Same Old Question, Different Time — The Rimfires

New Reader Wally T. asks me the perennial question:

“What do you consider a minimum number of guns for home- and self defense for me and my wife, and which guns would you recommend?”

I remember vaguely doing one or two posts on this very topic many years ago, but as the title of this one suggests, times are different so maybe, just maybe, ’tis time to revisit the question. (Wally included a couple of personal details about his family which are not relevant to the topic except that his wife hates heavy-recoiling firearms — won’t even touch them, in fact — so whatever I suggest should take that into account.) So here goes. This post will deal with the must-have rimfire (.22 Long Rifle) guns; the other options will follow in later posts.

1a.) .22 Rifle:
As Longtime Readers know, I have always considered a .22 rifle to be not a gun, but a household item like a frying pan or microwave oven — i.e. every home should have one — and .22 ammo is a household commodity like flour, sugar or salt. If you are starting from scratch in your home defense equipment, do not think the little .22 rifle is inadequate. Certainly, if your house is outside a town and therefore prone to critter invasions, a .22 rifle is a must — and if it can be fired rapidly (e.g. a semi-automatic or pump-action), that’s even better. Ditto home defense: even the most hardened goblin is going to change his plans if you or your wife has just popped two or three .22 bullets into his midsection. Here’s the thing: he may not die immediately after being thus shot (as opposed to getting a 12-gauge blast to the chest), but make no mistake about it, without immediate medical attention or else astounding luck, he will die from three rounds of .22 in his body. The .22 rifle is not the optimal home defense weapon, but if there’s nothing else, it’s far better than a baseball bat or tennis racket.
My recommendation for a .22 rifle is either a magazine-fed semi-auto like the Ruger 10/22, tube-fed rifle like the Marlin Model 60, or else a pump-action rifle like the Henry:


The first two collectively have sold more than any other two guns on the planet, and the third should be equally as popular, but isn’t (it’s kinda spendy, but that’s quality for you).

And seeing as you’ve just bought 5,000 rounds of .22 Long Rifle ammo (you have, haven’t you?), you might as well get the next must-have item.

1b.) .22 Semi-Auto Pistol or Double-Action Revolver:
The nice thing about a little .22 handgun is that it’s handy [sic], especially if your wife is proficient in its use, because it’s light,  has no recoil to speak of, and like the .22 rifle, can serve as a back-up self-defense option. Again, a goblin coming into your bedroom will change his plans when hit in the face with a couple rounds of .22 Long Rifle fired by your wife while you’re getting your bedside gun (see a later post) out of the drawer.
A compelling reason to have both a .22 rifle and a .22 handgun is that they are fun — and also good practice tools if you can’t afford to spend gobs of money on self-defense ammo. I leave it to personal choice as to whether you get a pistol or revolver, although I lean towards the semi-auto.
My recommendations for a pistol and revolver are either the Ruger Mk IV (see here as to why it’s my top pick), Browning Buckmark URX Standard (better trigger), and for a double-action revolver, the S&W Model 63 (because of its 8-round cylinder capacity):

And just so we’re all clear on this: these recommendations are not comprehensive, nor are they definitive. There are hundreds of choices out there that can fill these two slots quite adequately, and as with all things, personal choice, price and preference (how it “feels” in the hand or in the shoulder) should be the principal part of of your final decision. Here, for example, is my Ruger Mk IV, in the 22/45 configuration:

I would humbly suggest, however, that none of the above recommendations will disappoint.

Next: home defense shotguns.

Please note:
There is a recall notice for all Ruger Mk IV pistols with serial numbers lower than 50xxxx



More Guns

So apparently Americans are still buying guns in record numbers:

The FBI just reported that the number of gun sales background checks for May was the highest ever for that month, 1,942,677, a trend that will make 2017 the first or second highest year for gun sales.

Why? Well, duh:

“People are nervous about their safety, and rightly so. It’s a dangerous world we live in and American citizens know that we’re not immune to terrorist attacks. They’re taking the necessary steps to defend themselves. Frankly, the most recent terrorist attack in London underscores the importance of an armed populace. Remember that when seconds count the police are only minutes away.”

