Shotgun – This is the most important gun. A shotgun can be inexpensive and has many uses from hunting to trap/skeet games, sporting clays to self defense. Speaking of self defense, the Cha-Chunk sound of a shotgun shell being chambered is well known and has a definite psychological effect. As a good all around shotgun you can’t beat the Remington 870 Express. These are pretty much the same as the more expensive Police model (all parts are interchangeable, the Police model receives some additional love in the manufacturing process and certain concessions for mounting in a car rack, etc), but the savings allow you to modify it for the kind of shooting you prefer or to leave it stock and buy a lot of extra ammo.
Scoped Rifle – This is the most important gun. Almost any modern rifle produced by a reputable company is capable of out shooting its owner. This means that to me, a “good” rifle means the shooter is comfortable shooting it, can obtain and hold a good sight picture and can squeeze off round after round accurately without needing to ice their shoulder or bandage their “scope eye” after a day of shooting fun. Rather than brand or model I prefer to focus on caliber. When it comes to choosing a caliber, what you want to hit, the distance that type of target will be at when you want to hit it are the questions that will determine what caliber you should focus on. For me, the .308 Winchester round (Also known as the 7.62x51mm NATO round) meets my needs. The .308 round utilizes the same projectile found in a 30-06 with a shortened case which means it can hold less gun powder. This means the .308 has a lower muzzle velocity when exiting the barrel. This has the general effect of reducing the felt recoil when shooting a .308 over a 30-06, but it reduces the power delivered to the target at longer distances. The .308 is generally accepted as accurate to 800 yards and can be used to 1000 yards with a stable shooting platform and a composed shooter.
As stated, pretty much an modern rifle will do the job. What can make or break a rifle is the glass you put on it. Some people say you should spend more on your scope than the rifle and I tend to agree with them. A good quality scope transfers more light with less distortion. This allows you to see what you are shooting at clearly. Remember, aim small, miss small. If you are seeing an amorphous blob, you probably won’t be able to pick where you are shooting (vital areas, the X ring are two examples.), call your shot, etc. There are many quality rifle scope makers. I can personally attest that the following all make excellent scopes.
- US Optics
I personally have chosen the Remington 700 .308 for my scoped rifle. They are made by a reputable company and have a huge number of aftermarket parts available for them, plus almost any gunsmith will be very familiar with them if you need assistance in making modifications or adding a new stock or other part to increase the fun factor or accuracy of your rifle.
Pistol – This is the most important gun. A pistol is the gun you are most likely going to have available to you when you need it, whether on your person, in your car, under your bed (in a locked case of course), or any number of other locations. Pistols are tremendous fun to shoot and are generally much cheaper to shoot on a per round basis than a rifle or a shotgun. Much like my discussion on scoped rifles, I don’t think there is a magic pistol that everyone will love. Some people prefer “wheel guns” ie: revolvers. Other’s won’t touch a revolver with a ten foot pole and prefer a “bottom feeder” ie: a semi-auto pistol. So, what is the best? It depends on what you are comfortable shooting and what you plan on doing with it. For simple shooting at the range any gun will do as long as it is comfortable in YOUR hands and the caliber doesn’t hurt your hands or wrists after shooting a box or two of ammo. For self defense, if you don’t have the gun on you or immediately available it won’t do you any good.
For self defense size and comfort are the most important factors. Size because it needs to be concealable and comfort because you need to be comfortable to carry it and shoot it. For extreme comfort and concealability, it is very hard to beat the Ruger LCP in .380. It is easily concealable in a pocket. Some might denigrate the .380 as too low powered, but the data shows it is comparable to or better than the 38 Special in one shot stopping power. Further, the mere presence of a firearm is often enough to end an encounter with no shots being fired. I also like my 1911 Kimber Tactical Carry pistol in .45 but am much less likely to carry it on a daily basis than my LCP as it is more difficult to conceal and isn’t as comfortable to wear while sitting, etc.
Battle Rifle – Repeat after me, this is the most important gun. For me the AR platform is the best battle rifle out there. In all honesty it isn’t magnitudes better than the AK platform. In fact both platforms have their pluses and minuses, but for me the availability of the AR platform including spare parts, after market support and my familiarity with it make this the rifle I would recommend. Nowadays you can get an AR in a number of different calibers but I would recommend staying with the .223 (5.56 NATO) round as this makes getting replacement parts easier since you don’t need to remember what parts are different to support a different caliber, plus the .223 is usually much cheaper than the other options available.
Due to the huge manufacturing support for the AR platform you can build one for most any purpose from close quarters combat to long distance varmint shooting. My personal AR is set up as a CQB rifle, but truth be told I prefer Ken’s AR set up as an accurate mid range shooter.
.22 Rifle – Once again, this is the most important gun. No gun collection can be considered complete without a .22lr. These guns are cheap to shoot, great for teaching someone how to shoot, excellent for small game and usually cheap as an initial gun purchase. Like most everyone else, the venerable Ruger 10/22 is my choice for a 22lr due to their numbers, aftermarket support and their overall build quality.
As you can see, I said that each gun is the most important gun. Why? The gun you have with you when you need it is the most important gun. It doesn’t matter how many guns are back home in the safe when the you are out in the field and need it. There is also no substitute for practice. Whatever you have, get out and shoot it. Take a shooting course from a qualified trainer. You wont believe the benefit you’ll see after spending some time with a pro getting personal attention. You also wouldn’t believe how quickly your skills can deteriorate if you aren’t regularly shooting. You can build muscle memory but you can lose it as well without adequate practice time.