Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gun advice for the newbe -1

Choosing a hand gun

This article is a spinoff from an article I read, telling gun owners what kind of gun NOT to buy for a survival gun. It occurred to me that a great many well meaning, but naive, people might not have a gun at all. While the relative calm of the 19th and 20th centuries made this responsibility less obvious, the days are coming that we need to take this responsibility more seriously. In the fierce days ahead, not having a gun is going to become more and more irresponsible.

Note: Biblical Reference Luke 24:35-38 (Young's Literal Translation)
And he said to them, 'When I sent you without bag, and scrip, and sandals, did ye lack anything?' and they said, 'Nothing.' Then said he to them, 'But, now, he who is having a bag, let him take it up, and in like manner also a scrip; and he who is not having, let him sell his garment, and buy a sword, for I say to you, that yet this that hath been written it behoveth to be fulfilled in me: And with lawless ones he was reckoned, for also the things concerning me have an end.' And they said, 'Sir, lo, here are two swords;' and he said to them, 'It is sufficient.'

The original article that got me thinking on this subject is:
Five Guns Not to Buy as Survival Firearms Monday, April 4, 2011

But becoming responsibly armed is not just a matter of going out and getting a gun. I see it as a process of acquiring the weapon, ammunition, and the know how to use them safely and effectively. This series of articles won't tell you exactly what gun to buy, but will point out factors to narrow the search. You will still need to shop around, look at a lot of different models and see how they fit in your hand.

There are really four or five questions that need to be answered

Question 1 - What is your budget?

For this article, it is assumed you don't have thousands of extra dollars to invest in guns, so most of the focus is on getting effective weapons (and learning how to shoot them) for not too much money. So quite a bit of the following advise is economically driven. Still, you can count on the cost being a few hundred dollars, at best, and it will take about a year, or more, to accomplish what I am writing about.

The following process mirrors, somewhat, what myself and some of the people I know went through over the past few years, so it is mostly a baseline, and you might be able to do better.

As a baseline, a good automatic handgun will cost around $200 or more, and a good revolver will cost around $300 or so. You will be needing at least $100 worth of ammunition and will probably need to spend about $100 or so, on going to the range. If you opt for a concealed carry permit, expect that to cost more than another $100. So the very least you will need to budget is $500, and I recommend budgeting $800 to $1000.

Question 2 - What is your previous experience?

Some of this does depend on just how new you are to shooting. Never shot? Never played with BB guns? You might want to go through a couple of preliminary steps. Have someone you trust show you how to shoot. Mostly, you want them to show you how to handle the weapon, hold it, aim it etc. The correct grip is very important. You can use a borrowed 22 to go to the range for this, just buy a box of "standard velocity" 22 ammo. Or whatever ammo is recommended by whoever loaned you the gun. Ammo in this caliber only costs 3 to 5 cents a round, so a couple hundred rounds is not too hard on the budget.

Safety is always the most important thing, and anyone new to guns must be taught how to know if a gun is loaded, and how the safety works. The first thing you must do, any time you pick up a gun, or if a gun is handed to you, is determine if the gun is loaded. Always consider it loaded until proven otherwise.

Question 3 - Do you have good grip strength?

What kind of a gun you buy will, of a necessity, depend on how much grip strength you have. Automatics are almost always a better choice, as they carry more ammo, and cost less. But you have to have enough grip strength to chamber a round easily. I know at least three people who cannot easily chamber a round in an automatic pistol. For those who cannot easily chamber a round in an automatic, a revolver (or wheel gun) is the correct gun to buy.

There is also a matter of simplicity. For those who find an automatic too complicated, a revolver may be the answer, though I recommend finishing this article and getting some training on an auto before making that decision.

Question 4 - How big of a gun do you need?

