundred to a couple thousand rounds thru the gun in question. I've found to be a pretty legit site.  They tell it how it is.).  It's important to know that something you're going to spend your money on and possibly stake your life on is reliable and worth the money.

With everything laid out, I suppose my suggestion for a first gun would be a 12ga shotgun.  Perfect for home defense, adequate for most hunting situations, if you never bought another gun you'd be pretty well off.

Jack of all trades.

What about you?  What is your suggestion for a good first gun?  What WAS your first gun?  Feel free to ask any questions.  Like I said, I'm no expert but I'm happy to give an opinion or find out the correct answer for you if I don't know.


Lunkerhunt said...

My first and only is a Remington 870 Express...solid gun. It's only downside is that it shoots where I point it. I agree about a 12ga being a good starting point. 22's are a close second. Lastly, a. 410 is the middle ground.

Me said...

First was a Remington .243 for my 7th birthday. I didn't shoot it until a few years later. So, I cut my teeth on 20 gauges and .22s.

Best suggestion for a first gun is hands down a 12 gauge pump. Easy to clean. Easy to shoot. And it's a ton of fun.

Mark said...

I forgot to mention, the first time I shot a 12 ga was my grandfather's 870 wingmaster when I was 10 and not yet quite a "big guy." It knocked me back about 3 feet and I damn near dropped it.

So, definitely a good first gun unless you're buying for a kid, then maybe look into a .410 like clif said.

@clif - thats a decent downside.

@me - that must have been cool to get a .243 as a bday present. The few times my grandpa and I went hunting I used an old school 20ga side-by-side. Think I shot it once so I didn't really "cut my teeth" with it but that, the 870 and grandpas .22 pump were all I had shot before buying my 10/22 last year.

Tonto Rambler said...

Great advice on how to start out with firearms. I have three teenage boys that hunt with 12 gauge pumps and 22s. Those are the same guns that I started out with as a kid. Just found your blog and read several posts, very enjoyable, look forward to more.

Mark said...

The first gun I ever purchased, after shooting and trying some, along with fondling others - was a 9mm Springfield XD service. I've purchased about 35 guns since then - mostly semi auto handguns, as they've all been primarily defensive carry guns (thankfully Oregon has great gun laws, and we have a right to carry). I've owned most of the major brands of guns - save for HK, Kimber, and Colt (that's not to say I haven't shot them, I just couldn't justify the cash for the ones I like by them).

My 1st pick for a defensive handgun goes to Glock - simply because they've been the most consistently reliable out there, and I shoot them pretty well. My favorites in no particular order are the Model 21, the Model 19, and the Model 17. I've owned 4 17's, 3 19's, and 3 21's - along with a few model 22's.

2nd pick goes to Sig Sauer (aka SigArms) - with the Model 220 my favorite from them, followed by the 226 and 229. My current carry gun is a P250 .45 mid size. Picked it up for a great price, and despite being ugly as sin, it's very comfortable to handle and shoot. 10+1 of .45ACP in a gun no bigger than a Glock 19 is a great combo. I do belive this is Sig's first double stack 45 and they did well with it.

3rd pick - Springfield XD's - I've owned 5, loved them all, but I prefer Glock & Sig a bit more. I've owned everything from the sub compacts to the tactical 5" guns - each one ran well, each one was comfortable, and each shot well.

I'm also a big fan of Browning, FN, CZ, Ruger, and some Smith & Wessons (M&P's and classic metal framed guns). I've never shot a gun as well as I have a Browning Mk. III Hi Power 9mm - that gun was like a laser for me. If it weren't for the hammer bite they cause me, I'd probably carry one of those. I had a Mk II for a while, but the hammer bite and small safety catch didnt lend itself greatly for that purpose for me.

For long guns - I loved my AR, but I'm more of an HK (clone) fan. Ergos are better, IMO, and I just love me some .308 goodness in an HK91 clone. I also have a soft spot for WWI and II vintage bolt action combat rifles - Mosins, Enfields, and Springfields mostly. I lust over a Garands.

Shotguns - my favorite hands down is the Benelli Nova tactical 18". Owned 2 of them. Best shotgun for the money. Next fav is the venerable Remington 870. I just like the Benelli more.

Great post man, this is a good way to get gun n00bs thinking about the what's and why's, instead of just going to a gun shop and getting something that may or may not work for them.

Mark said...

Thanks for checking out the blog guys!

Tonto- The two guns I've bought so far are the 10/22 and NEF 12ga Pardner Pump 870 clone like the one in the pic above. I'm super satisfied with both guns and I'm hoping both will be sturdy enough to pass on to my kids. My dad kind of broke the tradition of firearm ownership so I'm happy to start it up again. Even if they aren't the same exact guns, my kids will for sure have a 12ga and 22 of their own. :)

Mark- Thanks for your input on handguns. I purposely didn't mention them because I haven't bought a handgun for myself yet. I don't feel qualified to give any advice as far as those go so I appreciate you giving some opinions for people to check out.

I have spent a buttload of time lusting after pistols tho. Just haven't had a justifiable reason to buy one yet. (Justifiable to my wife. Having one to practice with at the range is justified to me.) That will change when IL buckles under the lawsuits this year and allows CCW.

My lust list:

1.) 1911. Probably a Taurus (seems like you get the most bang for your buck). I've heard this platform is not recommended for new pistol owners but there's just something about the 1911 system that's sexy to me. Only drawbacks are the finickyness i've read about and mag capacity. (Still, 8+1 and a backup 10 round mag wouldn't be too shabby.)

2.) Sig. Probably what I'd get if I decide to get a 9mm. Ideally a 226 but more likely an sp2022 because of cost. I hear only good things about Sig and there's a similar draw to it like the 1911. (Maybe it's the hammer? I can't really explain it.)

I realize I should probably just get a Glock 17 and call it a day but they are so ugly to me. Just like the others, I can't put my finger on it. I have a buddy who has an XD in .40 S&W that I'll hopefully get to shoot soon. (Don't know that I'd ever get a gun in .40 but it would be fun to shoot.)

I've seriously spent hours reading reviews, watching vids and researching guns/calibers/etc to get me ready but I honestly have some time to go before I can afford a pistol anyway. I'll eventually detail the process on here. Thanks again for checking out the blog.