Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Just One Gun!?!?!?!?!

One question that I see come up a lot is "If you could have just one gun what would it be?" I hate this question. I will never own just one gun. Choosing one gun is all about compromise. I'm not willing to compromise when it comes to issues like that. Different guns do different things. The thought of having to rely on one gun for everything for the rest of my life just doesn't sit well with me. If you have no other choice but to choose just one gun then there are a lot of things that you need to consider.

If life goes on as it has been for so many years and the worst that you have to worry about is getting held up by a crackhead or being in a mall when some psycho decides that he wants to make a name for himself then a handgun will be about all that you can expect to have handy if you're ever forced to protect yourself. The chances of living your life every day without incident are very good under those circumstances whether you carry a gun or not. That's obviously something that you have to consider. If things get a little worse and crime starts to get out of control but society hasn't totally collapsed then you would most definitely want to arm yourself with a small, compact, easily concealable firearm. If something dramatic happens and modern society suddenly ends then you'll need more gun than what you can easily conceal under a light jacket or fit inside of your waistband. When someone is shooting at you from 100 yards with a high-powered rifle then a handgun just aint gonna cut it.

There are plenty of different weapons that you can look at. They actually make stocks and extended barrels for several pistols out there. The Glock stock comes to mind. They're highly illegal unless you pay special taxes and fill out the proper paperwork with the ATF but if you're willing to jump through the hoops then more power to you. High capacity Glock magazines are relatively cheap and easy to find. The Glock itself is an incredibly reliable and durable weapon. If you live in a state where suppressors are legal then it's easy to get the parts you need to suppress one. If nothing bad ever happens then you'll always have an easily concealable, unbelievably reliable (just check out the torture test that some guy put his Glock through at this url firearm that's easy to keep handy whether you're in the office, at the grocery store or at home.

There are also several pistol caliber carbines that are small and compact. MP5s are a good example but it's just big enough that I wouldn't want to try and carry one around all of the time. They're also ridiculously expensive which, in my opinion, exludes them from "trunk gun" status. Let's face it. You're more likely to have your car broken into and your gun stolen than have to actually use it in a self defense situation. Don't even get me started on how complicated the action is and how many small parts it contains. Most of the pistol caliber carbines that are inexpensive enough to leave in your trunk and forget about are way too big to ever consider concealing if you were ever put in a situation where you wanted to have a gun on you.

The exception to that rule is the Keltec Sub2000. It folds down to an extremely small size. It's lightweight. Carrying it in something like a laptop carrying case, a backpack or in a special pocket in a jacket or something like that would be conceivable. They run about $300 which is inexpensive enough that they fall into the "trunk gun" category. Keltec also has a lifetime warranty with all of their firearms. I've heard great things about their customer service so if it breaks then you probably won't have to wait long for it to be fixed. Then again a warranty doesn't do you much good if the world has already ended. The biggest problem that I have with the Sub2k is that by choosing it for your "only gun" you lose one of it's most significant selling points. Different models use different magazines from some of the most popular handgun brands on the market. To me this is more of a backup to your handgun than a choice for the "one gun that you would choose".

So far I've only covered pistol calibers. What do all of these firearms have in common? THEY ALL FIRE PISTOL ROUNDS! At point blank range I would have no trouble putting faith in a 9mm firearm to drop a badguy. At 100 meters when they have an AK or an AR and I've got a 9mm (or a .40 or a .45) then I am going to feel significantly undergunned. A pistol caliber carbine is certainly better than a sharp stick but you had better be a pretty damned good shot and you had most DEFINITELY better be using high quality self defense ammunition if you expect it to drop a badguy at long ranges. Pistol ammunition and rifle ammunition do their damage differently. Pistol ammunition relies on bigger bullets and high penetration to deal more tissue damage but they lose their velocity at long ranges very quickly. If you're using hollow points then you're relying on the expansion of the bullet to do as much tissue damage as possible before it loses it's energy. Over long distances they lose their energy quickly which results in less damage the farther you are away from your target. Rifle bullets have a great deal more velocity which results in more kinetic energy when they strike their target. They travel so fast that they create a kind of ripple in the air around them that results in a great deal more tissue damage than the small bullet would suggest. Compared to pistol rounds rifles are the shit.

