The “Guy With One Gun” Myth

In this piece, the old saw gets recycled:

As the old saying goes, you should beware the man with only one gun because he knows how to use it.

He explains:

A person who shoots hundreds or thousands of rounds through a particular rifle and spends countless hours carrying that same rifle afield becomes intimately familiar with it. That sort of familiarity quite often means that the rifle almost becomes an extension of the hunter, which usually translates into good results afield.

Frankly, I think that’s bollocks.  While it’s possible that the above may be true, the reality is that a “one gun” guy probably doesn’t practice all that often with it, often relying on ingrained habits to shoot the thing, and if he does practice at all, it’s a few rounds popped off a day or two before the hunting season opens.  I knew a guy in Pennsylvania who boasted to me that he could make a box of .30-30 last for three years.

This is not a committed shooter.  I know that among my Readers, almost all of y’all (except the Brits) own a lot more than a single rifle, shoot a lot of them all year round, and are constantly tinkering with loads, bullet weights and powders — or if not reloaders (like me), at least different brands of ammo — and even scopes, always trying to wring the best possible performance out of their guns.  These are committed shooters, and likely to be far better shots than the guy with one gun.

The only time I’d agree with the old saying is in the area of self-defense pistols, where complete familiarity with your weapon is an absolute necessity.  (If I were restricted to only one centerfire pistol, I’d be fine with my 1911, but I still wouldn’t be happy about it.)

As for the article’s premise  (“If you could take only one rifle out into the field, which one would it be?” ), well, it all depends on the “field”, doesn’t it?  Hunting bighorns in the northern Rockies is different from whitetails in Pennsylvania and Cape buffalo in Africa.

The problem with a “general purpose” rifle — e.g. Jeff Cooper’s Scout Rifle concept — is that it may do a lot of things reasonably well, but not much very well.  It’s a concept that all my Longtime Readers encounter in the hypothetical situation of Crossing America which has been a feature of my writing many times over the years.  (By the way, I re-read the post linked here, and I wouldn’t change anything.)

And while I picked my beloved 1896 Swedish Mauser for that specific occasion, and I know it about as well as any gun I’ve ever owned, I would still not be satisfied with it, and only it, in Ye Olde Gunne Sayfe.


  1. Kim’s “Crossing America” posts have been my favourites for years.

    Lots of fun pondering various combinations of guns/ammo/edged weapons, usually with an adult beverage in hand, posting your decisions and then having to revise the whole lot when the older and wiser gents educate you and enforce a re-think.

    Good times.

    1. I didn’t see you genuflecting after invoking the name of the Great Karamojo Bell.
      Respect, please.

  2. As Quigley said: “I didn’t say I didn’t know how to use a sixgun. I said I didn’t see much use for one.” Or somesuch.

    1. It really doesn’t matter how many firearms a man has, so long as when he uses the ones he has, they hit whatever he was aiming at. This is what I aspire to.

  3. Learned a lot about knives from the prior year’s posts. Thanks.

    Firearms: A pre-Remington [spit] 1894 Marlin (Did you know that Ruger has bought Marlin? Squeeee!) with a few reliability slick-ups and a Ruger Super-RedHawk, both in .44 Mag. Both firearms can shoot .44 Special or even .44 Russki, allowing tailoring of the load to the situation and firearm. (The wrist is no longer a fan of .44 Magnum out of a handgun.)

    1. I like the Marlin 1995 Guide Gun in 45-70, had one of the first ones and let it go on a trade and then read what the Remington folks had done to it. I was lucky enough to find a pre-Remington 45-70 as Jackson Armory in Dallas about 15 years ago and snatched it up, it is even better than the first because it does not have a muzzle brake. Light load 45-70 for the old guns shoots easy as can be and then you can purchase the hot stuff that will take down most anything except elephants, at least that’s what I have read so it must be true. I have a Williams peep site on mine with a small diopter that really works. If I just had to have one gun that might be an OK gun but I seem to require a lot more than just a few for some reason and I always tell my wife, “That’s the last gun I will ever need to buy.” and she laughs at me.

      1. “I always tell my wife, ‘That’s the last gun I will ever need to buy,’ and she laughs at me.”

        Some wives are a little more ummm shall we say hostile towards the prospect.

        One of my Readers, who shall remain nameless, told me that his wife put her foot down at the prospect of a third gun safe in the spare bedroom.

      2. Tex, my recipe for God’s Cartridge (the 45-70, dontcha know) is a pre-Remington [spit] Marlin 1895CB Cowboy Lever, the prettier, older cousin of your Guide Gun. The 26″ octagon barrel and the longer loading tube and additional ammo really help soak-up the recoil, even from those 550gr dino-slayers. It’s got a flip-up rear peep and a Globe front sight for those long-range, 150 yard plus, rainbow shots. ;^)’

      3. Before we tied the knot, I asked my wife “We may be broke, there may not be any food in the house, or clean clothes, but the guns will be clean and the ammo re-loaded. Can you live with that?”. That was in 1984. We are still together. Heh, she just got out of Facebook jail. Again.

        My second 45-70 was a Marlin New Model 1895 that I bought at the military rod and gun club on Herzo base in West Germany in 1976.

  4. I spent a few hours yesterday, organizing ammo amongst the many .mil-surp .30 & .50 cal ammo cans, preparing for an upcoming Texas shooting event some four weeks out.

    And next, I have to decide exactly which lucky gunsafe residents will make the trip to said event. Lots of 6.5×55 options, and they’re all going, for sure. But otherwise, I think I’m going to opt heavy in the .22 LR department. Because there’s sure to be many new shooters there in the mix.

    Which brings me to the point. When you strive to bring as many new shooters into the fold as you can, you’re going to need far more guns than YOU might otherwise need.

    Hell, I’m keeping handguns that I don’t even LIKE, just to provide that one person with tiny-weird hands something with which THEY might possibly shoot well.

    You know at a certain level, keeping many guns is somewhat like herding cats. You DO know where you stashed that one cat, right?

    *bonus* stray guns don’t yack up hairballs to step into barefoot while footin’ it to piss at 3 am. but if you do step on that Glock 17, it’s gonna hurt worse’n a Lego.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  5. I think the “man with one gun” is also someone who is not really “into” guns and therefore does not put much thought or care into shooting.

    Besides, is there even anybody out there who only owns “one gun?” I was 19 when I bought my first gun (a Universal Carbine, a semi-knockoff of the old GI carbine although most of the parts did not interchange) and I bought my second a few months later.

    Except for that brief period of a few months I have never owned just “one gun.” And when I think about my friends, family members and acquaintances, they break neatly into two categories: Those that own NO guns, and those that own MULTIPLE guns.

    I mean, maybe there are cops or security guards out there who regard their sidearm as simply a tool for work and don’t give it much thought otherwise (although I worked armed security for many years in the 80’s and 90’s and most of the other guards I knew were “gun guys”) but I can honestly say I don’t know anybody who owns just ONE gun. What about the rest of you?

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