Ok, before I get into this too far, I feel I should give some credentials. Plenty who actually read my blog know a bit about me, but for those who haven’t gotten to know me, this is for you.
I joined the Army at 20 years old in 2005. Graduated Basic Training/AIT on December 1st and was sent to Fort Bliss Texas to be one of the soldiers to stand up 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. I was put in C Troop, 1st Squadron – 9th Cavalry Regiment and spent an extensive amount of time out in the field training. During that Time I used primarily a SOPMOD M16 with 20″ Barrel, rifle-length Knight’s Armament rail, and fixed buttstock. That was a Fabrique Nationale weapon, which I finally got to trade in when I got to Iraq. I finally got issued a Colt M4 Carbine and my love for that weapon system changed forever. I carried it as we supported the surge and then again after reflagging and re-enlisting when I went back to Iraq with 4th BCT 1st Armored Division. I have built a number of my own platforms since and even spent a short bit of time working for a local manufacturer who held a Class III SOT FFL. That was short lived, but it allowed me a good bit of time to play with and understand suppressors and other variations on the AR platform. Needless to say, I have a bit of experience with the AR platform, as well as a number of other weapons systems. Am I a Master? No. Expert? To a degree I suppose. I feel it is necessary to put all of this up front before proceeding with my own opinions. That’s all this is, afterall, is my opinion. I’ve gotten some questions from people asking about suppressors, weapon setups, gear, and the like, and I invite that. I feel there is no reason to have all this information packed into my head unless I’m going to use it to educate others.
I want to cover some basics. Some of you may already own a rifle of your own, some of you may be looking for something better, some of you may just be interested in the technical side of all this. Regardless of why you’re reading this series, we’re going to start from the beginning. Choosing a weapon system is something that you really should give a good bit of thought. Don’t just walk into the hunting section at your local hardware store one day and buy what the old guy working the counter suggests you buy. Do your research. What do you want the rifle for? Are you planning on learning how to run 3-gun competitions? Keep it tucked behind your headboard for home defense? Are you willing to take some time to learn the ins-and-outs of a complex mechanical system so you can properly maintain it yourself? Do you just want the most expensive off-the-shelf AR you can find so you can brag about it before showing of your lack of prowess at the local gun club? Whatever the reason may be, do your research. Learn what caliber is good for what. Learn what suits your purposes. You don’t need an M1 Garand for popping prairie dogs, and if you want to go hunting bears with your cousin for the first time, I would not suggest an AR.
There are things you need to know going into a gun store:
- Why do you want to buy a gun? What purpose will it serve?
- What calibers will fulfill your needs?
- How big (lengthwise) do you want your gun to be?
- How do you want to load your firearm? (one round at a time? Tube mag? Box mag? Clip?)
- Do you have a way to train with the weapon you want?
- What else will you need aside from just the rifle? (Sling? Mags? Special Cleaning Tools?)
- How readily available is the Ammo?
Let’s go through these. Most people want a gun for either sport or protection. Sport could be hunting, 3-gun competition, clay shooting, long range target shooting, etc. Protection could be regular carry, home defense, something for when you go hiking, something to keep in the trunk of your car or behind the seats in your truck. There are those who buy guns for collection and investment, but I doubt they would be reading this far into the article.
Calibers matter because they will effect your handling characteristics. A big boom with huge flash from a 16″ barrel on a .308 Winchester AR platform would be good for psyching out home invaders, but it would also knock out your night vision and possibly blow a hole through your house and into the neighbor’s. A .22 Long Rifle may be controllable, but I would’t suggest it against a home invader due to lack of punch. Don’t get me wrong, a .22 can kill just as good as anything, but it may take a lot more to do it depending on the circumstances.
Without making a bunch of dick jokes, I have to say that length is an important thing to consider. Are you going to use the gun for home defense? Then you may want to put down that Mosin Nagant M91/30 and go look at something more akin to a Modern Sporting Rifle or tactical shotgun. Want to shoot 3-gun? That Mk12 clone may be tempting, but you’d probably be better off with one of the other seemingly unending variations of AR that have 16″ barrels. If you love cowboy movies and want a lever gun for the job, go for a trapper model. Just keep in mind that with those guns, shorter barrels have shorter mag tubes and lower capacity and they don’t load super fast.