So if rifle caliber ammunition is so much better than pistol ammunition why would you pick a pistol over a rifle? Well first of all they make "pistols" that fire rifle calibers. There are a few factors that go into the high velocity of a rifle round. The weight of the bullet, the type/amount of powder, the length of the shell and the length of the barrel are just a few things to consider. The barrel length is one of the most important variables. Most "pistols" that are chambered in rifle calibers have barrels that are much too short to be considered viable options. I would put them into the "novelty" category before I put them into the "I would rely on them in a self defense situation" category. You can also look at the Keltec SU-16 which is an extremely lightweight rifle that folds down to a very small size, shoots the same caliber as our military and uses the same magazines. It's a very cool idea but, like the Sub2k, it's more of a supplement to your primary weapon system (if your primary weapon system is an AR-15). The biggest downside to rifle caliber pistols is that even though they're classified as pistols they're still way too big and bulky to be easily concealable. Also, the magazines are a lot bigger than pistol magazines which makes them even harder to conceal. While the SU-16 folds down to a fairly small size it's still too big to conceivably conceal normally.

So pistol caliber weapons are great as long as things stay cool. Rifle caliber "pistols" are fun to take to the range. Is there a gun that actually does it all, though? It depends on what your standards are. If you've made it this far then you know what I'm about to say. If you're the typical "12 gauge isn't a conceivable do all caliber" type then I am laughing at you right now. I suckered you into reading this far (even though you probably saw it coming from a mile away[I encourage you to comment!!]). If you're not some bigtime firearms guru then I'm going to tell you why I think that shotguns are the shit.

Besides .22lr there isn't a single round that's more readily available in the United States than 12 gauge (unless you have plans to steal from the military or something which I do not). It is an EXTREMELY modular weapon system if you get a pump action. Any idiot that can figure out how to put threads on a magazine tube can make a 3 shot 12 gauge with a 6 inch barrel and a pistol grip (just make sure that you go through the proper channels as long as the current rule of law is still in effect). It will hurt like a bitch when you pull that trigger but I can assure you that if the situation warrants putting 3 12 gauge shells into a bad guy then the adrenaline will be flowing so freely that you won't feel it till after the fact. A gun like that is pretty easy to conceal and if you do the work yourself, even after paying the tax it still won't cost much more than a typical handgun (just check your local state laws to make sure that they're legal!) If things start getting so bad that you need to carry a long gun with you everywhere you go then 8 rounds of 12 gauge out of an 18"+ barrel will be enough to discourage anyone from screwing with you. Get yourself a good length (24"+) barrel with a smooth bore and you'll be able to shoot slugs accurately at 100 yards. Get a rifled barrel and you can shoot .50 cal sabots. All that you have to do is pop off the barrel, put a different one on and grab different ammunition and you've got a very powerful firearm that's capable of a different job. Unlike some other "modular" weapon systems it doesn't require special tools. You might also have to dick around with the magazine tube if you're going for concealability or you want to add to the magazine capacity.

The 12 gauge, pump action shotgun offers a TON of options over every other weapon system. It may not be the best at everything but it earns "acceptable" marks in every category short of long range shooting. If you honestly believe that you'll be spending most of your time shooting over 100 meters then your "one gun" will probably have to be a rifle. Me being an urban survivalist I'm not so worried about being able to shoot someone from more than a block or two away. If I absolutely was not allowed to own more than one firearm and all of the other laws applied then I wouldn't hesitate to jump through all of the hoops to get a short barrel twelve gauge. I would also have a barrel/magazine tube for it that I felt was significant for home defense and I'd have a "high cap" magazine tube along with several longer barrels that allowed me to shoot sabots, rifled slugs and buckshot accurately at range with it. With the right setup, the right investment and the right choice of rounds a 12 gauge can feasibly handle everything better than anything else can handle everything. Even if you don't take every possible scenario into account it's still the best "dummy gun" by far. I would, without hesitation, suggest it to anyone that asked me for my recommendation of what they should get if they could only have "one gun".


Rus said...

OK, I see where you're coming from, and I like the 12 gauge, but it does have it's limitations.

