Solenop - September 18, 2020
I’m interested in the warning against revolvers. Chuck Hawks, a gun writer I really respect, specifically recommends revolvers over auto-loading pistols for a non-military user: simpler, more reliable, less sensitive to inconsistent ammunition, can sit untouched for years and operate perfectly at a moment’s notice, pretty simple to reload with a speed loader and much easier to load from an open box of ammunition.
Something like a Ruger GP100 in .38 Special or similar seems ideal for a prepping situation. But I’m almost a total hangun novice (and have very mixed feelings about owning a handgun at all), so very interested in the thoughts of more knowledgable people!
John RameyStaff - September 18, 2020
I love revolvers. There’s something beautiful in their simplicity and the mechanical action. There can be situations where a revolver is a fine option for a beginner because that simplicity makes the learning curve easier.
That said, I helped craft this article and wrote the no-revolvers sentence. Since this is also in a preparedness context and we know many people will only have 1-2 guns total, that’s where the revolver became less preferable.
Some of the qualities Chuck talks about, like being more reliable and needing less care while in long-term storage, would be positives for prepping.
But in the end I think it’s outweighed by the limited ammo capacity and entirely different skillset to reload. Most people won’t train enough to overcome those limitations, and at the end of the day, having more shots + using more common components (eg. magazines) is more valuable to prepping.
This isn’t dogmatic though — just trying to help point the 98% of people in the right direction.
Solenop - September 18, 2020
Makes good sense. Thank you–
bajajoaquin - September 19, 2020
Another advantage of a .357 revolver specifically is that it shoots .38 Special. This means that a revolver goes from soft-shooting introduction gun to fire breathing man-stopper with a change of ammunition. 357/38 is usually pretty easy to find.
If the current situation deteriorates, then the best first gun is just about anything you can find in 9mm, .22, .223 or 357. However, if this too passes, then there’s more opportunity to look at options.
Something else to consider is that ammo capacity may be overrated as a concern. If we take the 80/20 rule emphasized here seriously, what are the chances that a defensive situation can’t be handled in 6 shots?
Im actually a semi-auto kinda guy, but have a revolver specifically as a prep gun. Between 38s and the ability for a novice to check, clear, load and fire it with minimal instruction, I don’t think there’s a better centerfire handgun in this context.
John RameyStaff - September 19, 2020
Great point about the dual-use
Hugh Gurin - September 20, 2020
My wife is a lefty so I was thinking of going lever-action .357/.38, and adding something like a 4″-5″ barrel Ruger or S&W .357/38 revolver. I like the idea of being able to step up or down in caliber, plus having one type of (seemingly) easy-to-find ammo for both weapons. Considering the Coonan semi-auto as well, but worried about shell ejection for a lefty, plus I just don’t know much about them. Thoughts welcome!
Pavel Minaev - September 18, 2020
I’m a bit surprised that none of the lists have models that are typically recommended to those on a budget – e.g. Taurus G2 in the 9mm pistol category, or PSA ARs. There may be concerns about reliability, but there are plenty of happy users of both, and some might just not be able to afford the more expensive stuff.
Maybe this deserves a separate article, actually. Something like, “the cheapest gun you can buy that’s worth buying”, category by category.
Thomas GomezStaff - September 18, 2020
Hi Pavel. I will include some budget models. Demand is so high for firearms right now, that even mid-tier models are selling at a premium. Thank you for the feedback.
Bigwig - September 20, 2020
I’m no expert, but I think a good starter firearm is a .22lr. There’s no recoil, it is quieter, the ammo is cheaper (note the date of this reply, because as we know this can change), and is less controversial/‘scary’ than an AR-15. My choice would be a Ruger 10/22 variant. Not the greatest for home defense, but a few well placed rounds can do some damage. A long gun should be a first choice until you get used to handling firearms.
matthew.Contributor - September 22, 2020
I appreciate the work that goes into an article like this, and I don’t want to come accross as dismissive, but I believe the suggestion of an AR15 or AR10 as a first gun is not sound. If the discussion was hypothetically concerning the only firearm one could have, than I’d fully agree, and I understand that you allude to this a bit in the comment that a first gun is often the only gun someone purchases. But even in that context it’s still something I’d caution against.