There was a time when even I would sometimes go out without a gun (quick trip to the store to buy lottery tickets, gassing up the car, daily walks, etc.), but now I never leave the house unarmed. Never.

And I carry more than one backup magazine for the 1911, because I might just need them (warning: annoying autoplay):

Armed officers responding to the London Bridge terror attack fired an “unprecedented” number of rounds at the three attackers because they were wearing what appeared to be suicide belts, police said. Eight officers fired 50 shots at three attackers to ensure they were neutralized.

When all I might worry about was being mugged or whatever, I’d always said that one mag, or two at most, would suffice.  Now that there’s the possibility of confronting a greater threat, I carry three extra mags. Granted, I doubt that I’d need thirty-two rounds of .45 ACP (never mind fifty) to put down three terrorist assholes, but who says there’d be only three? And you can be sure that I won’t “run, hide and call the police” as the British cops told people to do, unless by “hide” you mean “take cover prior to opening fire”.

And yes, I could be accused of having some kind of “Rambo fantasy”. I’d still rather be prepared to do something, as opposed to looking like this:


Fuck that bullshit.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the range to make sure that I don’t need more than four 8-round mags to end a bad situation in my favor.

Welcome Back

Back when I was a consultant, The Mrs. and I went through several periods of “chicken and feathers” — wealthy one minute, impoverished the next. During the chicken times, we’d travel, treat the kids and save, but during the feathers times, we’d be in trouble. In many cases, the trouble was a short-term problem: waiting for a client’s check to arrive, or for the check to clear, that kind of thing. There was always a credit card to tide us over, and then life could resume once the funds were released.

Then there were the longer periods of feathers, such as when a couple of our start-up business ideas failed. The first cost us about a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which we paid out of our savings; the second cost us well over a third of a million — we had salaries to pay even though no money was coming in, and on that occasion we lost everything: savings, retirement accounts, and almost, the house. (I have no idea how we averted that disaster, but somehow one of us or the other always managed to get a small consulting gig which was just enough to keep a roof over our heads, but with nothing left over to pay bills. I even had a car repossessed during this time.)

So I had to sell off my guns. Pretty much all of them went, except for a junky old 16ga side-by-side which wasn’t worth diddly to anyone, and Connie’s little NAA Mini revolver. Most of them I sold to good friends, on the understanding that they could sell the guns if they wished, but that if they did so, I could at least get first refusal, as it were. Gradually over the past couple years, I’ve been able to buy a few guns back here and there, and a couple of really good friends even lent me a gun or two to tide me over — “on the non-return basis”, so to speak, because they couldn’t bear to see my family defenseless. These angels know who they are, and I’m not going to embarrass them by revealing their identities.

I won’t go into details of each of the guns thus sold and recovered because it’s unnecessary to this story, but here’s a pic (taken on a trip to the range with Mr. Free Market many years ago) of some of the guns I had to sell:

But one of those guns in the picture has stuck with me, because while it pained me to dispose of various beautiful Colts, Browning High Powers, Rugers and so on, my most anguished sale was the rifle at the top of the pic, this little thing:

To give the rifle its official name, it’s the Taurus Model 62C (.22LR) Pump-Action Carbine. To anyone who has ever shot one, its actual name is “OMG I haven’t had so much fun in years!”, always followed by a firm refusal to release the gun back to its rightful owner and a demand for more ammo.

As I’d mentioned a few days ago, I was seeking a semi-auto plinker — basically to replace this little darling — but all the time in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, “I wonder if [name redacted] would consider selling the Taurus back to me?”

There was really only one big concern: that its new owner would have fallen in love with the piece, as I had done, and would refuse to do so. (I should point out that this has happened to me with several of my friends; they’ve fallen in love with the guns and refused to part with them, even back to me.)

You see, the Marketing Department at Taurus are basically a bunch of morons, because several years ago they decided to drop this line from their catalog — all the Model 62 variants — which meant that a replacement would be difficult to find.

Happily, my kind friend decided, after considerable and doubtlessly-tortured reflection, that the rifle’s proper place would be back with its original owner. So today I can announce that I no longer need that .22 plinker: I’ve got my baby back. It’s resting by my chair, as I write these words.

One final word of explanation is probably necessary. The Taurus 62 is a pump-action, not a semi-auto rifle. Why, then, would I not need a semi-auto plinker, still?