When I tested mine ( 870 Police Magnum, 18" barrel, open choke ) with 00 Buckshot I noticed that the pattern really begins to open up at 25 yards. Using reduced recoil tightens it back up, but still a "down the block" shot is kinda pushing it. Of course, your blocks could be smaller than mine ;) . No question as to it's effectiveness at close range; more like I'd limit it to across the street, as it were.

I also agree that the "just one gun" premise is a flawed one. Different firearms are tools for different jobs.

Anonymous said...

One can have "too many" guns though, a significant waste of (always limited) resources. Better to purchase three good choices (a pistol, a shotgun, and a rifle) and put the rest into ammunition, food, seeds, spare boots, or similar than to waste it on a gun case full of weapons that will never see use. A classic case of diminishing marginal return on your investment. The downside of all such tools is that you can only utilize one of them at a time.

The Urban Survivalist said...

Well I already posted my thoughts on the basic arsenal. You don't need a gun safe full of guns to have all of your bases covered. In my opinion a handgun and a rifle will do everything that you need them to. I just wouldn't want to be without a .22 and a 12 gauge. Now as for taking long range shots with a shotgun you would have to use slugs to be accurate. Good sabots out of the right barrel are also surprisingly accurate at longer ranges. If someone is shooting at me from a block or two away then either I'm providing cover fire so that the rest of my team can get closer or I'm trying to get away.

Another thing that I thought about when I picked the shotgun is what type of person would actually ask me that question. More than likely it would be someone with limited firearms experience. They're the type that just wants a gun to keep around the house for home defense and maybe plink around with at the range. They don't think that they're in enough danger day to day to carry. If things suddenly got bad enough that they felt they needed a gun then they'd probably be stuck with what they've got. It would be easier for them to find ammo for it when they realize that the 20 round box that they have left over from the last range trip isn't going to be enough. If they need to hunt with it they can take any game from squirrel to bear. If they need it for self defense then they can count on it to do the job efficiently as long as they do their part.

Rus said...

As a follow up to my earlier post, here is link to the shotgun ammo testing I did, with regard to reduced recoil shotgun ammo.

For what it's worth.

theotherryan said...

I think just one gun is a useful mental exercise about what guns are capable of. The same way that questions like "how would you arm yourself completely for $1000". This type of mental exercises not necessarily going to lead to the best overall firearms battery. They are also great for those who have budgetary or space constraints.

I agree that if a person is going to own one gun for a survivalist type situation an urban dweller can do much worse then a 12 guage pump then better. Particularly if they get a shotgun that has a stock long barrel and a spare "riot" barrel with rifle sights and a good varried selection of ammo for it. That being said this gun can not be carried concealed and I think any of the super short cut down versions is much less useful then a pistol.

If you plan to conceal a firearm then a good pistol is a must but it is not your all around best one gun solution.

theotherryan said...

In response to the "one can have too many guns" I partially agree. One can not have too many guns (with mags, ammo, spare parts etc). That is like saying you can have too much food. They very definintely can spend far too much of their preparadness money on those guns and accessories.

Firearms (and all the stuff they require) should be PART of a well rounded calculated plan.

I suggest dividing up your preparadness money into categories by percentage. Dividing it equally between beans bullets and bandaids would probably not be a bad plan.

fallout11 said...

Better to spend the extra money on more ammunition for the gun(s) you already have rather than buy yet another one. Ammunition prices are rising MUCH faster than gun prices, and have been for years now. There are fewer ammo manufacturers than their are firearm manufacturers...great choke point for a defacto gun ban.
Finally, without ammo, even the best, fanciest, most expensive firearm in the world is just a poorly-shaped club.

Anonymous said...

Even though you wrote this almost 2 years ago, I appreciated your comments and feel they are still pertinent. I agree that there is no perfect weapon and thus there are many options. My own "first responder" is the Judge, a 45 long colt that fires 410 shells. For home defense it is loaded with 410s that do not miss!! It is attached to a belt that holds several long colts that have good power and range. Admitted it is not accurate at 100 yds, at least not in my hands but I have other options for this range.
The 12 ga shotgun is a very versatile weapon as you described but you failed to mentioned many of these options. There are flares, flash bangs and sublethal loads for this gun that make it more versatile. I did not mention the new grenade because I cannot buy this as a mere civilian but may be able to purchase through channels I should not mention.
Thanks for you article. Send more.