Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NateMail: Essential Guns

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.


Res Ipsa said...

I've got no complaints with the list, or the reasoning. The only thing I noticed from the post worth brining up is the name of the person doing it "Wendy". If Wendy is a female, and I assume she is, she should find somebody that will let her try out a 12 gauge before she buys one. I love my 500, but it can be too much for folks with a smaller frame.

Allabaster said...

Pretty comprehensive, should the ability to be effectively silenced be a consideration? If so then the 22lr has a consideration the others generally lack.

slowpoke said...

Chris Byrne at Anarchangel did this a couple years ago:

Shorty said...

^^^^ That was me.

Shorty said...

Son of a bitch. Blogger ate my first comment.

Here it is again:
Other than protecting your hearing, the ability to suppress your weapon should be so far down the list of considerations that it shouldn't even be considered. Comparatively few people actually own NFA-registered cans, so the market for them is and will be very limited.

Aside from the heavy-grain .22 sub-sonic rounds, you'll need either a CNC machine and proper plans or someone willing to give/steal a suppressor for your rifle or pistol. K.I.S.S.

Nate said...

Aquila makes .22 rounds that are practically as quiet as a silenced .22 is anyway.

Wendy said...

Thanks Nate and all. :)

I will probably try out a 12 gauge first before we buy one, but really, if it is needed, I won't be the one firing it (most likely).

We'll be out in the country, so we don't have to worry about noise.

Wendy said...

Any thoughts on buying guns used? There are lots of estate auctions and such around here...

Double Minded Man said...

There are lots of facebook groups that you can join that allow individuals to sell their firearms. I suggest looking for those.

But until you know about guns, you might not buy a gun in good shape if you are buying it used. That being said, revolvers pretty much just work. And you just need to make sure the cylinder lines up. And used shotguns are pretty solid too. So too would be the centerfire bolt rifles.

Double Minded Man said...

Silencers are pretty easy. Would be best to have a threaded end on your barrel. There is a company that sells adapters that thread on your barrel and you screw on an oil filter, which are and will be in ready supply.

This article shows how its done or could be done.

Wulf said...

First off, I loved the bit about the 10/22 delivery-public service bit. That was awesome.


As far as buying a used firearm, there are some pitfalls and saving graces. If your relatively new to firearms in general purchasing a used firearm from an individual can be tricky. Quiet honestly, you don't know, what you don't know. So you don't know what to look for, or to avoid. However, most reputable gun shops (and maybe the occasional pawn shop)will actually check the firearm for safety and function before they buy it/accept pawn of it.

Purchasing used, is also a decision of economics. Usually in the shotgun Nate's talking about the difference will be about $150-180USD from a used to a new. While I personally have known days that $50 would have broke the deal much less $150, I understand its all on individual situation.

Basically your looking at $150.00USD ish for a used shotgun ( ) opposed to say $300-330USD for a new ( ) (link's for example omly)

For a sheer economical option, (THAT IS NOT FOR HOME DEFENSE). But rather hunting/training/plinking. There are several single barrel shotguns such as the H&R Pardner line ( ) combined with what's called chamber adapters ( ) that will allow you to turn any number of shotgun gauges into other various rifle and pistol, calibers.

And I'll stop there to keep this from not being a book. You've a world of options and a damn fine information source available in Nate.

Say'eth the Wulf.

Nate said...


Many people will only buy private party firearms.. as that is the only way to make sure there is no paper trail.

people buy and trade guns from each other all the time. No big deal. Plus... you can get a good deal.

WaterBoy said...

Nate: "Many people will only buy private party firearms.. as that is the only way to make sure there is no paper trail."

For the most part, yes. But various state laws have changed that, somewhat. Don't know where Wendy lives, but the law in Colorado since July 1 of 2013 now requires background checks on most private-party sales, too, with some exceptions.

None of which means anything if you don't care about legality, of course...but it's still a good idea to know what the law is in your state. For instance, the statute of limitations in Colorado on sales like this that don't run the check is, IIRC, 18 months.

And if the seller insists on the papers, you can always find another seller.

Cheddarman said...

Nate, why buy the m-14/M1A over an AR-15 in 308 caliber?

I always thought the AR was more accurate than the M1A.

Cheddarman said...

Nate, why buy the m-14/M1A over an AR-15 in 308 caliber?

I always thought the AR was more accurate than the M1A.

Booch Paradise said...

I keep hearing people say that 22lr is hard to find, but it's really not, unless you have some aversion to buying online.

Nate said...

Booch... lots of people don't like buying guns or ammo online.

Nate said...

Cheds... we like the AR for the money... but if money is no object... well... there sits the SOCOM II

Nate said...

Waterboy... i should very much love to know how a government could enforce such a bullshit law.

Booch Paradise said...

Booch... lots of people don't like buying guns or ammo online.

And not without cause either. But my point was that 22lr has always been available. Throughout the entire ammo shortage, I have never just flatout not been able to purchase 22lr. And purchase it for fairly cheap to. It was never like 9mm, where months at a time (at least where I live) you couldn't find it anywhere, except for maybe getting to a store early in the morning and paying a premium for a rationed single box of the stuff.

Giraffe said...