Assuming the first time gun buyer is also a total newbie at firearms, starting off with an AR is like learing to drive on the freeway during rush hour. Sure, if you have an amazing instructor and you will be dedicating a lot of time and energy into training it could work. But that’s the rub- learning, and practicing with an AR, or any rifle, is difficult. Most ranges, especially indoor ranges, don’t allow them, so the hours of practice that are required to master such a weapon are far more difficult to come by. Now again, if a potential buyer has easy access to a location where they can spend hours of time practicing, then perhaps. But that is simply not the case for most first time gun buyers, especially those living in urban and suburban areas.
I am a real advocate for the idea of a training gun; a firearm purchased solely for the intention of learning how to own and operate a gun, especially for those who have zero background with guns. Safety and ease of use should be prioritzed, as well as opportunities for training and instruction. Once said purchaser has grown confident in their skills and comprehenstion, then make the bigger purchase of something like an AR. The training gun then becomes a backup weapon, and something the shooter can use to help introduce other newbies to shooting.
That all said, thank you for the article and all the great work that goes into the site. This truly is a valuable resource.
bajajoaquin - September 22, 2020
A .22 is a good place to start, and unequivocally the best place to start if you want to master fundamentals and have a starting point for gun ownership. I think, however, that there’s a desire out there for peiple to get guidance for having just one gun. If you were going to have just one gun and it had to cover the most emergency scenarios you thought were likely, would you still choose a .22?
Keep in mind that people have successfully armed themselves with just one gun that is not a .22 for a long time. Not everyone wants to get into guns.
Pavel Minaev - September 22, 2020
> Most ranges, especially indoor ranges, don’t allow them
That’s certainly not the norm in US. Many ranges restrict rate of fire, and some require loading one round at a time, and some indoor ranges are pistol-only. But this is the first time I hear about ARs not allowed on the range.
tommyd46 - October 11, 2020
Some notable commissions are the Ruger 22/45 Lite, SR9 and P series pistols (unfortunately discontinued), American, and S&W M&P.
I would also suggest that a .22 lever, bolt, or pump action rifle would be more reliable than a semi auto.
However, guns are like women. You like them cause you like them, and I didn’t ask you for your opinion.
George - December 10, 2020
Anything that is direct impeachment is not good for the long run prepping situation. AR-15 or AR-10 patterns relay on very sophisticated products to maintain them in good shape.Once these products run out, how do you maintain your rifle. In general piston driven systems are more robust and easier to maintain. And will last longer. I would prefer to spend my time shooting, and not maintaining my gun. Also, Ar-15 are not good in cold weather, be that high in the mountains of far north. I do not want my gun to stop functioning because it is frozen solid. And then we go into the issue of 55.6 NATO/ 223 Rem and its stopping power… we all know how the conversation goes….
Thomas GomezStaff - December 11, 2020
Are you talking about a modern AR-15? My experience has been totally different. Plenty of countries in the northern hemisphere use the AR-15/M16 family of weapons in the cold.
George - December 11, 2020
Interesting why the Canadian rangers did not pick an AR-15 platform but insisted on bolt action rifles for their new service firearm?
Plus watch this test…. : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1y7jeBqjD8&t=460s
George - December 11, 2020
Ps. Just for your reference
Countries which know what cold is all about, beside Canada, all use some form of piston based rifles
Russia – Ak
Sweden – Ak 5(version of FN FNC)
Finland – RK 62(derive from AK-47)
Norway – Heckler & Koch HK417
Thomas GomezStaff - December 12, 2020
Danes and Swedes are using the Colt Canada C7/C8. Swedish/Finnish/Norwegian SOF is using an AR-15 derivative. There is nothing wrong the M16/M4 family.
If you like an AK, rock on. It’s a good weapon, and it works.
George - December 12, 2020
Where are you getting your information? What you are posting is incorrect.
Here is a list of all current Swedish military equipment:
No trace of anything derived from AR-15
Here is a list of all Norwegian stuff:
only special operations use C8, no one else
Here is the list of the Fins
No AR-15 derivative in sight……
You can not add Denmark to the list, because it is never really cold in Denmark. The warm Gulfstream ensures that.
Do your research before posting things that are not accurate.
George - December 12, 2020
George - December 12, 2020
just another video – especially interesting is the part about magazine release and safety.
