The 5-gun challenge

FPS by Zweroboi, on Flickr

A theme that is seeing increased activity on many of our friends blogs is that of the 5-gun challenge. What does that mean? Well it’s a way of answering the common question of “What gun should I buy?”  Chances are you’re one of two types of readers at this point; either you are already familiar with firearms, and you will want to read this simply to debate the opinions. Or, you are to some degree unfamiliar with firearms and will hopefully find this post very informative.

If you’ve ever been in a conversation with a firearms enthusiast, you’ll know that each person has their own strong opinions, so it’s always nice to get everybody’s input and reasoning behind their decisions.  This being a multi-author blog, this post will allow several of our authors to explain their choices for 5 guns, and give their reasoning behind each.  Please check out each page to get the full list of recommendations.


  1. Remington 870 12 gauge (Shotgun) – For people looking for a first firearm, usually under the “Home Defense” concept, I’ll normally suggest getting a shotgun.  The general skill level needed to scare the beejebus out of an intruder is lowest with the shotgun. Even somebody with little experience, in the dark, can still do heavy damage with one, and minimize the risk of hitting the neighbors.  The Remington 870 platform is a well tested, simple design that is very commonly available at a low entry level price point.  You can get packages with extra features such as a home defense barrel, hunting barrel, etc if you want, or you can get them later quite easily.  Also, for a more powerful weapon it can be relatively inexpensive to go shooting for practice with the family.  My favorite has been giving examples to my children on how dangerous firearms are with watermelons and pumpkins.
  2. Ruger 10/22 (Rifle) – The second weapon I suggest is usually a .22LR rifle.  Something that you can easily practice with, cheaply.  Even better, you can teach your kids with.  The Ruger 10/22 is a very well known semi-auto .22 that is quite dependable.
  3. Springfield XD-40 4″ (Pistol) – My choice in pistols is one that is becoming increasingly popular.  The XD platform combines many of the features people liked in the well known Glock style of pistols, but also ‘fixed’ some of my annoyances in them as well (such as the grip angle).  The XD pistols are very rugged, affordable, and dependable which is often hard to find in a single pistol (for my definition of affordable).  The .40S&W round was picked because it held a great balance of a heavy punch on the receiving end (much like a .45ACP), but a more manageable kick (closer towards a 9mm – My wife is able to shoot it rather easily).  The .40 is also now a quite common round, so it is readily available.  The 4″ was chosen because it was the good middle ground for usage.  It can be easily carried in my bag, but it doesn’t pretend to be a small concealable firearm.  It’s also not so large as to get in my way.
  4. Tikka T-3 Light (Long gun) – This is my current choice in the “Long gun” category.  Growing up I learned to idolize my dad’s old .30-06 Springfield, which he used for hunting.  And while I still love that rifle, and it’s amazing power, this past year I found good reason to move on.  After being hounded for ages to finally switch over to the .308 round for a hunting rifle, I decided I’d try it in a new platform.  I spent a long time researching many of the great rifles in my price range, and even spent many hours longing for those above it.  I finally chose the Tikka for several reasons.  First off, the bolt action is unlike any other that I have tried.  Smooth as silk, perfect length.  The rest of the rifle is well built, based off the technology of it’s more expensive cousin, the Sako, but coming in at a much more reasonable price.  The accuracy has been better than expected, even with cheaper ammo.
  5. SKS (Rifle) –  If you want an inexpensive rifle that can fire in a semi-automatic fashion, the sks is a great way to start.  If fires a stronger round than the AR rifles that are popular in the US, so it can still be used for hunting smaller deer and below.  The ammunition is common and relatively inexpensive.  It also is an easy to work on platform, allowing you to get familiar with the workings of the rifle as you play around with upgrading different pieces.  As much as I enjoy the workings of a nice AR rifle, if you are looking at a cheaper way to get an ‘Assault Rifle’, then the SKS is hard to beat.

Runner-up: Mosin Nagant.  This is the old Soviet/Tsarist Russia bolt action rifle.  You can pick up leftovers from World War II that are in good condition for under one-hundred dollars.  Heavy rifles, they shoot a powerful bullet along the lines of a .30-06, and you can get 440 of them in a can for around the same price as the rifle.  It’s a cheap way to pick up a rifle that can take down anything you’d conceivably hunt in North America, and you can actually shoot it without causing screams of pain in the wallet (your shoulder however might make up for that).


At an absolute minimum, you should have 4 guns – a sidearm, a long gun, a shotgun and a battle rifle.  Each one has their uses and purposes.

