Getting into the world of firearms

Posted: Sep 27, 2005 4:05 PM

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.

Benelli Nova 12-gauge. I have a couple of Remington 870 pump shotguns. But, recently, I bought a 24-inch barrel Nova with Advantage Timber camouflage. I will use mine – a super magnum that takes 3 ½-inch loads – to hunt a turkey this Thanksgiving. You can use yours for varmint hunting, quail hunting, and a number of other purposes with the right 2 3/4 –inch load. Some light buckshot will also make this a good home defense weapon, provided you are in an open space (the barrel is a little long for this particular function).

Stoeger Double-barreled 20-gauge Supreme Coach Gun. If you really want your wife to get into this (to make it a family affair), she needs her own shotgun. I recommend the nickel-plated version because it’s so darned pretty. Let her keep it under her side of the bed and, please, stay on her good side. For more details, see this link:

Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle. A lot of people who saw what recently happened in New Orleans have concluded that every man needs an assault rifle. I came to that conclusion years ago. Go to WalMart and get this nice .223 semi-automatic for around $500 (I got mine when they were $375). Then get a scope (the rings are included with this model). I would also recommend several 30-round magazines by Thurmold. I have fired hundreds of rounds through mine without a single jam – even when firing as rapidly as possible. You might also want a flash suppressor, which will keep the muzzle low while you fire away. This is a fun gun that helps explain why I never picked up golf.

Browning A-bolt .270. And, of course, you will need a long-range bolt action rifle when you start bagging deer. My 30.06 Browning A-Bolt Medallion is probably my favorite weapon. Deer, black bear, and boar like it much less. I recommend the .270 to the novice because it has less recoil and will still get the job done. Winchester Power Point rounds (130-grain bullets) are very cheap and more than adequate. Mail me later for venison recipes.

Ruger Super Redhawk .454 Casull. I have no business recommending this gun to you, Matt. Nonetheless, buy it anyway. This gun takes Colt 45 rounds that are great for home defense. When, somewhere down the road, you feel like handling a very powerful handgun, this will provide some great entertainment with the .454 Casull rounds. Get the model with the 9 ½-inch barrel and kill a wild boar. Then kill a black bear. Then put a scope on it (the scope rings are included) and kill a deer at 100 yards. After you are done with your assignments, call me and let me know whether I have given you good advice.

Thanks for writing, Matt. And welcome to my world.