M E - March 16, 2021
The first gun I place in a new shooters hands; Henry Lever Action H001 in 22 long rifle.
Smooth action, Simple operation, Easy to make safe.
Inexpensive, reliable, and pleasant to look at (not intimidating).
That would be my advice to a brand new gun owner.
Next in line would be a Ruger 10/22 for people familiar with guns, have shot guns, but do not own guns yet.
I would not recommmend shotguns, pistols, centerfire rifles, or revolvers as a first gun for previously non-gun folks.
Keep it simple and familiar.
Lever action is almost a part of everyones DNA.
Hand them the lever action rifle.
Train them to open the bolt and close the bolt using the lever.
Train them to open the bolt and leave it open.
Every new shooter I have trained; even the anti-gunner types, have absolutely loved lever action firearms and learned them quickly.
The easier, more fun, least painful, and simpler the introduction to firearms, the more likely the person will have a positive reaction.
Without question the first caliber a new shooter tries should be .22 long rifle or less.
A positive reaction for a new shooter; regardless of their voting preference, means a win for the 2nd Ammendment and all of us.
Paulino Martin - March 16, 2021
Something beautiful about a .22 rifle. Simple, no recoil, not too loud, easy to shoot, and accurate. Most anyone can pick up a .22 rifle for the first time and plink bulls eyes all day long. Plus, it’s cheap!
Thomas GomezStaff - March 16, 2021
Fantastic feedback. Thank you Sir.
JerBear - July 13, 2021
Sorry, but no new shooter needs a Glock and AR. They need training, not internet trends.
Clark Thompson - December 9, 2021
Some things I’d add based on my experience as an NRA certified pistol and personal protection instructor for over 30 years.
All are for the critical decision about first gun, and all I’ve used to steer many of my students away from the pistol to a shotgun over the years.
First is shotguns vs AR platform: while I would always rather have a carbine for ranges over 75 yards, at under 75 yards the US military has proved in multiple studies the 12 gauge shotgun is the most effective infantry weapon. From SPIW in the 60s to house clearing in the war on terror, multiple studies and real world experiences confirm the short to medium range effectiveness of a shotgun stopping the fight, unless the target is behind hard cover, typically not something a typical home contains. Buckshot ammunition is much less likely to overpenetrate: typically buckshot will stay in the envelope of a typical frame house, while 223 unless it shatters can go through at least four typical walls. In an urban environment that creates significant risk to the innocent.
Slugs will over penetrate as well, but with a shotgun you have a choice. You can also select your load on the fly by topping up a tube magazine with slugs, birdshot or buck from a buttstock carrier, flexibility no carbine or 9mm supports.
But that’s not the reason I recommend the shotgun. The truly deciding factor is training and access to moving targets.
For a lot of folks I teach, it’s clear they are not interested or dedicated enough to devote themselves to the discipline of learning to use a handgun safely and effectively.
I can teach someone to handle a shotgun effectively in a matter of hours and have them reliably hit stationary man sized targets first time every time.
This is true of a smaller number of handgun students. If they aren’t looking to carry concealed, the learning curve of a handgun is steep, and requires continuing practice to stay sharp.
Even the relatively well trained police officers (NYPD numbers cited) hit rate in gunfights is 18 percent, rising to a whopping 37 percent at ranges under 7 yards. There’s a good reason police officers who know they are going into a shooting situation grab a shotgun or carbine out of the rack.
But the most important reason is fundamental: bad guys don’t stand still. Unless someone has had military training or (in the Northeast extremely rare) access to an advanced range, shotguns are the only common weapon my students can practice using against moving targets. The old days of going to the dump and rolling a target inside a tire are long gone.
A clay pigeon is 4.3 inches rather than the 5.5 of a 25 yard bullseye pistol target… and, on a sporting clays course it’s going 55 mph at distances between 15 and 50 yards. Even Jerry Miculek or his daughter Lena wouldn’t pick a pistol to shoot moving targets.
Finally, a semi 20 gauge or even a light 12 with low recoil ammunition can be reasonably be handled by even my smallest students. A lot of 9mm and most 45 handguns are not well suited to small hands and low arm strength. Anyone with reduced mobility or arthritis may struggle with slide springs, particularly under stress.
