Wendy Asks: Looking for input on an economical and reliable firearm for (small) varmints. Not a lot of extra money available right now. We've both shot a time or two, but we're far from experts, so what kind (presumably a .22)? New or used? And more generally, essential, can't do without guns in order of importance.
See it starts off like a simple straight forward question.... then it turns into a doctoral thesis in the last few words.
Essential firearms in orderof importance.... Holy crap man... I can't even remotely answer that. but I will tell ya what I can do. I will put up a list of types of firearms and write why each should be at the top of your list... and why it shouldn't be. Then you can read it and prioritize for yourself.
Why it should be the first gun you buy: Versatility. A 12 guage shotgun does it all. Shoot squirrels? Yep. Doves? yep. Deer? Put a slug in there. We can do that to. And a shotty is hell on wheels for home defense.
Why it shouldn't be: Versatility. Sure it does all those things. But its only the best at one of them (doves), two at best (home defense) and even then if you configure to be the best at one of those it won't be as good at the other. If you have a specific need for a specific job, there is usually something better to do it with than a shotgun. Especially if that job involves shooting coyotes or anything else at a distance.
Why it should be the first gun you buy: Defense and convenience. Pistols are fast and easy to carry. You can even hunt with them. Like the shotgun they can be pressed into different roles. Convenience is the major benefit though. Its better to have a pistol with you than a rifle or shotgun back at the house.
Why it shouldn't be: What good does it do you to have the pistol if the pistol won't do the job you need done? You ain't shooting coyotes at 100 yards with a pistol... and if you can... the pistol is so big and heavy you may as well be using a carbine anyway.
Centerfire Bolt Action Rifle:
Why it should be the first gun you buy: Meat. That's why. Nothing kills like a bolt action rifle. Auto-loaders get all the press but sniping is how you really put living creatures down... and that's what hunting is. if the job is killing, most of the time this is the tool for the job. Coyotes... deer... elk... praire dogs.. you name it. If it walks... you can kill it.
Why it shouldn't be: This is a specialty tool. Look if the badman kicks in your door... you're not gonna grab a winchester model 70 that's 40 inches long and point it at him. You wouldn't even be able to find him in the scope that close. Sure its great for hunting but its crap for home defense... unless you know they are coming.
Rimfire Semi Auto Rifle:
Why it should be your first rifle: Because it almost always is. I grew up thinking the US mail just delivered Ruger 10/22s to every house as a public service. .22 is still cheap in comparison and does the job on small game. Plus you can sharpen your skills without going broke. Its cheap. And .22mag and .17hmr are inexpensive and handle small game and varmints well.
Why it shouldn't be: What good is "comparatively cheap" when you can't find the stuff for sale? A rifle ain't worth a damn without ammo and .22lr is all but impossible to find. 17hmr and .22mag are excellent options for varmints and small game but they aren't as inexpensive as .22lr. Though they are more available. If this is your primary need fine but there are usually more important jobs to do than plinkin' and killing rabbits.
Semi-auto centerfire rifle:
Why it should be the first gun you buy: Because black rifles are sexy dammit. AR-15s scare liberals all to shit and what is better than terrifying a damned hippy? Nothing. The AR does it all. Varmints.. defense... you can even take deer if you take headshots. Plus the liberals will be terrified. BONUS!
Why it shouldn't be: .223 is 50 cents a shot. That's expensive kids. And yes.. you can take deer but no one really does. if you want to do that get an AR10... which is chambered in .308.. or better yet an m14 in the same caliber. But how much are you really gonna use these rfiles? sure if TSHTF you need one... but if that happens...won't there be plenty layin' around?
Ok... but what are some inexpensive but functional options to look at in each category?
Shotgun: Mossberg 500 is the way to go here if this is your choice. 12gauge. You can get a rifled slug barrel if you need to, or a shorter barrel for defensive work. switching them around is easy.
Handgun: Taurus Tracker in .357 mag with 4 inch barrel. You can practice with 38 special (cheaper, less recoil) and load it up with the real thing for when ya need it. Snake shot in .38 special is very effective. Believe me. I know.
Centerfire Bolt Acion Rifle: Get a savage Axis II. Its cheap and out of the box will probably shoot better than you do. No its not perfect. But it has a great trigger and a decent scope and will kill whatever it is you need to kill.
Rimfire Semi-Auto: None of these are expensive. The CZ 512 is a fantastic option I'd get it in 22mag. No offense to the .17hmr devotees.. its a great option too.
Semi-auto Centerfire: Keltec SU-16C. Its cheap... it uses AR mags... its accurate... and it is compact and easy to store, clean, and use. I cannot stress how important it is to get the C model though. It has a heavier barrel and it significantly more accurate than the other SU configurations.
Now... for me... I would go with a pump action shotgun first. Home defense is the most important thing to me. After that I'd get a handgun... Then a bolt action centerfire rifle... then an AR.
Generally I would say the essential list of firearms everyone needs looks like this:
1) home defense shotgun (mossberg 500)
2) defensive handgun (tracker .357
3) centerfire bolt action rifle... meat gun (savage axis)
4) TSHTF Rifle (SU-16)
Now... bear in mind serious budget constraints were kept in the front of my mind the whole time I as writing this. Yes... I'm sure there are more expensive options that work better. I'm sure you can name several. Thanks for that.