Same Old Question, Different Time — Handguns

For part 1 (Rimfire) of this series, go here; for part 2 (Shotguns), here; and for part 3 (Assault Rifles), here.

4.) Home-defense handguns:
No other purchase decision in the gun world gives rise to more fevered argument and justification than that of one’s handgun because, quite frankly, it’s one of the most personal decisions extant. And I will confess that there was a time when I would get onto verbal fistfights with people over whether this handgun was better than that one, because… because… because no reason. If you want to start a flame war in any gun forum, just say that H&K makes overpriced guns which weigh too much and aren’t much better than Glocks. Ditto Colt vs. Smith & Wesson, Ruger vs. Beretta and so on ad nauseam.

And let’s not even get started on arguments over the choice of caliber (and yes, I’m as guilty if not more so for my dogmatic preference for the .45 ACP).

So what I’m going to try to do in this piece is to present the philosophy which should inform your choice of handgun for home defense — please note, not your carry piece, or your backwoods must-have piece, or any other use. The key word here is home. So let me look at some of the options, along with cogent considerations why you could pick one over the other, but the very first rule of household defense is simple, regardless of your choice: you should never be further than a few feet away from a gun in your house. Believe me, when trouble arrives, it’s going to come quickly — and you don’t want to be scampering up the stairs to your gun safe when someone has just kicked in your kitchen door and is looking at your wife with unromantic intentions. Yeah, sometimes you’re going to feel like an idiot, schlepping your gun from one room to another. It’s less idiotic than being carried out of your house on a stretcher and/or your teenage daughter getting raped. Now let’s get on with it.

Revolver vs. semi-automatic:
Many people prefer revolvers over semi-autos because revolvers are like a fork: you pick it up, and it works. Mostly, there’s no safety-catch on a revolver (there are some, a development which I deplore), and if your revolver is double-action (i.e. it doesn’t require that the hammer be cocked before shooting), the revolver is like a fork: pick it up, aim, pull the trigger and bang (or BANG!!! if it’s a .44 Magnum or its big brothers). Unfortunately, that same ease of use also means that an inquisitive seven-year-old boy can make the thing go bang just as easily as his mom or dad can. (Yes, I know: teach your children about gun safety while you’re potty-training them or whatever; I’m assuming that my audience is somewhat responsible, but sadly, not everyone is.)

So: semi-autos, which have safeties and as an added precaution, can be stored without a mag. Which adds just a little more fumble-time when a goblin kicks down your back door en route to his grand plan of intra-household mayhem. And just as I mentioned in the Part 2 (shotgun) piece, loading a mag and racking the slide cannot be done in silence, which means that said goblin will be warned of your presence and your intentions.

As much as it pains me to say it, though, Glocks are semi-autos masquerading as revolvers, because they operate in basically the same way. (My dislike for Glocks is purely for personal and aesthetic reasons — I shoot the Glock 19 more accurately than just about any other handgun except the 1911 and Browning High Power.) So the Glock is a valid option — but preferably not in ordinary 9mm, and definitely not using full metal jacket ammo (see below).

It’s your choice. I personally keep a .357 Magnum double-action (DA) revolver next to my bed, but if it’s at the gunsmith for a trigger job, I’m equally comfortable with my single-action (SA) 1911 in .45 ACP in its place, simply because I’ve fired tens of thousands of rounds through both kinds of handgun and using either is as natural as starting a car. And I have no small kids running around in my house, so safety is not a concern for me. Your situation will differ, so decide accordingly.

Your choice of cartridge should reflect the absolute need to have a one-shot stop capability inside your house, which generally means the bigger, the better. However, as we discussed in part 2 (shotguns), you want to strike a balance between a cartridge’s stopping power and the bullet’s penetration. I consider the 9mm Parabellum cartridge an absolute stinker for a home defense round — especially the full metal jacketed rounds — because they are marginal stoppers and penetrate drywall with ease. And frankly, the high magazine capacity that the 9mm offers is a dubious one because generally speaking, very few home invasions result in fifteen rounds bring fired.