One gun? Yes, I support your 9mm or AR choice. But first gun for beginners looking to defend their home? Shotgun.
John RameyStaff - December 9, 2021
Well said. People should give more weight to the idea that if you’re not able to / interested in practicing and keeping your skills up (shooting is a diminishing skill), shotguns are about the most “dummy proof” for home defense.
Robert LarsonContributor - December 10, 2021
You bring up many points about shotguns that I had not thought about before such as using for short to medium range protection, not penetrating walls, ease of learning how to use, and ability to hit your target in a high stress situation.
One thought that I just had is that with a shotgun, you can turn it into a less lethal option by having a bean bag round installed. Here’s the scenario– You load your shotgun with one bean bag round and then the rest with some buck shot. You are able to give the bad guy a warning shot to the gut with the bean bag round, and if he didn’t get the message the first time he sure will with the second round. Of if you are totally anti lethal, then load the whole thing with bean bags.
Clark Thompson - December 10, 2021
I’m not a lawyer, but it’s my understanding in almost all jurisdictions you are only justified in using lethal force when facing imminent unavoidable threat of death or grievous bodily harm to yourself or another innocent. If it isn’t imminent you aren’t justified, and thus the decision to use a less than lethal munition isn’t either. In many jurisdictions a warning shot is illegal. If you have the opportunity to warn, you aren’t at imminent risk.
At the kind of social distance the typical use of force situation occurs in (typically under 7 feet) a beanbag or other less lethal round is also lethal.
If you have the opportunity to withdraw, you aren’t justified in using lethal force. And at the range you can’t otherwise withdraw, bean bags or rubber buckshot are lethal.
For this reason, I’ve always advised my students against less lethal munitions, and advocated they keep pepper spray or foam with their home defense weapon.
There is a justified use for less lethal ammunition but it’s not likely to be in self defense against humans. If you live where there are large wild animals you want to discourage from going after your trash or other nuisance behavior and you are either unable legally or unwilling to kill, rubber buckshot might be useful at appropriately non lethal ranges.
But for a private citizen, less lethal munitions are not a legally justifiable option.
In the same vein, speciality shotgun gimmick loads like flechette rounds are a legal landmine.
Robert LarsonContributor - December 10, 2021
Interesting thought… I’m not arguing with you but do you feel like in court a judge/jury would consider less lethal pepper spray different than a less lethal bean bag round?
I agree that a warning shot is considered illegal unless you are under severe threat.
Very tricky stuff, lots to think about, and many unknowns.
Clark Thompson - December 10, 2021
The jury will consider the law. It’s not just the lethality of the use of force. It’s also about the act of discharging a firearm.
Many jurisdictions outlaw the discharge of firearms except for lawful self defense, hunting, target practice.
No jurisdiction I’ve ever lived in says warning shots are legal. A shotgun round can kill out to 100s of yards, a rifle or pistol bullet 1000s. That warning shot goes up, and comes down. At the same velocity it went up.
Warning shots are a legally perilous choice: if I fire a warning shot and that resolves the situation, I actually have proven I wasn’t under threat of immediate death, so I should never have shot in the first place.
If you live by the fundamental safety maxim that you never point a firearm at something you don’t intend to destroy, good safety says no warning shots and no less lethal ammunition. If you take a look at the history of less lethal ammunition, it’s legally used in riot control where ranges can be known, and rounds are only fired within the less lethal range. Even then people die and are maimed.
I guess from my perspective it’s not tricky at all, it’s binary. If the threat warrants lethal force and you are morally and legally prepared to take a life or seriously wound another human to stop it, use a firearm. If not to either or both, find another means. As an armed civilian your rules of engagement are not the same as a riot cop, and you don’t enjoy the same legal protection.
John RameyStaff - December 10, 2021
“In many jurisdictions a warning shot is illegal.”
This came up recently with the Thanksgiving shooting where a dad was trying to pick up his kid from his ex-wife’s house, and the stepdad fired a warning shot before eventually killing the father, all on video.
I’ve heard the stepdad will have a hard time claiming self defense because of the warning shot. (Not to mention many other factors that make it a dubious self defense claim.)
Clark Thompson - January 14, 2022
That tragic situation exactly illustrates my point. If you can safely fire a warning shot, you have just proven to a DA you were never truly at risk.