The answer is obvious if one knows me well: I prefer to operate machinery rather than just use it — stick shift over auto transmissions, bolt-action over semi-auto rifles, revolvers over semi-auto pistols, and so on. I get added pleasure from working an action — it’s a feeling of control which is difficult to explain, but to people like myself, all too easy to understand.

I cannot wait to get out to some open country, toss a few cans or oranges onto the ground, and start shooting. And if you want to know how much I want to do this: I’d rather do this for a few hours than spend the same amount of time in Nigella Lawson’s boudoir. Yes, that much.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m not going to the range. I’m off to find some open country…

The Cost Of History

I’ve always loved the little WWII-era M1 Carbine, because it’s so much fun to shoot, it doesn’t weigh a ton, and the ammo isn’t fearfully expensive (relatively speaking, in today’s market).

In my various travels about Teh Intarwebz, I came across a YouTube video which looked at the ” Most Overpriced Mil-Surp Rifles On The Market”, in which the host opined that the M1 Carbine is the second-most over-priced. (I think that ALL guns today are overpriced, thank you again, Urkel Obama and Hillary Bitch Clinton, but I’ve ranted about that before.)

I’m not going to argue much with the man’s take on the M1 being overpriced; it is, and horribly so. (A refurbished Korean Inland M1 Carbine for over $1,200? Are you shitting me?)

However, welcome to the gun nut’s Rock (fun to shoot etc.) and Hard Place (damn spendy). It’s a problem as old as time, and one we gun nuts have always had to deal with — only now, it’s worse than ever.

Let’s just assume, however, that the Rock has won you over, and you just have to have this lovely little gun in your safe. How can you get some kind, any kind of a cost saving out of this? Here’s the rundown, as I see it:

  • Rifle: $1,200 (which seems to be about the cost of a decent mil-surp M1 Carbine these days; less, and buyer beware; more, and you’re looking at IBM and Rock-Ola rifles, most probably)
  • Three spare 15-round mags @ $11 each: $33
  • Bulk .30 Carbine ammo (250-round bulk pack): $85
  • Total cost: $1,318 (ignore shipping and FFL transfer costs, because they’ll be a constant no matter what you buy)

Here’s a thought. What you’re paying for with one of those WWII / Korean War M1 Carbines is history — the fact that some GI might once have used this rifle to whack Nazis and/or Commies (always a Good Thing, IMO). But if you can forego that nostalgia (and it’s hard, believe me), you can get a newly-manufactured M1 Carbine from Thompson/Auto-Ordnance (Kahr) for about $765… which means if you forego the history and end up spending the same $1,318 for the whole package, you’d essentially be getting the same shooting fun — only now with three free mags and 1,250 rounds of ammo.

Or, if you can’t shake all aspects of nostalgia and you want a carbine which can take the good old M3 bayonet, you can get a new Inland M1 Carbine (yes, they’re making them again) for about $980, which would mean your “package” cost of $1,318 would get you three spare mags and 750 rounds of ammo.

Or you could just pocket the savings, either way.

As with all my opinions on matters such as these, please don’t pepper me with “I can get this cheaper at X” or my favorite: “OMG I paid $250 for my Carbine” comments — yes, so did I… back in 2004. Unfortunately, we’re living in a different world now, where panic buying (did I forget to thank Barack fucking Obama again?) has caused prices of all gun-related stuff to skyrocket. On the one hand, I like the fact that more guns are in private hands today than there were in 2007, but on the other, those additions to armed citizenry have come at a cost to us Old Gun Nuts in the form of higher gun prices. Intellectually, I’m cool with the outcome, but the dollar-cost reality makes my nuts ache.

Also, don’t think you’ll be able to snap up an M1 Carbine for $600 at a gun show. One, there are no more decent deals to be had at gun shows anymore which leads to two, your $600 “cheap” Carbine will most likely require five hundred dollars’ worth of parts and quality gunsmithing to make it work properly.

So, if you have a spare grand and a half (shipping and FFL transfer costs, ugh), here’s one way to spend it.

