A common question people ask me when they are first getting into firearms is “But, what gun do I choose? Which one is the best?” This is one of the easiest – and hardest – questions to answer. It is easy because I can tell you how you go about picking the right gun, what guns I like, and how to become proficient at using whatever gun you choose. It is hard because I cannot tell you what gun to buy. I can’t even tell you a brand or what type; pistol, rifle, or shotgun. So I’m gonna lay it out. How do you choose a firearm?
First thing’s first… you have to decide what type of gun you want. This is broken down into three main categories:
- Pistols are great because they are compact, allowing them to be taken just about anywhere while wearing just about anything. But they have problems. They are less accurate than a rifle, have less knock-down power than both rifles and shotguns, and take a bit longer to get really good at using than a rifle or shotgun would.
- Shotguns on the other hand are too bulky to take everywhere you go. They are basically good at the house and out in the field while hiking. There are good things about them though. They are better for hunting than a pistol and can hunt more sizes of animals than a single rifle could. By being able to change the type of ammunition easily with shotguns, you have much more versatility from one gun, and the knock-down power at close to medium range is amazing.
- Rifles give you the ability to hit targets at great distances and have little to great knock-down power, depending on the caliber it is chambered in. Like shotguns though, they are bulky and cannot be easily taken from home or out of the field.
So, if you are looking for an everyday, at-home-and-away-from-home defensive weapon, then you would want a pistol. If you can only get one gun and are more concerned with home defense, hunting, and surviving a prolonged emergency, then a shotgun with several types of ammunition would be a good bet. If your goal is long range targets or increased accuracy in general, then the rifle gives the most bang for the buck.
Choosing a Gun: Budget
Now that we know which type of gun we want, we have to come to grips with the reality than there is a very, very big price range that guns are sold under, and the average wallet is only so deep. So we have to come up with a price range. Nothing special here to write about. Just figure out how much money you can commit to a gun, remembering that ammunition, cleaning supplies, training, holsters/slings, etc… are all needed things that cost money as well.
Choosing a Gun: Caliber
Now that we have the type of gun, and the amount we can spend, we now look at caliber or gauge. Do your research to determine what you are willing to carry and/or bet your life on. Choosing round types and size is an issue for an entire article and is hotly debated, but I always suggest going with a common caliber that you can afford to feed your gun. The round of choice should have enough power to stop a fight, yet be mild enough for you to control the weapon. Some recommended calibers would be any that police or military use, such as 9mm, .40 caliber, and .45 caliber. These rounds are easy to find, low in cost, and are capable of achieving a good stop against a threat.
In addition to size, type of round should be considered. It is possible for a round to pass through an intended target and continue down range and hit another object or person, which is known as over penetration. To limit this, and increase stopping power, move away from full metal jacket (FMJ) type rounds and start looking at hollow points (HP), critical defense, and other such rounds.
Weapon type, price range, and caliber are chosen now? Good. Now, more research. Look up as many guns as you can that fit your established criteria. Check out the reviews, watch videos from the companies and from people testing their products. This should narrow things down a bit.
Choosing a Gun: Test Fire
Find a range that rents guns out and has as many of the ones on your list as possible. Shoot them. At least two magazines through each one. Which one feels the most comfortable? Which one are you most accurate with? If you are new to shooting and you are not that accurate with any of them, that is okay. Which one had the most rounds in a two inch group? It doesn’t matter where that group is on the target, it just matters that the grouping of shots is as tight as possible. Which one is the easiest for you to use? The one that tops this list is the best gun to own.
As time goes on and you get better with that type of gun, learn more about guns, etc… you may choose to get something different. But for now, you found the best gun you can have. And remember, the best gun to have when it comes to self-defense isn’t that new, cool, fancy looking thing you read about and everyone who is anyone has run out to buy. It is the one in your hand that goes bang when you squeeze the trigger. Every time.