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Ernie's House of Whoopass! February 16, 2011
February 16, 2011

Good... Bad... I'm The Guy With The Gun.

Gentlemen, I have good news, good news, good news.

But on to more important things, I recently had the opportunity to provide to advice to an old friend who was pondering his first handgun purchase. And far be it from me to claim myself as an expert -- five years shooting and one dead kitchen wall does not a Massad Ayoob make. In fact most of what I know (believe) to be true about actual self defense shootings, comes from books written by said author. And much like I reread my "I bought a new gun today" post from 2005, I'm sure five years from now I'll look back at this post and wonder, "what the fuck I was thinking when I said that?"

But I've made enough n00b mistakes and a few n00b good calls to at least be able to point another n00b in the right direction. So after being prompted with, "... but I soon will be popping my handgun cherry, any suggestions? preferences?" behold (the meat and potatoes of) my extremely long winded reply:

HAHAHAHA, dude that's like asking a pedophile if he wants to see pictures of your kids. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

But seriously. Be advised that there's no such thing as "one gun". Sure, you'd like to tell yourself that -- I even maintained only having only one gun for about a year -- but when the floodgates open and you finally decide to get that second, it leads to a third, and then a tenth, and the next thing you know you have a gun safe packed to the gills.

Recommendations, sure but first I need to have some idea as to what you'd like to use it for as all things in the firearms world were not created equal. My presumption is a little target practice to get up to snuff, then keep it around the house for home defense, with occasional trips to the range to keep your shooting skills proficient, and maybe do some plinking with cans and bottles somewhere. If you'd like to carry concealed, it ads another dimension to the mix and the two are usually kind of self exclusive; good home defense weapons aren't always good carry weapons, and visa versa.

If you're looking purely for home defense, the whole home defense, and nothing but the home defense... then forget a handgun, get yourself a good pump-action shotgun. For the most part, Americans still rule the roost when it comes to the heavy artillery -- a Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 are popular choices, and will set you back about $350-$400. You can mount small flashlights on them for exploring a darkened house, they're painfully simple to use, and it's a shotgun so all you have to do it point it in the general direction of the intruder and it'll take care of business. If you've got a couple more bucks to throw into it, Benelli is an Italian firearms maker, and is kind of the Ferrari of shotguns. Remember the old school Mafia assassinations with sawed off double barrel shotguns? Yeah, that's how Benelli got their start. I picked up a Mossberg 590 used for $300, and a Benelli Supernova new for $525. They are both 100,000% reliable and the Mossberg lives [IN A SECRET PLACE IN MY HOUSE].

But since you really can't go recreational shooting with a home defense shotgun -- well I suppose you could but at $0.80 a shell it gets kind of expensive. Enter the defense caliber handgun, which can also double duty as a fun day at the range killing paper targets and pop cans alike. A general consensus in the gun world is .380 (semiautomatic) or .38 (revolver) is the smallest you'd want to go for personal defense. Not to suggest smaller calibers can't be lethal but contrary to what Michael Bay shows us in the movies, bad guys don't fall down dead with just one shot. More often than not continue to function (and attack) for several minutes after being shot, succumbing only to blood loss. So with the old car adage, "There's no replacement for displacement," the larger caliber the better. Don't go out and buy a gold plated .50 Desert Eagle -- those things are a fucking farce -- but .40 or .45 is a good solid choice for a semiautomatic, and .357 or magnum for a revolver. I know, "What about the .44 magnum," right? Inside a home I'd worry about overpenetration. With 50% more muzzle energy than the .357, the .44 goes through the bad guy, and the wall behind him, and the TV behind that, and the dresser, and the wall behind that..... somehow I'm reminded of a scene from Johnny Dangerously. It shoots through schools. Anyway.

For a semiautomatic, especially for a first time handgun owner -- I think Glock is the way to go. This is one of those areas where the Europeans have really outclassed us. Glock was my first handgun and was recommended to me by a guy who used to do personal protection for the SecDef. I told him, "Dude I don't know shit about handguns, i want something simple and reliable." He said Glocks are -- if you'll pardon the pun -- absolutely bulletproof. They simply ALWAYs work. They work in the heat, the cold, dry, wet, dirty or clean. Mine cycles virtually ALL ammunition from the bulk grade crap you can buy at Walmart to the best personal defense hollow points. It's not uncommon for people to fire 10,000 rounds through them without cleaning -- not that i would recommend doing so. On that note, disassembly and cleaning can be done by an idiot. They are just rock solid, dependable guns. I'm not saying it's the end-all-be-all greatest gun in the universe, I'm saying it's the end-all-be-all greatest gun in the universe for n00bs.

There are two complaints that people have about Glocks. The first is a myth: you'll see people of the Colt 1911 world say that Glocks will blow up in your hand, and if you do some Google searching, you'll even find a few pictures of ones that have done so. What the pictures don't tell you is that their owners are fucking idiots and tried to use reloaded ammunition; where in the manual specifically states NEVER EVER EVER to fire reloaded ammunition. A 50 round box of cheap .45 target ammo is $19, and a box of 50 hollow points is $35, so it's not like you're getting a second mortgage. So by trying to save seven cents a round by firing reloads, these idiots blew up their $500 handgun and injured themselves in the process. Lesson: stick to factory ammo.