Stopping power, I think, is critical. To make it even more understandable: big boolets — certainly for your primary home-defense handgun, anyway — are going to get the job done better than smaller ones, no matter how fast the latter leave the barrel. For years, my bedside gun was chambered in .44 Special (not Magnum), and I never felt under-gunned. Now it’s a .357 Mag — and at some point, I may just go back to my earlier choice. 

Whatever you decide, though, the rule of thumb should always be: one handgun per adult household member. (You can decide whether your kids can be classed as “adults” or not; mine had their own guns at various ages, starting at 11 for the Son&Heir, 14 for Daughter and #2 Son never got a gun because while I taught him how to shoot at age 15, he’s just never been that interested. So while we were all under the same roof, we had four gun owners out of five inhabitants, and if push came to shove, five out of five.)

There is one caveat to this rule, however, and it’s a big one. If you think your wife / girlfriend / kids are even the slightest bit mentally unprepared, or unstable, do not give them a gun. That’s where the anti-gunners’ trope of “a gun is more likely to kill someone in the household” comes from. It’s bullshit as stated, but at the same time, it does happen, so be careful about this.

Here, then, are my recommendations for home defense handguns. (Note that for home defense, the size of the gun is not as important as it would be for, say, carry purposes.)

For men: a revolver in either .38 Special +P, .357 Magnum, .44 Special or similar; or a semi-auto in .45 ACP, 10mm, .40 S&W, or (reluctantly) 9mm +P. All bullets should be some kind of hollowpoint (Hydra Shok, Golden Saber, SXT and so on). Cor-Bon’s “Pow’Rball” ammo (in just about any caliber) is an excellent choice (less recoil, good stopping power and limited penetration of interior walls because of the frangible Glaser bullets), but many people just can’t justify the high price and go with the usual suspects instead.

For women: a revolver in .38 Special +P or a semi-auto in 9mm +P. (And please: if your wife can shoot the eyes out of a silhouette target with a .357 or .44 Magnum, then of course that’s what she should use.) Yes, women can and do shoot larger cartridges, but after personally training hundreds of women to shoot, I’ve come to the conclusion that the .38+P and 9mm+P are the optimal go-to choices for the average woman. If she is very recoil-sensitive, by all means go smaller (e.g. 380 ACP/9mm Kurz), but make sure that the ammo is not FMJ and can feed reliably. Remember: almost any gun is better than no gun, but in extremis you want to go as big and powerful as you can handle.

I used to have very specific recommendations when it came to handgun brands, but in recent years, the quality among the larger gun companies has markedly improved, so I’m a lot less dogmatic. I would just remind everyone that the cheaper the gun, the more compromises will have been made, whether in workmanship, materials and what have you. The Iron Triangle of Gunnery (price/accuracy/reliability) will not be gainsaid. Using the venerable 1911 platform as an example — the one I know most about — I know someone who regularly shoots a WWII-era Colt 1911A1, and it still performs as advertised. My own Springfield G.I. 1911 has fired more than 30,000 rounds over the past fifteen-odd years, and does likewise. I’m not so sure anyone will be able to get the same results with, say, a Hi-Point. That said: you get up the quality/cost curve really fast with modern guns, and a $2,000 Ed Brown 1911 is not twice as reliable/accurate as a similarly-specced Springfield 1911 at less than half the price.

My favorite semi-auto handgun brands are many, but they include Colt, Springfield and Kimber for the 1911; and for the other cartridge/action options, the Browning P-35 High Power, CZ-75 D, Beretta, Glock, Kahr and SIG. Of course there are more options out there (e.g. S&W, Walther, HK, Para-Ord, Taurus etc.), but these are the brands I’ve fired the most and therefore the ones I would entrust my life to.

With revolvers, my “favorites” list is much shorter: S&W, Ruger, and Colt. (I know about Taurus, of course, but I’ve just not fired the brand as much as the others. Many people whose opinions I respect have only good things to say about Taurus, however, so be my guest.)

As always, Reader comments are welcome. Your experiences may differ, and if so I’d like to hear about them. (Just don’t start any flame wars.)

Same Old Question, Different Time — Assault Rifles

(For part 1 of this series, go here; for part 2, here.)

