“I need a gun!”
Well yeah, I agree, you probably do.
People will debate endlessly what gun is better, AR vs AK, 9 vs 45… and I just smile. You know what a true marksman prefers? What a true warrior prefers? They prefer to have a gun. If you cant have that, then maybe a stick, or a rock, or hell, maybe a boot. It doesn’t matter what tool you have. Scratch that. It shouldn’t matter what tool you have. But everyone wants it to matter.
I have too many guns. I started with cheap milsurplus stuff and am glad that I graduated from them. Lots of people, the ones whose interest in firearms ends up being relatively short lived, they bought a $170 SKS or a $90 mosin to get them by or to fill a void, and then they never upgraded. Or conversely and probably even more short-lived, are the ones that went out and found a $3000 SCAR or ACR. They went and bought one of those and then never learned to shoot it well… and then the fire died out.
Now I’m fine with $170 SKS’s… as a stepping stone. But only when you know that there are better guns out there. Is the SCAR better? Damn right. Is it necessary? Not in my estimation. This is where I differ from one rogue and outspoken instructors and aficionados who has a lot to offer to anyone willing to not listen to his words as if they are gospel.
This instructor is a salesman and a damn good one, but he believes the best is the best and everything else, including stuff he once touted as the best just a year before, is now worthless. I respectfully disagree.
Practicality does come into play when we are talking about civilians that in all likelihood will never fire a shot in defense or aggression. I will not voluntarily take an AR15 built by some jackass on his dining room table with a lowest priced parts kit and shot out barrel over an AK assembled by drunken idiots. The AK can handle being put (back) together by drunken idiots, the AR… well it probably can to but the point is, yes there is a minimum, but that minimum doesn’t have to be the maximum. It is what you do with it that counts. And you aren’t going to do a thing with anything if you never buy something because it is out of your price range.
The gun you need should be determined by your situation. That is to say your location, ability, and use. I have lots of guns for lots of different stuff. Actually at this point, I will sarcastically say that I have way too many. You want my recommendation? In a perfect world you wouldn’t need one at all. In an imperfect world, you get trained first, then get what fits you and your situation best. But in this world, you do look at cost combined with those factors. Just know the limitations of whatever it is that you get into and don’t compromise on anything that will be more useful to you here and now over something that costs a couple dollars less but is completely wrong for your situation.
In a general purpose “battle rifle” I keep it simple. No lights, no lasers, you want a folding stock and an optic? Fine, but I’m old school on the general purpose gun. Iron sighted, big bore, semi auto that has been in a war. That’s it. Nice, simple, hard hitting, proven and robust. Something I can press through CQB to 600 yards against a man or a bear.
Designated Marksman’s Rifle. This is the crowd pleaser… if you can use it. Again, I like a semi auto big bore for this role, but have fun with it. Bi-pod, GOOD optic, patterned with quality ammo. You had better know how to use it though, otherwise there are few other generic guns that can fall into the category of “poser” more than this one.
Your Go-To. Your quick grab, your urban blah blah blah. A reliable carbine. Short, light, easy to manipulate, easy to shoot. They’re fun blasters that people load up on mags and crates of ammo for, all to stick in their multicam’d chest rig. Yeah, you’ve got one and so do I. This is that gun you post pictures of on the internet and the one half the country freaks out over the fact that we mere civilians can own it. It’s the one you use for gun gaming, and the one you put your light, optic, sling, foregrip… stuff that most people put on before they actually learn to really use it. Anything you add needs to add to the weapon and your usability and versatility, and not take away from it.
“This is my sniper rifle.” Really, it looks like a deer gun you painted. I’m not a sniper and neither are you. I like bolt guns that hold very tight groups at long range, and its not that I don’t have the patience, heck I have a recon background where the majority of what you do is sit and observe, but a sniper is a very specialized person and a traditional sniper’s job in the last war or two has changed. It’s not a lone dude hiding in his gillie suit to make a one shot kill on a commander at 950 yards away anymore. The sniper has merged into a forward observer, calling in air strikes and providing eyes forward. From there the traditional sniper merged again into not the lone figure, but a shooter/spotter two man team. And from there he merged again into a highly trained and skilled shooter that works within a team framework, oftentimes combining to make a four man team and working with a second four man team to control an area. This is a sniper. More over, this is a military sniper. You and your bolt action hunting rifle are not this. I’m not big on civilian guys doing or using military roles, and I will surely write on that subject later, but in this case, respect and distance yourself from the term.
What about a shotgun? Well what about the shotgun? They are great fun for shooting clay pigeons and very effective at hunting birds. Unfortunately this is where I can really tick some people off. Now I am a traditionalist. I hunt with a flint lock muzzle loader. I am very much a nostalgic person, but when we are talking about the modern interpretation and use of fighting firearms, through testing, evaluation, and research, I have found that the shotgun has been eclipsed by just about every other option out there. I get that people have their opinions and notions, but you must also understand when those opinions are being driven or clung to by the same traditionalist theories that make us love the 1911 pistol and M1 Garand rifle. Do they work? Absolutely. Are they designs that have been surpassed by modern technology and theory? Yes. And the shotgun as a whole fits into this as well. I will again post my findings on shotguns in a separate article, but in the meantime since everyone wants one and everyone is so quick to recommend one, I will not ignore them as a viable and valuable system. If that’s your go-to, then you’d damn well better have professional training and continual practice and education to keep your skills up to snuff. Hunting birds or busting clays is not the same as drilling multiple targets while not letting your gun run dry. Like everything here, these skills are perishable.
So why don’t I recommend specific guns? Because in the grand scheme of things it’s your decision. I only recommend you make that decision based on you, and not on what someone else tells you. At least if you want to actually get good at shooting and fighting with a firearm, that’s the better foundation the what you read on the internet.