The Definitive Firearms Thread
In several other threads, conversations about guns have brought a flurry of responses; from strong advocation, to abhoration, indifference and budding interest. In the "Alternative to Arsenal" thread, Plantguy90 made a statement that I think we should all consider. He said: "you CANNOT UN-INVENT the gun".
As that is the case, it is best that we "arm" ourselves with knowledge on the topic.
I am creating this thread so that questions can be asked freely, myths can be dispelled and people can make the best descision for themselves regarding ownership, and of what. In short – this is "the thread" for gun related conversation, so that we no longer have any need to clutter other important topics!
This is intended as a "primer" to get people started if they don't know much, but please – bring questions of any type.
I've given a little bit of information about myself, and I generally would rather talk about other things – but I think it's important that I give some background, so the reader can see where I'm coming from with my opinions.
From an early age – I've owned guns. I grew up around them in a very small town, and essentially have never really been without one. I became 'enthusiastic' about shooting as a result of some bad experiences with some bad people on account of a narcotics addicted parent and I've never been a member of the "drug culture".
Also, I'm not much of a hunter. I'm more of a fisherman and I've never myself killed an animal in its habitat. So most of my information will be centered around"the Combat Triad" of Skillset, Mindset and Tactics.
I got into a couple sports; 3-Gun and IDPA (http://www.3gunmatch.com/, http://www.idpa.com/) as well as attended various lectures, open enrollment "shooting" schools, and private schools; to include military.
Most of these left me "wanting" however because cardboard doesn't want to live. It'll let you shoot it all day.
You can become a good shooter training in this way, but not a good fighter.
Over the years, I've fired tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of rounds through various weapons platforms; Military pattern rifles mostly. I was fortunate to have lots of rock pits around, where practice could basically come in whatever form I choose. I made a lot of "novice" mistakes, and learned a lot of things the hard way, including what works and doesn't, what will break, and just how many rounds you have to fire to catch an AK47's handguards on fire.
After several years in college, I joined the military, where I currently hold an expert rating for both M9 and the M4 Carbine.
This is a very small accomplishment, and in time we'll see that 'certification', or 'expertship' does not mean proficiency or even competancy. It's a base level of skill.
It's a good place to start.
Caliber refers to the "diameter" of the bullet in circumfrential width. It is measured in Inches (such as .308. or .45), or Millimeters (5.56x45mm or 9mm). Grain means the weight of the bullet (55gr is common for 5.56mm, and 147gr is common for .308). Pistols are measured the same way as rifles, but Shotguns are measured in "gauge", from 8 (largest) to 20 (smallest) – 12 being the "standard" and in my opinion the most versitile.
There are things to consider that tread into the realms of science; sectional density, ballistic coefficients and more hooplah, but those things can come later.
Caliber is probably the most nebulous, mal-aligned concept I've encountered. Many shooters (mostly males) get wrapped up in "size" and the "bigger is better" mentality. Sparing a lot of talk about physics let me say a couple things, which I'll elaborate on if there are questions:
1. Placement of the bullet beats size of the Bullet.
2. There are no "magic bullets"
3. There is no "always" or "never" – so avoid advice that centers around such words.
Types of Guns
Rifles – predominately used for hunting, this could be of many different types of rifles; bolt and lever are the most common, but in some cases there are "pump action" rifles. Generally, these are marked by slow, accurate fire and are often seen with scopes. They typically hold between 1-7 rounds, depending on caliber, and are generally great "all purpose" tools.
Military Rifles – The military rifle is what you hear refered to as an "assault" rifle. This is ironic, because assault is a tactic, not a weapon type. Tricky language plays a huge part in the gun "counter culture", which we can get to later. For now, it's best to understand these weapons operate as "semi"; meaning when you pull the trigger, a round is discharged, ejected and another round is reloaded, or "Automatic"; which means when you pull the trigger rounds continue to discharge, eject and reload until you let your finger off the trigger. They "feed" cartridges from "Magazines" (Not "clips") which come in a variety of capacities; 30 rounds is the "standard" capacity for NATO as well as the Russian's AK series of weapons.