3.) Assault Rifles:
There was a time when owning an assault rifle was regarded with amusement. Only the “preppers”or “blue helicopter” crowd owned them, mostly out of paranoia. Those times are gone. The way the political situation has become not only polarized but more antagonistic, and with the possibility of random ISIS attacks and /or riot-provoking organizations like the Antifa and Black Lives Matter thugs, every home should hold at least one assault rifle.

I know, we hide this rationale under cutesy names like “Zombie Apocalypse” and the like. Let’s not mince words, here: there’s no such thing as zombies, and mob violence is going to come from living, breathing human beings who want to loot your home at best, or else do you harm because of the color of your skin, the size of your investment portfolio, because Trump! or even just because it’s Friday. What we need, therefore, is to be able to deliver sustained, rapid fire into a series of human targets, and an ability to reload quickly to address their larger numbers. Reliability is absolutely critical, here — this is no time to call on a gunsmith, or have to start tinkering with components which have somehow failed since the last time we went to the range.

I know that the AR-15 and its many derivations are the black rifle of choice for many. I disagree with that choice. While the AR has been improved to where its reliability is somewhat better than average (and much better than it used to be), I still think that the rifle itself is a little too finicky, and its 5.56mm (.223 Rem) cartridge is an inadequate stopper. The low recoil of the smaller cartridge does not compensate for its lack of knockdown power.

In one of the Tales Of The Gun shows once aired on TV, one of the guys interviewed said something like, “When civilization has failed and collapsed completely, the gun I want in my hands is an AK-47.”

I agree. The AK’s larger 7.62x39mm cartridge is leagues better than the 5.56mm, the AK rifle’s reliability and ruggedness are legendary, and its perceived lack of accuracy at longer ranges (more than 200 yards) doesn’t matter at typical mob violence distances, which can be measured in feet rather than yards. Note too, that I’m not suggesting its use as an anti-burglar tool — you have a shotgun and a couple handguns for that already, right? — because the 7.62x39mm cartridge will go through internal walls like they don’t exist. But as a “crowd control” device, there are few better choices than the AK-47.

Of course, AKs are no longer the bargain buy they used to be. (Have I already thanked that socialist anti-gun prick Barack Obama for causing gun sales to explode and thereby have prices go through the roof? Allow me, then…) On the other hand, while their price has risen, they’re still a bargain compared to the stratospheric prices charged for even the most basic AR-15s.

AKs do not allow for much tacticooling, other than perhaps with the very-much-recommended addition of an Ultimak rail and Aimpoint red-dot sight, like my old one:

And the other fine thing about the AK-47 is that unlike the AR-15, which apparently requires quarter-hourly cleanings to prevent stoppages, the AK can, if necessary, be cleaned only in months (or years) divisible by seven and still be counted upon to shoot. Yes, I know that we should all clean our guns assiduously. Just remember that when civilization fails, you may not be able to find any Hoppes No.9 lying around.

One last point (which I’ve made before): the first pic of the AK shows it with the popular 30-round magazine loaded. I have no problem with that mag, but I myself prefer the 20-rounders (as seen in the second pic), simply because you can’t shoot the 30-round mag from prone without assuming some strange yoga pose. You should have an absolute minimum of two spare magazines, and four would be much better (100 or 150 rounds at hand). Metal ones, because you can drive a Prius over one and it will probably still work in the AK.

As for ammo, use whatever is cheapest. Also unlike the AR-15, the AK is not fussy about ammo and will shoot anything. I like the Brown Bear brand the best, but I’ll shoot pretty much whatever’s on sale. Buy your 7.62x39mm accordingly — a thousand or so rounds will do for starters, not because you’ll need a thousand rounds to fight off a crowd of assholes, but because you can practice with it and not be caught short during an ammo shortage when everyone starts panic buying (such as occurred during the Obama Dark Times).

Final thought: I may be pissing some people off with my preference of the AK-47 over the AR-15. Here’s my take on it: if you’re a veteran of the Armed Forces and thanks to your experience with the M4 you’re as familiar with the operation of the AR-15 as driving a car, by all means get whatever flavor of AR you wish — preferably in larger calibers like the 6.5mm Grendel, .300 Blackout, whatever — or even the AR-10 in 7.62x51mm NATO. Of course the AR platform is a perfectly viable option, and one should always go with the gun one understands, can operate, fix and all that good stuff. (That’s why I prefer the Colt 1911 pistol over all other handguns, despite its couple flaws.)

