Ryan, over at the Total Survivalist blog, put up a thought-provoking article recently titled "Starting a Firearms Battery Over". In a situation where "the guns I currently have were ALL lost in a boating accident/ fire/ etc.", he asked how and with what he would replace them. Click over there to read his proposed solution to the problem.
I found his answers interesting, but I approached the problem from a different perspective. My biggest concern with most firearms owners is that, in a practical scenario, they aren't able to produce rapid, accurate, aimed fire on demand. If you were to take a hundred handgun owners, selected at random from an average city suburb, and ask them to shoot a basic law enforcement handgun qualification course of fire, I daresay a relatively low percentage would be able to pass it. I daresay the same applies to the average rifle or shotgun owner, although those weapons are easier to shoot accurately than a handgun. I therefore place the ability to practice often and cost-effectively very high on my list of priorities. It won't help me to have "ideal" weapons for my needs if I can't demonstrate adequate capabilities with them on demand.
This is not only a practical consideration, it's also a very important financial one. Let's say I need to fire 100 rounds per month to maintain basic proficiency with my defensive firearm. (I'd consider that a bare-bones minimum for most people - more would be much better, but let's go with 100 rounds for now.) Let's look at comparative costs for the lowest-priced practice versions of common defensive cartridges. All figures are drawn from the current catalog at SGAmmo, a supplier of whom I've written before.
- 9mm. Parabellum steel-case practice ball: $149.80 per 1,000 rounds, or $0.15 per round.
- .40 S&W steel-case practice ball: $99.50 per 500 rounds, or $0.20 per round.
- .45 ACP steel-case practice ball: $109.90 per 500 rounds, or $0.22 per round.
- .223 Remington steel-case practice ball: $22.95 per 100 rounds, or $0.23 per round.
- 7.62x39mm steel-case practice ball: $204.90 per 1,000 rounds, or $0.21 per round.
- .22LR 40gr. lead practice ball: $209.50 per 5,000 round case, or $0.04 per round.
For this reason, my top priority would be one of the following two options, depending on what was available to me.
- I want a primary defensive firearm, be it handgun or long gun, that can use a .22LR adapter or conversion kit to shoot low-cost rimfire ammunition for frequent practice, as well as its primary cartridge. This has the added advantage of using the primary firearm's own trigger and other controls during practice, helping to provide weapon familiarization.
- If I can't find, or can't afford, a primary defensive firearm with that capability, I'd put a very high priority on buying a .22LR equivalent to that firearm for training purposes. That also has the advantage of providing a second weapon in an emergency, even if in a sub-optimal caliber - which can, nevertheless, be very effective, as I've pointed out before.
For ease of use, simplicity of operation, and common availability of parts and ease of maintenance, there are two defensive firearms that are ubiquitous; and both can be fitted with rimfire adapters or conversion kits for low-cost practice.
- The Glock pistol is probably the handgun most widely used by US law enforcement agencies, and is available everywhere at affordable prices. Rimfire conversion kits are also freely available.
- The AR-15 family of rifles and carbines is equally common, and many rimfire conversion kits are available.
Of course, I might live in a state or city where AR-15 rifles are highly restricted, and/or where handguns are tightly controlled. In such circumstances, my first purchase might be a lever-action carbine or rifle in a handgun caliber, such as .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum. Each could fire lower-power ammunition for training (.38 Special and .44 Special respectively), and would provide adequate defensive firepower and performance in an emergency. Affordable .22LR lever-action carbines are available for lower-cost practice. I'd back them up with a handgun conforming to local restrictions, the most powerful I could control under the circumstances. If you're going to be restricted to only a few rounds, make them the most effective you can control! If ammo commonality is a consideration, and if semi-auto carbines other than the AR-15 are less politically incorrect in such an environment, Ruger's new PC9 carbine would be a good fit, too.
With such weapons, plus ancillary equipment and accessories such as holsters, magazine pouches, flashlights, etc., I'd be reasonably well equipped to defend myself and my family - my single most important priority. In a pinch, using suitable ammunition, an AR-15 or pistol-caliber lever-action carbine will also serve to hunt game up to the size of small to medium deer, or hogs, or what have you. (It might not be legal to use 5.56mm. cartridges for hunting in your area, but in emergency, I daresay such regulations will be honored more in the breach than in the observance!)
At this point, I could begin to expand my horizons. I could buy a hunting rifle, fitted with a telescopic sight and firing ammunition suitable to take down the game animals in my area. I could buy a shotgun for bird hunting and/or defensive use; many pump-action and semi-auto shotguns can be had with long or short barrels, which can be swapped out to make them more suitable for a given application. My needs there would depend on where I was and what threat I was facing. Someone in bear country might want a "stomper" such as a .45-70 lever-action rifle to defend against such animals, or a heavier-caliber rifle such as a .338 to hunt them. In my area, where smaller, less dangerous game is the rule, I currently rely on a .30-30 lever-action rifle, and I'm comfortable with that choice. Alternatively, a .308 bolt-action or semi-auto rifle would do a very good job around here. Given my current physical limitations, I probably wouldn't buy a shotgun.
However, there are other considerations. In an environment with a higher crime rate, it might make more sense to equip other members of your family with adequate defensive weapons, before buying guns more suitable for hunting or sporting use. Circumstances will dictate what's most important for your needs. There's also the unpleasant reality that if you use a firearm in self-defense, even in the most clear-cut circumstances where you won't be charged with anything, the police will still confiscate the gun(s) you used for a period of at least several months, possibly several years, for ballistics tests and possible use as evidence. You'd better have something available to replace them while they're not available - another good argument for having duplicates of each of your primary defensive firearms already on hand, in case your assailant's friends come looking for evens.
That would be my approach to the problem. What's yours?