Shotguns – Another good "all purpose" tool, the shotgun is acceptable for home defense and hunting. It can fire a variety of projectiles, from bean bags (Non-Lethal) to Buckshot (Multiple, pistol caliber 'bullets") and Slugs (solid projectile).
It is very easy to "reload" shotgun shells, and they are very common, and inexpensive.
HOWEVER! Shotguns have 3 significant drawbacks that should be considered:
1. They lack "range" – even with slugs, they're effectively a 100 yard or < weapons for the average shooter
2. They fire "shot" in most cases, which can injure bystanders if fired indoors or in close quarters
3. They are slow to reload, and the ammunition is cumbersome. 25 shotshells takes up about the same amount of space as 90 rounds of 5.56mm, or 60 rounds of .308 – and it lacks the range and precision of the rifle.
Handguns – Handguns are the least effective of all modern firearms, and while certain models offer advantages, do not become hung up about caliber. Keep in mind pistols with Hexagonal barrels (Glock, H&K and some others) will NOT shoot lead nosed bullets, and firing them may cause an uncontrolled detonation, which can injure you. This will become more important in a prolonged "SHTF" scenario, if people return to casting lead bullets. For now, it's not an issue.
Selecting a firearm:
When selecting a firearm, you want to take into account several things:
1. Reliability – will the weapon function reliably? If so, in what conditions?
2. Durability – Does this weapon have a reputation for being "tough"?
3. Availability – Are there magazines, spare parts and ammo available for the weapon?
4. Commonality – Does this weapon share common parts or ammo with my other weapons?
5. Ergonomics – Is this weapon easy to use, or do you have to work against it to get it to function?
6. Intended use – Is the weapon for hunting, fighting, or is it a 'wall-hanger'?
Two bits of advice – never listen to the guy at the gun store and always take advice with a grain of salt.
That's the only time I'll say "never" or "always" 😉
Notice "caliber" doesn't fit into the equation? All these other things are more important than having a "big" bullet. If you can't shoot it, it isn't reliable durable or commonly available, what good does it do?
When considering a handgun, always concern yourself with availability of holsters – and please… don't go cheap.
The biggest "problem" with conceal weapon permit holders is they buy a nice gun, an inexpensive holster, and they never carry it.
Rule number one of owning a handgun is "Carry it!"
It'll be uncomfortable at first. There will be awkward moments, like giving your grandma a hug and she accidentally brushes it while patting your back or something.
Keep in mind, and remind others – what you're saying by wearing that gun is "I'll defend this home as if it was my own".
My last piece of "generic" advice about handguns is this; because all handgun rounds are 'ineffective', it's better to have more. This is my opinion, and I find the best gun for me to carry is the Glock 19. It's big enough to fight with, small enough to carry, and holds 15 rounds of 9mm (which is a fine round).
It is also half the price of .45, which means I can train twice as much with my G19 as I can my 1911's in .45ACP.
Keep that in mind – especially going into section "training"…
Here is a can of worms if there ever was one. I'll be very brief, because many people spend way more money on these things than they should – myself included. There are very few "essentials", and anytime you go to buy something, you should ask yourself: "Can the deficiency that this item attempts to compensate for be offset by me gaining skill?"
If the answer is "yes" – don't buy it.
Personally, I carry a flashlight on my pistol 100% of the time. A surefire X200, and it's of outstanding quality.
As with guns, cheap is usually not good, and good is not usually cheap. Good buys can be found, but my mantra has become (and it's widely ignored) "Buy Quality, cry only once."
A flashlight on your home defense carbine/shotgun/pistol is a great investment. As are extra magazines for your rifle/pistol and in many cases a good scope. Scopes generally come in two varieties:
1. Magnified (makes objects look closer)
2. Red Dot (Superimposes a red dot over a target; generally unmagnified)
There are benefits and disadvantages to each.