One last thought: the regular .30 Carbine round with its little 110gr. bullet has always been knocked as being underpowered. Well, Buffalo Bore now makes these puppies with a 125gr. bullet, and with BB’s amped-up power, the muzzle energy of the .30 cartridge has been increased by over a third — more than twice as much, in other words, as a .357 Magnum firing the same bullet from a 6″ revolver barrel — which turns the .30 Carbine into a bona fide stopper. (Don’t ask about the price of Buffalo Bore ammo; but if you want the best, ya gotta dig deep, as any fule kno.)


I have a terrible confession to make.

While I do have a couple of bolt-action rimfire rifles (Marlin 880SQ in .22LR and Marlin 882 in .22 WinMag, see below):

… I do not currently possess a semi-auto .22 plinker.

Now, I am fully aware that I am probably breaking some Texas law by such a glaring omission. But my defense to prosecution, Yeronner, is that I gave/sold all my rimfire plinkers away to people who at the time had greater need of them than I, and I don’t think I should be arrested for altruism/poverty.

That said, when I return from my sabbatical in Britishland, I intend to remedy the situation. My conundrum is that while I’ve fired just about every brand and type of rimfire plinker ever made — old ones, new ones, you name it, I’ve fired it — I’ve been thinking about it long and hard and I’ve ended up with Choice Paralysis. So I’m going to need the assistance of you, O My Readers.

The essence of a rimfire semi-auto plinker is that it be cheap (under $250), reliable and reasonably accurate (“reasonably” because no semi-auto can compete with my 880SQ; I’ve got the accuracy part covered).

The cost criterion, sadly, excludes such beauties as the Winchester Model 63 and its Taurus counterparts:

This pains me because I learned to shoot rifles with my Dad’s Mod 63, but sadly, it’s way too spendy, and so are the Taurus (discontinued) copies, when you can even find one. Another spendy but beautiful one is the CZ 512, but it’s way spendy (albeit drop-dead gorgeous, and maybe the most accurate of any semi-auto .22):

Just to make matters more complicated, I also don’t want to get a .22 semi-auto rifle I’ve owned before, which rules out the Marlin Mod 60 and Ruger 10/22. (See? I may be conservative, but I can embrace change…)

A cursory look at the various local retail outlets’ websites shows that my choices are limited to these (in no particular order):

Remington 597 (scoped):

My only quibble with this one is that it doesn’t have iron sights, in my opinion a sine qua non for plinkers.

Mossberg 702:

This one I haven’t fired before, but Doc Russia has one of these and the next time we hit the range, I’ll try it out.

Marlin 795:

Over the years, I must have fired a dozen 795s, and they are just fine.

Savage 64:

I haven’t fired many of these — as I recall, one belonging to a Reader, at a range somewhere — but also as I recall, it’s a lovely thing. And it’s a Savage, so it’s not going to be a bad choice. None of them are, I think.

(If I buy the “scoped” Savage 64 package, it’s still under the $250 limit, as is the Rem 597 above. With my failing eyesight, it’s a consideration.)

Of course, I’d prefer to buy a wooden-stocked plinker (because wood feels better than plastic in my hands), but it seems that the only ones available are the disqualified Mod 60 and 10/22 or the expensive Winchester/Taurus and CZ [sigh]. Remember, I’m looking for a knockaround rifle, not a safe queen or pinpoint shooter.

All suggestions, recommendations, war stories/tales of woe, warnings and such in Comments, please, and will be much appreciated. Don’t chide me for being in this situation; I’m greatly mortified as it is.


Bedside Guns

Over the years, many people have written to me asking what I would consider the ideal home-defense handgun. (And yes: I know that a handgun is what you use to fight your way to a shotgun. But sometimes your shotgun in locked away in your safe. So let’s just stick with the handgun, for the moment.)

Now, let’s understand what I mean by “home defense”. I don’t mean that your house is under siege by Al-Qa’eda fanatics or even the local neighborhood homeowners’ committee (California residents will know exactly what I mean).

No, what I mean is that you’re fast asleep, when suddenly you wake up and realize there’s mischief afoot, inside your house.

Let me be perfectly clear about what I’m going to say next.

If you have practiced and practiced and practiced with your trusty 1911 or SIG whatever, and the operation thereof is as automatic as breathing, by all means keep a semi-auto in your bedside drawer.

