Thanks for your following letter, Matt, which I received this afternoon:
Do you think at some point you could write a column on some of the basics of getting into the world of firearms? Specifically, I'm looking for tips on acquiring weapons for home defense and hunting. While I'm not a survivalist weirdo, I have no intention of waiting for any level of government to ride to the rescue, should bad times come along.
Since I have been hit with numerous requests (mostly post-Katrina) from people looking for that first firearm, I am pleased to respond with a column on the topic. Since you used the word “weapons” (plural) and spoke of “getting into the world of firearms” (again plural) I have a number of recommendations for you. And here they are:
Marlin .22 Magnum, Model 25 MN. We are going to start you off with an inexpensive gun you can easily pick up at WalMart. I bought my Model 25 five years ago for just $150, although they cost about $170 now. Take your new .22 magnum out to the country and fire a few shots at a paper plate taped on the side of a tree stump. Start out at 25 yards. When you get confident, you can put an inexpensive Simmons scope on it for those 50-yard raccoon shots. I have a big back yard and, for me, a part of home defense is getting rid of those raccoons that tear up everything in sight. Your varmint problems will soon be a thing of the past with this little bolt action rifle. It will also teach you patience and shot discipline better than a .22 semi-automatic. Remember, Matt, every shot counts so don’t waste ammo. In fact, make sure that you always buy more than you just shot after a day at the range. Some people call that stockpiling. I call it an investment in your future.
Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum, Model 686. I usually recommend a four-inch barrel but I want you to get a six-inch stainless model. This will help you in the realm of hunting and self-defense. For example, a 145-grain Winchester silver tip will stop that coyote you run into while deer hunting. It will also help stop any intruder (it will even stop his pit bull, for that matter). Keep this gun under your bed and loaded at all times.
Also, this is a great revolver for your wife (assuming you are married, which is another choice I recommend) to get used to shooting. Put some light 110-grain .38 Special rounds in it and see how she likes it. With a big six-inch barrel, it will be easy to handle with hardly any recoil.