The meaning of "training":
I've harped on this issue since I've been here – and Roger Eddy made mention in the "Alternative" thread – What do I mean "training"?
Simply put, find an instructor who can pace you through operating your handgun, rifle or shotgun. Just like a man with a hammer can cobble together structure doesn't make him a competant carpenter, owning a gun doesn't make us competant defenders. There is a phenomonon in the "shooting" world.
You'll see it at your local range… A guy standing perfectly still, and a rigid stance firing rounds as slowly as he can in to a distant target. He'll pull his target down and brag to his buddies that he shot this teensy little hole, and he feels good about himself because he can shoot.
However, his marksmaship is built upon shifty ground. He is training for the "ideal" situation – where he is at a comfortable temperature, relaxing with no external influences, not a care in the world. If you need to shoot – what do you think the chances will be the conditions will be ideal? Your hands will probably feel like flippers because of the adrenaline, your brain will be stuck in neutral as you try and cycle through your OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) and you'll probably be trembling as your muscles go haywire.
To borrow from a Green Beret who wrote a great article on this over at "professionalsoldiers.com", You want to be the guy at the far end, holding your pistol in your left hand, clearing a malfunction using your belt and firing two to the chest and one to the head. That is training for conditions that are not ideal. You may not feel "good" about it, but in the case of shooting and many other things, the work is the reward. The harder you work, the more you're rewarded.
You should always be challenging yourself.
You should know the difference between, and how to clear type I, II and III stoppages, how to reload with and without retention and when to use those techniques and how to shoot "accurately" with either hand in addition to "both hands".
Training should encompass using "cover" and "concealment", you should constantly remind yourself it's more important to NOT get shot than it is to shoot someone, and
I won't spend much time on this now, but I want to make it known that fighting with a weapon is a art and a science. To be truly proficient, physical aptitude must cross manual dexterity, reflexes and tenacity. I have never been in a gunfight, but I have done a good bit of Force on Force training with real weapons and simunitions rounds. Fight science represents a "phase" of this learning process; it's a "graduation" from "I can shoot" to "I can fight". Technique, ready positions, transitions between weapons; all these things require great dedication and practice. The "key concepts" (to borrow from Chris) to take are:
2. Economy of Motion
3. OODA loop
I often refer to tactics – which is combining your ability to fight with another 1-7 guys ability to fight. If you think this is complicated now, it gets even more so the deeper down the rabbit hole you go.
We can talk about it later, but for now, lets just rest knowing it exsists.
In closing, we've touched on a lot of ground. A lot.
To some, it might be intimidating, and other may have been bored with the "basics". We've discussed the justification for defense, firearms as the "best" option and the lines are drawn.
If you're of the "Sheepdog" mentality, we can continue to learn together and discuss here.
Aaron, you have outdone yourself once again. I must admit I feel relieved to see that I’ve got the same Glock 19 that you do. Images of the Last Crusade knight come to mind: "You have chosen…wisely." haha
Thanks for all of your information. I think you have done a good job keeping some sense and direction to the gun conversations that flare up around here.
Wow, thanks Aaron.
What would you look for in an instructor? How much time would the appropriate (first) class take for someone who have been trained to shoot, but never while moving. This is me:
"You’ll see it at your local range… A guy standing perfectly still, and a rigid stance firing rounds as slowly as he can in to a distant target. He’ll pull his target down and brag to his buddies that he shot this teensy little hole, and he feels good about himself because he can shoot. "
What would you expect to pay?
Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.
Great movie reference. I’ll admit – as a youngster – Indy was my hero.
The Glock 19 is, in my opinion, everything a handgun should be!
Get yourself an X200 and a Comp-Tac C.T.A.C. holster, and you’ll be "good to go"!