As far as buying guns used. It usually is not a problem if you buy the simple ones.

A used pump shotgun is probably a good bet. You can't wear out a shotgun unless you shoot hot loads or a ton of steel shot. I bought my 12 gauge 870 used when I was in high school. I've shot it a lot and I'm guessing it was 30 years old when I bought it. I have replaced one part on it. You can save half your money buying a used shotgun.

Any used .22 is probably ok, excepting gas operated semiautos. These are more complicated, my dad wore his out, and I bought a used one that quit on me. A ruger 10/22 is always good. Thing is, used price is close enough to new that you should just buy new.

For centerfire rifles, there is some risk. Generally, if you look at the gun closely, you should be able to tell. A gun that has not been taken care of will show it. The other thing is you can end up with a gun with the barrel worn out. I don't think that happens much with mere mortal men. It takes several thousand rounds, and most people don't shoot that in 5 lifetimes. If you are in praire dog country then be carefull buying varmint calibers. Be careful buying AR's and other high volume guns used.

Otherwise, used is a good way to buy guns. I bought close to half mine used and only had a problem with one of them.

black said...

Great post, Nate. Thanks.

Res Ipsa said...

I always thought the AR was more accurate than the M1A.

That's not been my experience. If you are talking about custom guns, then maybe someone has a really nice AR-10 package. If you are talking all other levels of production from mil surplus to standard to semi-custom, then no. Nate is right "for the money" is the key. If you've got $2,000 to $2,500 get the M1A1. Compare that to $800 to $1,200 for an AR platform.

WaterBoy said...

Nate: "i should very much love to know how a government could enforce such a bullshit law."

Trivially easy, really...if they actually wanted to do it. They'd enforce it the same way they enforce prostitution, pedophilia, and liquor laws -- via sting operations:
1. Skim classifieds and other online venues advertising guns for sale.
2. Arrange a meeting with the seller.
3. Announce that you will not do the background check.
4. If the seller goes ahead with the sale anyway, bust him Danno.

Once a few high-profile cases are advertised, most everyone else will voluntarily comply. Which is really all they're hoping for, anyway.


Much of the law enforcement community here agree that the law is essentially unenforceable. Not because of the difficulty in carrying out operations like the above -- as I demonstrated, it's trivially easy -- but because they don't have budgets for the extra manpower required. In fact, a coalition of sheriffs even filed a lawsuit to overturn the law on those grounds.

Regardless of all this, though...the main point is to know what the law says -- even if you don't plan to adhere to it, you should know what the consequences are.

Outlaw X said...

If I could only own one gun or I could own two or three but had to wait to save money up. My first gun would be the Remington 12ga. 870 Special Field. You can hunt anything with one of those and they are great for home defense. My friends used to call is "shorty" when I would break it out for "Crazy Quail" game in skeet shooting. I got a deer 100 yard easy with slugs. Make sure you get the Improved cylinder for barrel.

cheddarman said...

I posted this over at Vox Popoli, wanted to repost it here for everyone's reading pleasure:

Where is Nate?

I wonder if Seal Team 6 and Seal Team 7 got themselves pinned down in a firefight somewhere in Iraq, and the powers that be had to launch " The Nate Option" to safely extract them.

Nate said...

hehehehe.. Nate's around. Damned far to run dammit.

Nate said...

Waterboy... I cannot help but note that if it is trivially easy... why haven't they managed to stop prostitution?

Very few gun transactions involve classifieds.

The vast majority are friends selling to friends.

WaterBoy said...

Nate: "I cannot help but note that if it is trivially easy... why haven't they managed to stop prostitution?"

Easy ≠ Effective

Running the sting is easy, which they do all the time with those other crimes I listed. Hell, they even have a specialized unit in the city PD here dedicated to nothing but catching online predators trying to hook up with children. And the stings they run against liquor establishments have become a joke in this town for their ineptitude.

But those stings aren't intended to stop all crimes like prostitution and selling to minors -- they're only intended to be a damper, to keep them from getting out of control. Like I said, the budgets required to actually be effective would be astronomical, and would result in a virtual police state.

LE in this state know this, and cited it in their lawsuit as one of the reasons they can't effectively enforce the new gun laws.

"Very few gun transactions involve classifieds.

The vast majority are friends selling to friends.

This may be true (and variable by area), but it isn't all.

We have a large military population here, and whenever there's a large deployment overseas invariably there's an uptick in classifieds advertising guns for sale from soldiers who don't have family here to hold onto them.

My response also intended to account for those other venues mentioned upthread:

"There are lots of facebook groups that you can join that allow individuals to sell their firearms. I suggest looking for those."

I'm not on Facebook so I cannot vouch for the prevalence of sales through such groups. But if they exist, it should be noted that they are covered as well.

Nate said...

Everywhere I've lived Waterboy there have been guys that swap guns around like high school kids swap girlfriends.

WaterBoy said...

I agree.

When I left for the Air Force, I gave all my firearms to my best friend back home because I knew I wouldn't be able to take them overseas with me.

My first assignment, I got sent to Ohio.


Res Ipsa said...

My first assignment, I got sent to Ohio.

Talk about having to sacrifice for ones country. The only worse assignments you could have gotten were NYNY, NJ or California.

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