But unless you’re a total loony, if there’s a round in the chamber you should have the safety engaged. Or, if there’s no round in the chamber, it means you have to chamber one first — noise and fumbling may ensue. In other words, operation of your gun is a two-step process.

Or you can just do it the easy way, and use a double-action revolver. Nothing to think about, nothing to operate except the trigger (like that wonderful line: Smith & Wesson — the original “point and click” interface).

Ultimately, of course, you’re going to do what you want to do, with the gun that feels the most “comfortable” to you — i.e. the gun that you feel is most likely to get the job done.

And that’s fine. Just be aware of the potential drawbacks and advantages of all the options.

After all the hundreds of hours and many thousands of rounds I’ve spent with my beloved 1911 pistols, my bedside gun is a double-action .357 Magnum revolver, chambered with Federal Hydra-Shok 125gr. JHP (jacketed hollowpoints).

Ultimately, as I’ve said before, it all depends what you’re comfortable with—and if you’d rather park your Glock 17 next to the bed, be my guest. Just be sure when you’re half-awake and fumbling for the thing that you don’t hit the magazine release by mistake (it’s been known to happen, more than once)—and that can happen with any semi-auto pistol.

A revolver is like a fork: you pick it up, and it works. Here’s my old S&W Model 65, just to illustrate the concept:


Now for some other thoughts:

I talked a little about ammo earlier, and I need to offer some advice to people who own guns in GFW states like Massachusetts, California or New York.

If you whack a goblin in your home in a Righteous Shooting, there’s always a chance that some asshat prosecutor (or lawyer for the dead goblin) will go after you because you used “killer” ammo.

Yes, I know, all ammo is supposed to kill, but there’s no arguing about this when you’ve just used a full cylinder of Black Talons you picked up at that gun show in Alabama. If that happens, you’ll be painted as a “bloodthirsty vigilante killer” quicker than Tom Sawyer’s fence.

Here’s a tip: Use the same type of bullets as your local police force does. If you use “police” cartridges, then no one can paint you as a vicious killer.

Ask one of your neighborhood cops what kind of bullet (not just caliber) his department uses. Mostly, they’re going to use CCI/Speer Gold Dot, Winchester PDX or Silvertips, Remington Golden Saber or Federal Hydra-Shok. The caliber may vary, but the bullet type is probably going to be one of those brands. Generally, the same bullet type will be available in your caliber.

(Ditto shotgun shells, by the way—you may think it’s a really cool idea to BBQ the goblin with one of those “Dragon’s Breath” rounds, or turn him into a pincushion with a “flechette” shell, but, regrettably, it’s not a good choice. Use “game” loads: you’ll be a “sportsman”, not Rambo, and he’ll be just as dead.)

And one last caveat for everyone: whatever you’ve got in your bedside drawer, make sure that your kids or grandkids can’t get hold of it.

How you arrange that is up to you.

My kids, even when small, knew better than to go into my bedside drawer — but even so, I used to lock my bedside gun away during the day anyway, and take it out again at night. Did I ever forget to do that? Not once. After a while, it becomes a ritual, like cleaning your teeth in the morning and at night.

Trigger locks are okay, I guess, if you don’t want to mess with locking the gun away — just remember to lock it every morning, and unlock it every night. That I have forgotten to do (unlock it, I mean) — and it’s no fun to be fumbling with a trigger lock when all hell is breaking loose in your house, which is why I prefer to lock it away during the daytime.

I can’t stress this enough. A gun is a lethal object in a kid’s hands. A dozen or so kids, and their parents, find that out every year, and I just want to smash my head against the wall every time I hear about another incidence of that, because it’s so unnecessary.

And when the kids get older, teach them about guns and about gun safety. The incidence of accidental shooting deaths among kids who have been trained in gun safety is almost zero. Follow the stats, folks.

But most importantly of all, if your kid have friends over to play, lock the damn gun away. You may be able to trust your kid, but a group of kids has the collective responsibility of a treeful of drunken chimpanzees, and that will include yours.

Don’t give yourself a broken heart by your carelessness — and don’t give the gun-fearing wussies more ammo to use against other gun owners, either.

Here endeth the lesson.