A lot of this depends on your location. I recall you saying you were in the Midwest, I am intermittantly in Illinois, and there are several schools around there;
1. Strategos International – Grandview Missouri, Owned and Operated by Ken Good, a former Navy SEAL – he has logged more Force on Force hours than anyone in the world. Extremely accomplished warrior. I believe they have civilian classes. Here is their Carbine Class – it’s open to Civilian Enrollment at $195 per session (8 hours) http://www.strategosintl.com/courses_defrifle.html
2. Tactical Response – Camden Tennesee, Operated by James Yaeger, a experienced Police Officer with some PSD experience, he teaches an intense pistol and carbine course with strong emphesis on fighting techniques. I’ve shot with some of his Alumni at IDPA matchs, and he produces some capable shooters.
All his courses are "general enrollment" to my knowledge – and can be taken by anyone.
These classes are 2-4 days long, and range from $200-$400 for the pistol and rifle courses.
That should be a start – it’ll probably involve traveling – but traveling with firearms is a lot less problematic than it probably seems. I’d recommend Tactical Response because I know they do a lot of re-enforcement of mindset. Personally, I think anyone who carries a gun should receive training from a place like this.
Once you’ve got a few courses like this under your belt, step into a "Force on Force" class… A good one will strip you down to your instincts. It’s far and away the most beneficial training you can get.
Thanks for the kind words my friends.
I own a killer metal T-square. Circa 1983. I sleep with it next to my side of the bed.
Dogs is going to love this link… I am going back to picking daisies!
Anyone heard about this training facility?
I went to those websites, and they look like exactly what I need. The course I picked from tactical response has a pre-requisite of this book:
Which I just ordered. I’m curious to see how much you can get from a book, but these guys are the experts so I’ll try and see where this takes me.
Yes, I’ve trained there. It was a very mixed experience.
Front Sight was the "first" place I trained "professionally", and there were a few highlights, and a few lowlights.
First off, let me say this: I personally believe Dr. Ignatius Piazza is a scam artist.
He approaches the industry the same way [ . . . ] approaches its initiates. Pay up to move up.
His instructors were an "even split", the lead was very good, and one of the support guys was very good… but one, Ray Gibson was absolutely the worst teacher I’ve ever come across – on any subject.
I don’t say this lightly, because as a student of fighting, you’re going to need mentorship, not someone who looks down on you as a "lowly civilian" who "will never need these skills" as he put it to me. Keep in mind I was probably 20 at the time. My life had just started.
The lectures were well presented and informative – and very well researched. To me, they were the "highlight" of the event.
The shooting was very "square range" mentality. It was a shooting school, not a fighting school.
The price tag is where you really get stuck. At $1400 for four days, you could have taken the gamut of classes with Gabe Suarez or James Yaeger and had a much more comprehensive skill base.
My advice: Steer clear of Front Sight. Better instruction at lower costs exist in that area. Look into Suarez, Trident Tactical, GunSight, Insights Tactical or Firearms Academy of Seattle (Massad Ayoob school – formerly LFI) if you’re out on the West Coast.
Cat, Ironically, a T-square for architecture is the first instrument with which I ever drew blood. I cracked my brother over the head with it when we were reaaaaally young. Poor kid. hehe.
Great job on this thread.
I have read that it’s a good idea to buy weapons that use military ammunition, this way if ammo because scarce you still should be able to find some on the black market or a friend in the military, what do you think?
If it’s not too late, also pick up a copy of Andy Sanford’s "Surgical Speed Shooting".
You can learn a lot from reading, provided it’s practice in the "real world". Stanfords book has a forward by Yaeger, and I’m positive that you’ll hear it referenced when/if you attend. It discusses, in detail all the biomechanics involved with shooting and a lot of the physiological processes that come with speed and accuracy.
I personally stick to the "main three" calibers for my "serious weapons. Those are the calibers predominately used by Militaries around the world:
5.56mm (.223), 7.62×51 (.308) and 7.62×39 for my rifles.
For pistols, I like the 9mm because it’s cheap, plentiful and produced by NATO.
Another good wager is the .22 because it’s extremely cheap and pletiful. A good .22 rifle is a mainstay of any "survivors" tool box.
You hit the nail on the head – these calibers are produced in the billions. We may never get "handouts", but you can bet that the cartridges will be around a long time.