  1. Sidearm – for me, this is a Springfield XD .45, for my wife it’s a 9mm.  The sidearm is primarily for close quarters personal defense, it also has the benefit of being easy to conceal and carry with you.  The caliber really depends on multiple factors, all of which are personal.  Those factors include your ability to control the firearm, or whether you can consistently control the kick when you shoot it.  It also depends on your ability to fire it accurately – meaning aiming – you need to be able to aim, fire, and immediately aim again.  It can’t be a caliber that rocks your body too much.
  2. Long Gun – for me this is a scoped 30.06 or a 30-30.  This is your weapon to reach out and touch something.  You should be capable of controlling the recoil on it and accurately using the scope to hit what you are aiming at.
  3. Shotgun – for me this is a Mossberg 500 but that’s because I can’t afford a Benelli :)  – also called a scatter gun, the shotgun is the perfect home defense and close quarter defense gun.  In the home, it has less of a chance of penetrating walls and hitting things you didn’t intend to hit – this of course depends on the shot that you are using.
  4. Battle Rifle – for me, this is an AK-47.  This firearm allows you to defend yourself from multiple attackers with its high power rapid fire.  I prefer the AK because it can take more abuse than an AR – but I love ARs too :)
  5. Plinking Gun – the Ruger 10/22 is one of my favorite guns.  It allows you to put tons of bullets down range for a very low cost.  Most importantly, it’s a great firearm to train your kids on and let them get very comfortable and accurate with a rifle.

8 Replies to “The 5-gun challenge”

  1. @Mike, My comment was valid until I read your summary. The gun you have is THE most important gun.. so echo that!

    My rifle of choice is the .270, sure its a bit smaller than the .308 or the .30-06, but I find it a better fit for the wife and older kids. Would like to get a 10/22 for the smaller kids to learn with.

    good read – thanks for the effort in writing to you all.

  2. @Mike, My comment was valid until I read your summary. The gun you have is THE most important gun.. so echo that!

    My rifle of choice is the .270, sure its a bit smaller than the .308 or the .30-06, but I find it a better fit for the wife and older kids. Would like to get a 10/22 for the smaller kids to learn with.

    good read – thanks for the effort in writing to you all.

  3. I agree with all of these choices. Using what you have, what is available, affordable is usually best. What ever you have, just get good with it, not just firing the weapon and holding a good group. Stripping it down, cleaning it, maintaining it, being able to carry it for long distances. If you cant tote it a mile, it will kill you.

  4. I have only one problem with this article and the related comments. Everything has been spot on with the exception of some personal choices, but those are exactly that, personal.

    The problem I have is the title. It should read “The Six Gun Challenge,” and no that is not a reference to revolvers. One gun is missing; the .22 caliber handgun.

    It is just as important to have the .22 handgun as it is the .22 rifle. It is cheap to shoot which gives you more trigger time, they are lighter than a rifle allowing them to be stashed in a pack for a hiking trip for some impromptu practice or food gathering, and they are a great training aid.

    Just as you would never start a new shooter on a big game rifle, you should not start a novice on a large caliber handgun. Other than scarring off the novice, the high recoil can mask mistakes in basic pistol handling that can easily become muscle memory actions which follow the shooter for the rest of their lives.

    Another benefit for training, (or curse in every other circomstance) is the reliability of .22 long rifle. They jam or misfire. Even quality firearms and ammunition. Under training conditions, this is great. You get to clear various malfuntions and misfires.

    Of course, if you choose a revlver as your defensive handgun, I would recomend a .22 revolver with a similar size frame. The same goes for the auto loaders.

    The .22 handgun may be the most important firearm in your preparedness battery.

  5. I read this one early this week. Went to the safe and took alook at the rack of ‘safe queens’ I’ve collected. Yepper.. picked up each and every one. I have been consoladating my ‘stock’ into a limited number of Cal.s and Ga.s. and I still could reduce the list by one each. Like the one fella said… he likes the 270! Ok… I have decided to become as skilled as able with a 223 set of rifles, semi auto and bolt. 38/357 revolvers, snubby to 4 in. Glock 9mms. Rem 870 / Mossberg 500-590s. A 22 set of auto, lever, autopistol and revolver. Sounds like a confusing hopeless mess…… I’ll glean them out revolvers first at training this summer, shotguns next also this summer at tac shotgun training. The Glocks….. 26, 19, 17. 22s… one each. This is like sitting around talking about winning the lottary…. ya didn’t buy a ticket for. Fun…. How would I limit the list even further……. awww heck…. there are far more important things to get togeather and figure out.

  6.  Good choices all! Probably because I have them. I go with the ones that have the best availablity of ammo and am stocking plenty of them. I love the Xds and the 1911s. I have the AR and the Ak.  Mossberg 500 is a winner and I have an M1A for long distance.   Jim

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