What kind of firearm do you need for home defense? for concealed carry? for hunting? target shooting?—or just because?
That’s a good question, one that doesn’t have a simple answer. The fact is that you are an individual with a unique set of physical attributes defined by age, physical condition, body type and gender. Sorry, one-size-fits-all doesn’t apply here.
So, let’s look at a few of the choices available:
A shotgun has a lot of advantages compared to other types of firearms for most purposes. One of the most interesting to me (although this doesn’t apply to Texas) is that many states that ban or severely restrict gun ownership are not particularly concerned if one of their citizens wants to own a shotgun.
This, despite the fact that a shotgun is one of the most devastatingly potent close-range weapons you can use against an intruder in your home (or anywhere else, for that matter). However, that’s not the only advantage a shotgun has as a home defense weapon.
A shotgun is designed to be held in both hands. This makes it easier to control your shotgun’s recoil and more difficult for an intruder to wrestle it away from you. Also, with a barrel at least three times longer than most handguns, it’s relatively easy to point and ensure that your load of OO buckshot goes where it will do the most good.
Loading and firing a pump-action shotgun such as the Remington Model 870 or a semi-auto shotgun such as the Benelli M2 is a fairly simple process. Both of these and similar shotguns are designed for hunting upland game or waterfowl. However, they serve very well for home defense, especially factory variations modified as “tactical” shotguns. If home defense is your main interest, Mossberg offers an extensive, moderately priced line of tactical shotguns, some of which have rifle-type sights and pistol grips.
Although pump-action and semi-auto shotguns are not particularly complex, a shooter still needs some training to handle, load, unload and shoot one. For this reason, some might prefer the much simpler break-action, double-barrel shotgun. However, many double guns are relatively expensive, which puts them out of reach of the average shooter.
One of the few exceptions is Stoeger Industries, which offers several models of moderately-priced side-by side shotguns from 12 gauge to .410 bore. One model, the “Coach Gun” has a short 20-inch barrel that is perfect for home defense.
Another variation, the “Double Defense Gun” has a ported barrel to control recoil, plus two picatinny rails. One rail is on top near the breech to mount an optical sight. A second is below the barrels near the muzzle to accommodate a laser or tactical light.
Although some hunters like to use a handgun to pursue deer, varmints and other wild game, most handguns are bought with self-defense in mind. For home defense, a handgun fits nicely in a drawer of a bedside table, but a bedside safe is a better choice, especially if you have small children.
The HDX-250 by Liberty Safes has room for your handgun with space left over for a tactical light and maybe a spare magazine. If you have your fingers programmed into the biometric finger swipe, only you will have instant access to your handgun.
Having said that, a handgun is a poor choice for home defense. The longer barrel of a shotgun (or a rifle) makes it easier to shoot accurately, especially when you’re stressed out by a late night intruder in your home.
On the other hand, when it comes to concealed carry, a handgun is the only game in town. However, you still have to choose between the simplicity of a double-action revolver and the greater firepower of a semi-auto pistol.
A small double-action revolver such as the Smith & Wesson Model 642 holds five .38 Special cartridges and weighs less than one pound. Because it has an internal hammer, the trigger pull is double action only.
If you prefer a compact semi-auto, Ruger’s LC9 is available in 9mm Luger. The LC9 weighs only a couple of ounces more than the S&W M 642 and is somewhat slimmer at only .9 inches wide. Its seven-round magazine plus one in the chamber gives it more firepower than a small revolver. Both handguns have a Crimson Trace laser as an option.
Some Texans might prefer a larger, but less concealable revolver such as the S&W Model 19, which holds six powerful .357 Magnum cartridges. The semi-auto Springfield Armory Compact Range Officer 1911 has somewhat smaller dimensions and is chambered for .45 ACP. It has a six-round magazine plus one in the chamber.
Even larger revolvers and semi-auto pistols are available, but carry the penalty of additional weight and bulk.
Rifles from .17 and .22 caliber rimfires to bellowing big bore magnums have an important place in a shooter’s collection. Depending on the chambering, you can hunt almost anything from rabbits to coyotes to the heaviest big game Texas has to offer.
One of the most popular rimfires is the Ruger 10/22 semi-auto. It is available in several versions from a sporter to a super-accurate target model to the versatile take-down model, which breaks down into two parts. The 10/22’s unique 10-round rotary magazine is extremely reliable, and larger capacity magazines that hold as many as 25 rounds are also available.
For larger game, many traditional Texas hunters prefer an iron-sighted lever gun such as the Winchester model 94 chambered in .30-30 or the similar Marlin 336, which because of its side ejection is suitable for a riflescope.
For longer- range hunting, a riflescope-equipped bolt action is hard to beat. Brands such as Winchester, Remington, Savage Weatherby and others offer chamberings from the legendary .30-06 to powerful magnums with flat trajectories able to reach out a quarter mile or (a lot) more. Even at these ranges, today’s premium rifle bullets can deliver a humane kill on deer, elk or the many exotic game animals Texas has to offer.
When discussing rifles, we can’t forget the “Modern Sporting Rifle,” also known as the AR-15. This civilian version of the military M-16 was derived from a design by Eugene Stoner dating from the 1950s.
The AR-15 has grown rapidly since the ill-conceived assault weapons ban expired in 2004. It is available in its original .223 Remington chambering as well as numerous wildcat cartridges from .300 Whisper/ .300 AAC, to .458 SOCOM and the powerful .50 Beowulf. These chamberings and modular design allows an enthusiast to customize his AR-15 into a truly unique rifle suited to his personal tastes
The AR-15 is becoming ever-more popular for hunting everything from prairie dogs to deer-sized and larger big game—it’s truly a modern sporting rifle.
So, the question of what kind of firearm you need has no real answer for those of us who take pride in the name “gun-nut.” Or maybe the answer is “just one more.
—story by Stan Skinner