Reader Susan G. asks:
“I don’t know anybody who shoots and the more articles I read about buying a gun the more confused I get. Help!”
Susan you are not alone. Every day thousands of prudent Americans make a commitment to personal defense and decide to buy a gun. Here are three questions to ask yourself prior to going to the store that might help you narrow your search.
Am I going to get a license to carry concealed or is the gun just for home defense?
If you are going to get a permit to carry (good for you) then you need a handgun. If not, then a shotgun is a far better choice for home defense for most people.
Shotguns have a much more threatening image when displayed and can take a greater variety of ammunition, which allows you to regulate the power and avoid over-penetration through walls, which is a risk inside the home.
Am I going to regularly practice shooting with the gun I purchase? (Be honest.)
If you are committed to becoming a hobby shooter, then a more complex firearm is acceptable. Otherwise simplicity of operation should be at the top of your “features” list. That means a revolver rather than a semi-auto pistol and—this may surprise you—a double barrel shotgun rather than a pump.
I’ve spent lots of range time teaching young cops both types of handguns. Based on that experience, revolvers are simply more reliable than semi-autos. With a revolver, you point … you pull the trigger and it goes “bang.”
A semi-auto requires regular practice (at least 50 rounds, twice a year) to maintain proficiency. A revolver can be learned once and, if necessary, put away in a safe place (I always recommend practice, practice, practice, however).
Pump shotguns are great if you practice with them or have a background in wingshooting. However, while under stress new pump operators can “short shuck” the action and jam the gun. A double barrel 12 ga. with a flashlight taped to the business end is an awesome home defense weapon and is very easy to manipulate under pressure. (Note: These handy and reliable firearms are sometimes called “coach guns”).
Can I afford lots of ammo for this particular gun for practice and long term storage?
I recommend you add the cost of 1,000 rounds of ammo to whatever gun you buy. Practice is more important than gun type or caliber and the fear (real or imagined) of government restrictions can empty shelves of ammunition for your gun overnight.
If you are truly “living ready” then you need to have ammo put away—in a cool and dry location, properly stored ammunition will last for decades.
Please remember, this is not legal advice (you should know your laws) every person has different needs and capacities and every gunfight is different. When making tactical decisions, always get a second opinion.