“I need a gun”

“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.

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7 thoughts on ““I need a gun”

  1. Spot on with this post. Came to my own conclusions some time ago: been shooting all my life but no military experience whatsoever. Eyesight fading now that I’m in my late 50’s. Mobility just not what it used to be. I can’t hit the broad side of a barn from 10 feet with a pistol. And, frankly, I don’t trust the durability of affordable AR-15s in a SHTF situation.

    I’m pretty darn good with my Mosin M44 out to at least 300 yards…and getting better. It works pretty well up close too, and the bayonet is comforting as a last resort. Put on a Weaver mount and an LER scope – helps the fading eyes long distance, but lets me use my iron sights at 100 years on in. My backup is a Browning SA-22 takedown…have a couple of Spee-D-Loaders to keep my fire rate up if needed, but it’s really more of a varmit hunter than anything else. Third weapon is a Ruger LCR. Trained on all and practice twice a month to stay sharp.

    Feeling like there’s a gap in my setup, mostly due to the slow fire rate with the Mosin (max. in no stress situations is around 10 rounds per minute). Any thoughts?

    • As you know its impossible to get gun guys to agree on stuff lol. I think the whole point of my post was to say that we should know how to best implement yourselves whatever it is that we have chosen. Aging eyes benefit from optics. Smaller statured or people of less strength arent doing themselves any favors by trying to shoot a hard recoiling Mosin carbine or by humping a ten pound Garand and its heavy ammo all day long.

      I just read a forum thread this morning about someone asking if two ARs were better than one in their “survival battery”. I came away with the idea that one AR and the training to use it is better than two guns with no training. No matter what gun you choose, you never will really know that gun or your own level of usefulness with it if you dont go out and carry it, shoot it, drill with it, participate in continuing education from a qualified/professional or two or three to keep your skills up… Youve got to run what you brung to be able to run it best.

      I have a good friend who is almost 60 years old and takes his M1 on hikes for 5 or 8 miles with him all the time. Hes not in any great physical shape to speak of but he’s used to carrying that big ole gun around with him. Hes a dangerous old dude with that big old gun because he is intimately familiar with it and himself.

      A radio guy I listen to coined a phrase a little while ago that has stuck with me, “know what you know.” Know why it is that you make the choices you make. Your choices on what you have, as long as you really know why you chose them, are much better than a dude that bought a three thousand dollar SCAR Heavy because the internet said they are better than a mosin with a long eye relief scope on it.

      Let the needs of your mission/situation and yourself dictate what is the right gun for you. I like AKs for an all around quick shooting, high capacity gun, but they arent suited well to a guy who lives on top of a rise of farm fields with a clear view for miles and miles around. In the suburbs, in the woods, yeah a nice “assault rifle” is probably better choice than a bolt gun.

      It sounds to me like youre on the right track by just thinking about it.

      – Ian

  2. I don’t know your age but like the last reply I’m at the point (late 50’s)that Optics really make a difference.As much as I love the AK (and I have way too many) I’m finding the use of the 1-4X scopes a distinct advantage that doesn’t lend itself to the AK platform easily. (Although the Texas Weapons system dogleg looks promising) I’m starting down the 300 BLK road for the ergonomic , suppresser friendly, and 30 caliber. In my area a 200 yd shot is rare, 100 more common. The dot sight or 1-4x makes these shots quicker and more precise no matter the age of the eye.
    The use of a suppressor was another thing I appreciated about your book. I have a hard time understanding the aversion so many author have at showing the advantage of suppressed weapons in a survival type situation. I guess the average writer has no exposure to suppressers and doesn’t bother to learn. Just after the start of Walking Dead I wrote the show to explain that in a situation such as that the main characters are bound to come across silencers, and would put them to good use. Must have made an impact as we are seeing some homemade suppressors in use occasionally.
    I just downloaded Pillars in the Fall.

  3. UPDATE: funny thing…I wound up taking the optics off the rifle. Found that the tradeoff between the scoped vision and the restricted field of view made me uneasy. Sticking with iron sights until my skills grow into meriting a Designated Marksman rifle. Finding that my accuracy with iron sights is improving as my technique matures (practice, practice, practice).

    Filled the gap in my fire rate with an SKS. Pretty good with it out to 150 yards and I like the rifle for versatility, durability, and the capability for suppression fire.

    Dumped the Ruger LCR. Nice pistol, but I just couldn’t live with the trigger. Replaced with a CZ82 and a Makarov PM. Pretty happy with how both fill their intended roles and glad to standardize on 9×18 ammo.

    So, the point of the update? To reinforce your implied point that it’s more about developing the attitude and the skill than it is about owning the baddest gun on the block.

  4. I find it curious that you didn’t like the LCR trigger but find the Makarov acceptable. To me the Mak has one of the most horrendous double action triggers on the planet. Also, I don’t know if you stated what scope you had on your rifle but I have been moving away from dot sights and now use low power (1-4/1-6) scopes because I find little to no difference in speed at 1x and a vast difference in accuracy at higher power. I left iron sights a long time ago (except as backup) when I and others proved the dot sights vast superiority in speed and accuracy. Just my thoughts….

  5. Hi Rick,

    I’ll agree that the Mak DA trigger is a bit long. But that SA trigger is pretty sweet. The LCR was a bit too long for my tastes and I’m not a big DA fan anyway.

    I had a BrassStacker rig on my Mosin M44 and a long-eye relief scope (it was a Leopold scope that was on my spare parts shelf – really worth more than the rifle itself – wouldn’t recommend that somebody spend that kind of money on optics for that kind of rifle). Loved the sight and the accuracy. But I lost a sense of what was happening around me outside the scope’s field of vision.

    I’ll get there eventually with a long-distance rifle and that Leopold scope. It just didn’t work for the type of situations I could envision for the Mosin.

  6. Yeah, I agree with you, the single action trigger is one of the best. I’m a 1911 guy and tend to judge everything based on that. The scope thing is a process…I know I have gone from “who needs a scope” in my 20’s to putting an EoTech on everything in my late 30’s and 40’s. Now in my late 50’s I started using low power scopes when quality illuminated scopes started showing up a few years ago and find that while you have to pay for a good one, the two eyes open at 1x really works for me. I think the people that find they have trouble doing the same thing I’m doing ( not the same problem you were having) tend to be using cheaper scopes which have a smaller eye box and shorter eye relief and it takes them longer to get “on” the scope.

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