I just think that the AK-47 is a better solution to an End Times scenario. As with everything I write here, your opinions may vary, and in this case, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Next: defensive handguns.

Same Old Question, Different Time — Shotguns

(For part 1 of this series, go here.)

2.) Shotguns:
Every home should have at least one shotgun dedicated to home defense.

This means that it should always be close at hand, whether you’re sitting in your living room watching TV late at night, or asleep in bed, or working in your garage. If your shotgun is too unwieldy to schlep around from room to room, then you can deputize your handgun as the portable one, and keep the shotgun handy in the bedroom. (And remember: all the necessary safeguards should be taken to prevent accidents.) Now let’s consider the options.

I’m going to break somewhat with tradition, here. Just about every person who talks about this subject thinks that the sine qua non for a home defense shotgun should be chambered in 12-gauge. I’m not one of them. Remember, firing a 12ga. shell loaded with 00 buckshot means that several .30-caliber pellets are going to be on their way — and while they will do yeoman service in perforating a goblin, they can also penetrate several layers of drywall — not a good thing if your kid’s bedroom is on the other side. Also, bearing in mind the “recoil” caveat for this series, I personally find the recoil of a 12-gauge somewhat excessive. (Aside: please refrain from telling me how your 120-lb wife has no problem with shooting your Remington 870, or how your 7-year-old kid does likewise. Not interested.) I’ve shot just about every kind of shotgun ever made, in all calibers, and I honestly don’t think the 12-gauge is for everyone, and especially if you want the shotgun to serve as everyone’s weapon in the house.

Likewise, most people think there’s something about the sound of a pump shotgun being “racked” (i.e. the slide being slid back and then forward to chamber a round) that creates some magical aura of fear. Well, sure it does — unless the goblin actually broke into your house to kill you, in which case all you’re doing by racking the shotgun is telling the scumbag that you’re awake, and where you are. I like the element of surprise, myself, and nothing creates trouble for a goblin’s breathing like a sudden, unanticipated shotgun blast coming out of the darkness at him. So here’s my recommendation for a primary home defense shotgun: the Mossberg SA-20  “Railed” model (with a 20″ barrel) is reliable and inexpensive, and looks as tacticool as all hell:

Note that the rail will allow you to mount a red-dot sight or flashlight on the barrel with ease. The SA-20 also comes in a shortened “Bantam Youth” model with a 24″ barrel, if your missus or teenage kid would want to use it:

I’ve only ever fired the SA-20’s big brother, the Mossberg 930 (12ga) and found it quite reasonable to shoot, but I bet the smaller chambering of the SA-20 will put a smile on your face. Come to think of it, I need a semi-auto shotgun… and oh, look! CheaperThanDirt has it for $450 and change.

You can spend more (a lot more) on a semi-auto shotgun (Benelli, Beretta, Browning, Winchester etc), but I’m not sure you need to, for a home defense piece.

Finally, we need to look at ammo for this little thing. I’m pretty sure I’d go for the #3 Buckshot, which fires 20 pellets rather than the smaller birdshot cartridges, which shoot more, but much smaller pellets. Granted, inside a typical room the shot is not going to spread much, if at all — but the larger pellets are still a better bet, I think.

As always, Reader comments are welcome.

Next: assault rifles.

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.

Then And Now

Just to prove that there’s nothing new under the sun…



I should point out that while the girl in the first pic has assumed a rock-steady stance for a gun rest, the same is not true for the girl in the second pic. I blame the public school system, NBC’s Olympic coverage of Women’s Gymnastics, and Democrats in general.

Also, modernity does have its drawbacks. The girl in the first picture is unlikely to experience any untoward effects, other than perhaps some black-powder smoke in her eyes (and she’s wearing a bonnet to help prevent that; very responsible). Unfortunately,and thanks to the rapid-fire ability of the AR-15 and the concomitant warming of its barrel, the girl in the second pic is likely to experience a condition known to us Old Guys as “blistered furburger”.

Just sayin’. (And thanks to Reader Old Texan for the second pic.)