Firearms for Hunting
This is the first of a series of articles dealing with the purchase of a basic collection of firearms - hopefully without wrecking the household budget. Emphasis will be placed on best value and most versatility for the dollar spent. All opinions expressed are those of the author ( and not the publisher).
The first gun, and the most flexible, is the shotgun. It can be used to harvest small game (rabbit, squirrel, quail, etc.) for food at distances up to 45 yards. It can be used for personal defense inside the home (using trap loads) without putting people in the next room at risk of injury. it can be used to harvest deer-sized game for food at distances of up to 100 yards.
Shotguns are sized by gauge - the lower the number, the bigger the bore diameter (12 Ga. is larger than 28 Ga.). For gun versatility and ammunition availability, I’m going to suggest that you only consider the purchase of guns in either 12 or 20 gauge. The 20 Ga. guns do everything that the .410 and 28 gauges do but for less cost, both on guns and on ammo. The 16 gauge is rapidly becoming obsolete due to breakthroughs in 20 gauge ammo technology, plus the 16 gauge ammo is getting harder to find in the stores and is more expensive.
The “fit” of a shotgun is much more important than the gauge. If the shotgun doesn’t ‘fit’ you (or feel comfortable), you probably won’t shoot that gun nearly as well as you might shoot one that is comfortable. For individuals with a small (or petite) build, you’ll probably be more comfortable with a 20 gauge gun. It will be a bit lighter (up to 3/4 lb.) and not quite as bulky as a 12 gauge gun of the same make. Keep this in mind if you think that everyone in your household may have to use it. the ‘heavy’ 20 gauge field loads of today contain as much shot (by weight) as the ‘magnum’ 12 gauge loads contained over 25 years ago. Today’s 20 gauge shotgunner is not ‘undergunned’ by any stretch of the imagination.
Some points to look for on shotguns:
Mossberg: safety is on the top rear of the receiver, a great place for both right AND left handed shooters.
Remington: safety is on the rear of the triggerguard, while it is set up for the right hander from the factory a left handed safety button can be purchased for less than $10.00. Winchester safety is on the front of the triggerguard which favors the individual with long fingers or who has large hands.
As practical for hunting as the single shot and double barrel shotguns are, they fail to measure up in the personal protection arena (with one exception: Any gun beats no gun during a gunfight). Since a good self-loading (or ‘automatic’) shotgun will cost almost double the price of a good pump action shotgun, I would recommend the purchase of a pump action as being the best value for the money.
I’ve listed a few makes and model of pump action shotguns that have proven to be both reliable and affordable for you to look at. For new guns from around $200 to $275, for a two barrel combo set, add about $50 to $75 to the previous prices. Listed in no particular order:
You can save about 25% or more by buying a good used shotgun, but Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) applies!
Basic Battery on a Budget - part two
By: L. S. Barrel
The second firearm for your collection should be a rifle in .22 long rifle rimfire caliber. It is inexpensive to shoot (500 rounds of ammo cost about $10.00). It is relatively quiet (and has next to no recoil) so it is an excellent choice as a first firearm for a beginning shooter. It is extremely useful for harvesting small game or killing vermin at distances of up to 100 yards. It is THE most mass-produced cartridge in the world (over on billion rounds are made every year by just the U.S. ammo companies alone).
There are four basic types of .22 rifles on the market: single shots, pump actions, bolt action repeaters, and semi-autos. In this discussion, we’ll stick with the bolt action repeaters and the semi-automatics. The two types of rifles can use two different types of feeding systems: tube feed and detachable magazine feed (also called clip feed). Both systems have their pros and cons.
The tube feed is a long tube, permanently fixed to the underside of the barrel and generally it runs the length of the barrel. On the plus side, a tube fed rifle usually holds anywhere from 14 to 18 rounds (the ban on high capacity magazines specifically exempted tube fed, .22 rifles from the 10 round maximum capacity). On the down side, this feeding system is moderately difficult to unload quickly to make the rifle safe.
The detachable magazine usually is a small box-shaped device that goes into an opening underneath the rifle in front of the triggerguard. On the plus side, you can carry several spare loaded magazines in your pockets for rapid reloading; also this is very quick to unload and make the rifle safe. On the down side, thanks to the previously mentioned Gov’t. ban, we are presently restricted to magazines that hold no more than 10 rounds. Although we may not agree with the law, it is the way things are at present, until we can change it (the law).
