If You Could Only Own One Firearm…

I love guns! Ever since I was a little boy I have been fascinated with firearms and how they work. Over the years I have owned many firearms and have always been very comfortable with them – which is a good thing since I have carried one professionally for most of my adult life.

M4 ShotgunBut, although I am fascinated with how firearms function and admire the craftsmanship necessary to create them, I see them as a tool. That is, I do not purchase firearms simply because they look good; I purchase them because they do a job. Every one of the firearms I own, I purchased with a specific task in mind. I have a duty sidearm, backup pieces, hunting rifles and shotguns for hunting or target shooting. You get the picture.

Due to my line of work I find myself coming in contact with a lot of people who have firearms related questions and, because I enjoy the subject matter, I am often willing to offer what advice I can. Aside from the obvious questions “What firearm should I buy?” or “What caliber is best?”(which I think every firearms instructor hears in their sleep) the most frequent question is “What is the best firearm for self-defense?”

Of course, this should come as no surprise. Self-defense is large and growing market for firearms and has even sparked several cable television shows as well as monthly magazines dedicated to educating gun owners on what is “best.” These shows and magazines are interesting, and often informative, but they do not answer the most basic of questions: “If I can own just one firearm, what should it be?”

For many of us, the idea of owning just one firearm is unthinkable. Many of you, like me, own an assortment of firearms, each designed to meet a specific need. But, the fact remains that many potential gun owners do not have the ability or desire to own a safe-full of specialized firearms. They want, or can only afford, to own just one. If this is the case, I would quickly and almost always recommend a shotgun.

The shotgun may not be a sexy as an AR. A shotgun may not be able to be tucked away like a compact .40. But a shotgun is the “Swiss Army Knife” of firearms and packs a lot into one package. A shotgun is the go-to for hunting small game or birds and, if properly equipped, can be used for big game as well. You can enjoy a day at the range busting clays for a fraction of the cost compared to many rifles and even some handguns – and ammo is easier to come by. But, most importantly, a shotgun is a natural when it comes to home defense.

Think of what you want in a home defense firearm… Easy to use – check! Easy to maintain – check! Capable of stopping the threat – check! Ammo is plentiful and available in multiple configurations – check, check! Plus a shotgun holds some additional features many users do not think about. They are able to penetrate a door or wall if needed, but will not then go on to penetrate your neighbor’s door or wall and injure an unintended target. Furthermore, there is nothing quite as intimidating as the sound a shotgun makes as its being pumped, even from behind a closed door.

So, if you find yourself in need of just one firearm, look no further than a trusty shotgun.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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5 thoughts on “If You Could Only Own One Firearm…

  1. Tom, your last reason for loving your shotgun: “They are able to penetrate a door or wall if needed, but will not then go on to penetrate your neighbor’s door or wall and injure an unintended target.” I have read so many articles that contradict what you wrote its not even funny. And, something that is obvious you never thought about, what about trying to hear after you shoot? Have you ever had to shoot for self defense without wearing ear-pro? For the next 5 minutes you won’t be able to hear anything, including your family screaming in pain from just getting pelted through the wall with a 12 gage. My 10/22 in a bull-pop stock would be far superior in home defense, especially if you didn’t have an opportunity to clear your family into a safe-zone. I’m sure most “hunters” (many of whome hide in a tree stand and bait, and don’t even know what spore is) would scoff at a .22LR as a defensive round, but I’d like to see what they say when they have a double tap in their chest and head (thanks to a lack of recoil and ease of aiming), especially considering I’d actually be able to hear them immediately after shooting. And don’t even get me started on the cop who shot his daughter because he was too stupid to have a tac-light on his home defense pistol, so lighting (without the need to flip on your light switches in your house) should also be an issue… which you mentioned absolutely nothing about… Maybe I should write your article next time, and I’m just a man with more common sense than most.

  2. Thanks for your comments and for checking out the article.
    Everyone has their own favorite firearm, your choice of a .22LR has it’s advantages as well.
    I stand by what I wrote and with my ability to protect my family with a 12gauge, if one my Glocks, the Springfield, the AR or any of the rifles aren’t within reach.

  3. I have to agree with Tom on his weapon of choice for home defense. I think the greatest advantage of the shotgun is your ability to point at your intended target and have a pretty good chance of hitting it. There have been numerous cases involving trained professionals missing their intended target, because they were firing in a high stress or low light situations. Please read this article for a perspective on “Hit Ratio” and maybe you will reconsider your choice of weapon for the average homeowner.

  4. As the saying goes ” situation dictates”. I have a two-story house with all bed rooms situated on top deck with a GSD laying at the front door. To put a different perspective on this, in my situation, a 590 A1 with a slug would do just fine, 00 would cover the entrance well, but this doesn’t excuse the fact that when using a SG with buck you aren’t using point-of-aim point-of-impact marksmanship. Training goes along ways and one technique I learned through SG training was off set shooting and it works consistently with [lot ammo] practice. I am a former USMC Infantryman and I would choose my 590 A1 if I had only one to choose from and that is because all the training I have been through it has never failed me and if I ran out of ammo, well, I know how to fix the bayonet. They are nothing but tools in the chest and if you can employ one to the extent of it’s abilities and it works then there you go……it works.

    Thanks for your article and your prospective on SG’s.

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