I ask this somewhat rhetorically, as I only recommend a couple of different calibers. (Of course, there is frame size to consider, for those whose hand is either very small or very large. But I am not addressing that, here)

For those who choose an automatic, I recommend a 9mm. If you find a really good deal on a 380, 40S&W, or a 45, you could go with one of those, but ammo will cost more, and in the case of the 380, it isn't as effective a weapon, so more range time will be in order.

For those who need a revolver, my first choice is, without a doubt, the 357. There are a few reasons for this choice. First, it is a very common revolver, firing fairly common ammunition. Second, it can also fire 38+P ammunition, which is, in fact, the most common revolver ammunition. The 357 JHP is one of the most effective handgun cartridges normally available, rivaling, even, the 44 Magnum. The less powerful 38+P is still very effective, and easier to control. It is just about equal to a 9mm cartridge.

Again, if you get a really good deal, a 44 or 38 is acceptable, but will limit your ammunition choices, and your ammunition could be considerably more expensive.

A couple of articles illustrate why I insist that a person not buy an underpowered gun.

One, from Waco TX, is somewhat humorous (note that the first news story contains a factual error, as the man had a collapsed lung, therefore the shot was fairly square, not a "grazing" wound).
Net-News Story
Same story from TV station

Police said the 41-year-old man, whose name was not released, attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a .22 caliber rifle. Afterward he evidently changed his mind and drove himself to the fire station to request medical assistance. He suffered a collapse lung, but is expected to recover, police said.

Not Nearly So Nice Story don't read the full version of this one unless you have a strong stomach.
Sammie Foust had never fired a gun in her life. She aimed for the man's center of mass and pulled the trigger. It sounded like a little cap pistol. There was no recoil, no blood. She figured the gun had misfired.

The medical examiner concluded the first shot had entered his mouth, the second his heart, the third and fourth bullets his abdomen and groin. He had taken nearly an hour to bleed to death.

The results of shooting someone with a small caliber weapon are unpredictable. In all likelihood, the results will not be immediate. But they could still very easily bleed to death later. This is the intimidation factor of a small caliber weapon, that the person will suffer serious injury and might die.

But there is a vast difference between what a robber might use to intimidate someone he doesn't think will be armed, and what a person should use to defend his or her home. The first one chooses to intimidate, the second has little choice, but to fight.

When faced with a situation where you must fight, your objective isn't that, sometime later, they might die. The objective is that they will immediately not be able to carry through with the attack.

Barrel length issues.

The length of the barrel in a handgun is quite important. Shorter barrel length might make it easier to conceal, if that should ever become an objective, but a shorter barrel length will work against you in many other ways. It generally takes between 2 and 3 inches of barrel length before the powder charge is completely burned. After that, while the gasses in the barrel are getting cooler and losing pressure, the bullet is gaining energy. So a shorter barrel means more flash and a louder bang, but a less effective bullet. And the flash and bang usually work against the shooter, making follow up shots less effective and harder to aim. As the barrel length drops below 3 inches, the powder charge doesn't complete burning, so this effect is exaggerated.

Over the past several years, substantial number of tests on compact pistols of interest have been done. Some of the results are here.

One note stands out. For the 38 snubby, "There seems to be no JHP bullet cartridge that is capable of providing a reasonable balance of adequate penetration and reliable expansion. " This is with a 2 inch barrel. It puts the 38 snubby in the same category as the 22. As in, not appropriate for home defense.

As the barrel gets longer, not only does the bullet become more effective, but it gets easier to aim the weapon accurately. Somewhere, out beyond 4 inches, takes longer to aim the weapon because the weight of the barrel slows down how fast you can bring it to aiming point, but the trade off is accuracy to a greater distance, though this is not usually an issue with home defense.

Therefore it is best to look for a weapon with a barrel between 3 and 5 inches in length.

Conclusion and afterward.

So, here, we have covered the first four basic questions that need to be answered before buying a gun, and took a brief look at one issue that isn't really a question. The next article will be about storage, carry, and about types of ammunition. Followed by one on shotguns and rifles, where we will be looking at another question or two. And lastly one about training

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