The second complaint about Glocks is they have no external safety. There are bunch of internal safeties to make sure the gun won't fire if dropped, and the trigger is designed to not function unless it's given a good solid intentional pull... but if there's a round chambered and you squeeze the trigger, it's game time. Not having an external safety can be a little intimidating, especially to a first time handgun owner. But as long as you aren't a blithering idiot and follow the four rules of firearm safety, it shouldn't be an issue. I know this because I didn't and put a hole in the wall.

Other great semiautomatics are by Beretta (Italian) and SigSauer (Swiss/German). I have a Beretta 92FS that shoots 9mm that I absolutely love -- it's without a doubt the most accurate and comfortable handgun I own ($460 used). It also has a manual safety, and is available in .40 caliber (called a 96FS I think)... But it's also all metal and weighs about two and a half pounds loaded, so I ain't carrying that bitch concealed without it dragging my pants down. SigSauer make excellent weapons -- except the Sig P250, stay away from that piece of shit -- which are of the highest quality, are available with manual safeties, are used by the Secret Service and a bunch of other high speed guys... and also come with $800-$1200 price tags. Too rich for my blood.

There are other semi-manufacturers -- Smith and Wesson which get mixed reviews, sometimes people get a great one and they love it, sometimes they get a lemon and they hate it; Ruger semi's generally has a poor reputation; and Hi-Point which is a budget-gun. The latter is kind of funny because despite their $180 price tag -- no shit -- they've got a lifetime warranty. They're heavy as hell, ugly as shit, but always go bang. But I dunno, somehow I just feel like I'd be trusting my life to a Geo Metro. CZ is a brand made in the Czech republic with a big fan base, as is the Makarov from mother Russia's . Note I don't own any of these, so that's all heresay.

Then we have revolvers, and with roots stemming back to the wild wild west, Americans once again shine. Smith and Wesson revolvers are pretty much the standard with Ruger being a distant second. Revolvers have the advantage of being overly simple; they can also be fired from anywhere -- One handed, from inside a pocket, from inside a purse, pressed up against a bad guy's body, whatever. They never jam -- just keep squeezing the trigger and they'll keep going bang until they're empty. The downside is you're limited to 5-7 shots, and reloading is cumbersome when compared to a semiautomatic that uses 15+ round magazines. And on that note, again Michael Bay wants us to believe that we can jump out of the window of a moving vehicle doing 70mph over a dirt road, and holding the gun in our off hand shoot a bad guy between the eyes while he's leaning out his car window shooting back at you. In reality, Google search police shootings and you'll see shit like, "Officers fire 39 bullets are the suspect who was hit 4 times."

But here's a beginner gun that I love, and everyone I have shoot it, loves it too. A SigSauer Mosquito. It looks, walks, talks, smells, and tastes just like a full sized SigSauer 9mm handgun, only it shoots .22LR bullets. While not technically built by SigSauer -- only licensed by them -- it's Sig's venture into the inexpensive target shooting handgun arena. By that I mean a 50 round box of cheap ass 9mm target rounds run about $14; a box of high quality 100 .22LR rounds costs $8. Fire 500 rounds at the range (not uncommon) and you're looking at a $70 tab with 9mm vs a $40 tab with .22's. Do that a few times a month and it adds up. Plus with virtually no recoil, it's a great way for novice shooters to learn the mechanics of shooting... establishing a sight picture, squeeze don't pull, and basic handgun safety. Caveat of Sig Mosquitos: much like the "glocks blow up" myth, Mosquitos are known for being picky about the ammuniton they will reliably cycle. The manual states: use CCI Mini-Mags ($8/box 100) the first 500 rounds to break the gun in, before you switch to the cheap crap that's $22 for a box of 500. Ignore that and try to run the cheap shit right out of the box and the Mosquito will undoubtely be problematic. I bought mine for $290 new, and broke it in as directed and have had absolutely zero problems with it.

So having over-answered your question a hundred times over, here's my advice. You're in a gun friendly state, therefore I presume there are gun ranges near you that rent guns. Go down there, bring [YOUR WIFE], hell even bring [YOUR DAUGHTER], and go nuts. Near me there's a place called Fowler Firearms -- they've got around 60 guns available to rent - semiautomatic handguns, revolvers, bolt action rifles, semiautomatic rifles, pump action shotguns, semiautomatic shotguns. You plop down $25 for a one time rental fee for the day, and you can shoot all their guns for the cost of ammo and targets. I'm sure there's something like that near you. You'd be better pressed to spend $100 on rental fees and find a gun that you (and your family) are both physically and psychologically comfortable with, than spend $500 and have a boat anchor that everyone hates.

So, what'd ya think guys? Did I do okay? Miss anything?

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