That brings us to the mechanics of loading. The big appeal of the AR, AK, M14, FAL…basically any modern rifle platform, is the ability to quickly and easily reload using detachable box magazines. Some states restrict the capacity on the magazines for rifles, so keep in mind, you may not be able to get standard capacity magazines where you live. Which is fucking dumb, but this is the feel-good-politics world that we live in.
|California||Prohibits magazines over 10 rounds|
|Colorado||Prohibits magazines over 15 rounds|
|Connecticut||Prohibits magazines over 10 rounds|
|Hawaii||Prohibits magazines over 10 rounds|
|Maryland||Prohibits magazines over 10 rounds|
|Massachusettes||Prohibits magazines over 10 rounds|
|New Jersey||Prohibits magazines over 10 rounds|
|New York||Prohibits magazines over 10 rounds|
|Vermont||Prohibits rifle magazines over 10 rounds and handgun magazines over 15 rounds|
|D.C.||Prohibits magazines over 10 rounds|
While this is not an issue with things like revolvers, lever guns, bolt actions, or tube magazines on shotguns, those weapon systems require practice to reload quickly and especially when you have adrenaline pumping because you’ve just shot a home invader. Typically, with the exception of Cowboy Action Shooting and the shotguns used in 3-gun, you don’t see these guns used for speed. Believe me, the people who shoot Cowboy Action practice A LOT to get good with those types of firearm.
That brings us to training. There are ranges where you can go to practice, but ranges tend to be incredibly restrictive. I don’t feel standing in one place and shooting in a static position in a concrete bunker is really “training”. Look into classes where you can do dynamic movement and reloads under pressure. Don’t just buy guns to sit them in the corner and pray you’ll never use them. Practice. Train. Otherwise, you’ll be the guy at the gun club bragging about his $3000.00 AR that he has no clue how to use.
The gun shop is going to have lots of stuff as far as accessories go. The least you should do whenever you acquire a new firearm is buy the brushes, patches, mops, or a boresnake for the caliber of that gun. Learn to maintain your own equipment. Are you buying a long gun? you should consider a sling for it, whether it’s a rifle or a shotgun. Buying a pistol? Get a holster. Does your new firearm use magazines? I suggest no less than 3 for any pistol. I carry 60 rounds on my kit for my sidearm. Getting a mag-fed rifle? Grab a few extra mags. I have a full combat load worth of PMags in both black and tan. My kit carries 210 total rounds. 6 magazines on my person, one in my rifle. Did you buy an SKS? Don’t throw away the stripper clips your ammo comes in. They’re reusable.
That brings us to Ammo. There is no point in owning a gun if you can’t feed it. If you get a great deal on some obscure firearm that predates World War 2, it won’t matter if no one makes ammunition for it. Also, the big gun buy up when Covid-19 hit made ammo supply for most popular calibers pretty thin. Make sure before you buy anything you’ll be able to get a supply of ammunition for it.
That’s the basic considerations in a nutshell. Now for the fun stuff. You have a gun, you have mags, you have ammo. What about all that cool, high speed shit you see on the guns Navy SEALs carry in the movies? What is all that? Where does one acquire such tactical goodies? If you really want to know, ask me, but truth be told, you probably will never need any of that stuff. A simple red dot optic and a flashlight is all a person will typically need. The majority of what you see on those guns is specific to operating under night time conditions while wearing night vision. Night vision picks up light emitted in the Infrared Spectrum and that is how that equipment operates. Night vision is typically prohibitively expensive for most people. I suggest you look into a good quality flashlight and a reliable optic. My go-to for those are Surefire (https://www.surefire.com) and Eotech. If you decided to go for a shotgun, all you really need is the flashlight. Handguns you can equip with just a light or a light and laser combo or just a laser. You can also put a red dot optic on pistols that are cut to accept them, but in my experience, limited as it is, red dots on pistols aren’t super reliable, and not really necessary if you train with your handgun enough. If you decided to go the cowboy route…well…you’re stuck with what the cowboys had. Unless you got a hunting revolver. If that’s your thing, well then you do you, buddy.
No two people are the same. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Setup your equipment to suit you. I choose to use an AR and a semi-auto handgun because it’s what I trained on and I am good with them. Some guys really love their AKs. It’s a simple system and it is durable and reliable. I happen to hate AK ergonomics, so I don’t own one. Some people love their cowboy guns. Or they just prefer revolvers. My oldest friend has a Taurus Raging Judge because he likes the idea of being able to choose between .454 Casull, 45 Colt, and .410 just by spinning the cylinder. That’s his thing. Regardless of what a person shoots, none of this makes a difference if they don’t actually shoot. Practice is the most important thing for anyone who expects to ever have to use their firearms. My Kitting Up series is covering gear, this series will cover firearms platforms, their uses, what kind of gun is right for what kind of purpose, and just some generally fun gun discussion. If you’re a first time gun owner, a competition shooter, a military veteran, or anything in between, this will be a fun read. Who doesn’t love reading and discussing guns, right?
Until next time, stay safe.