The bolt action repeater allows the shooter a faster follow-up shot (should the shooter miss) than a single shot, but it is still slower than a semi-auto rifle. One of the minor drawbacks of a semi- auto can be that the shooter relies on a fast second shot rather than making the first shot a good one. (A high speed miss is still a miss). On the other hand, a bolt action shooter has to manually work the mechanism in the event of a miss which can be an incentive to making the first shot a good one. Because the bolt action rifle is manually operated, the rifle can use a more diverse ammo diet than the semi-auto (which needs ammo with enough power to cycle the action for the next shot).
Hi-Speed ammunition is ideal for use in hunting small game out to 100 yards. Ultra Hi-Speed ammo is excellent for thin-skinned game to about 75 yards (for distances beyond that, the Hi- Speed ammo is a better choice for more killing power). Standard velocity ammo is for target shooting and for quieter hunting in a semi-rural environment (it doesn’t break the sound barrier). Sub-Sonic ammo is some of the quietest stuff on the market and usually requires a shift in the sights compared to the Hi-Speed ammo. No noise pollution, no neighbor revolution! Also on the market are .22 shot cartridges - loaded with a small load of very fine bird shot - these are designed to kill pests and snakes when they’re closer than you want.
I personally prefer that my bolt action repeaters be of the clip fed style so that I can carry a couple of spare magazines in my shirt pockets. On the Simi-autos, I’ve used both tube and clip fed models, and have been pleased with both. From a standpoint of convenience, the tube fed holds as much ammo as a clip fed dowse with two magazines. From an unloading and loading standpoint, the detachable magazine models are much faster. Almost all of the currently available .22 rifles are extremely easy to put telescopic sights on (excluding most pump action .22 rifles - which is why I din’t bring them into this discussion). Scopes are a BIG help to those (of us) whose eyesight sin’t as sharp as it used to be. IF you do put a scope on your .22 rifle, do make sure to get a one inch diameter model (they give you a better field of view AND they let a lot more light through the scope at dusk and dawn than the narrow skinny models).
Listed in no particular order, these rifles are good values for the money ($115 to $165):
Normally, I would encourage you to look for a used model to save about 25%, BUT, .22 rifles defy the normal drop in price on the used market. Occasionally you will find a good used .22 rifle cheap, but lately all that I’ve seen have been pretty worn out specimens for more money than they’re worth.
Caveat emptor! (buyer beware!)
A Basic Battery on a Budget Part Three
By: L. S. Barrel
The next firearm acquisition should be a handgun in .22 Long Rifle (rimfire) caliber. As was pointed out in a previous part of this series, .22 LR ammunition is very inexpensive (500 rounds costs around $10). There are two distinctly different styles of handguns on the market - revolvers and semi-auto pistols. But there are some other considerations that I feel we need to cover.
Handguns require a certain amount of practice before the user becomes proficient with them. This is one of the reasons that I am recommending a .22 LR handgun purchase (this also keeps you in the same caliber of ammunition as your .22 rifle). I neglected to mention this earlier when I covered Parts I & II; I would strongly suggest that you invest in a pair of protective shooting glasses and stress that you always wear hearing protection while practicing marksmanship skills (If you have not already acquired some - good shooting glasses cost $8 - $25, and good hearing protection starts at about .50¢ for a pair of foam ear plugs and goes up from there).
As I mentioned in Part I, the “fit” of the gun to your hand (or to you) is critical. To properly grasp a handgun, take your master hand (whether you’re right or left handed) and “shake” hands with the gun. You do not need to apply a white knuckle, death grip, just grasp the handgun with enough hand pressure so as not to drop it. Do NOT put your finger on the trigger (other than to make sure that your index finger can comfortably reach the trigger and that your hand is positioned properly on the grip); after getting a good grip, place your index finger along the side of the trigger and extend your arm as if to point at something. ideally you want the firearm’s sights to be looking where your index finger is pointing.
Before purchasing a handgun, I suggest that you try to handle as many different makes and models as you can, so that you can determine what does (or doesn’t) feel good to you. A gun show is an excellent place to do this since most shows (at least around here) have many more makes and models of firearms on display than the average gun store.
In addition to the two types of handguns that we’ll discuss (revolvers and pistols), there are tow types of trigger mechanisms - single action and double action. A single action mechanism requires that you manually “cock” the hammer to the rear - then when you pull the trigger, the hammer falls, firing the gun. A double action mechanism (when the trigger is pulled) not only cocks the hammer, but as you continue to pull the trigger to the rear, it will release the hammer as well. Single Action: First you must manually cock the hammer; when the trigger is pulled, the hammer falls. Double action: When the trigger is pulled, it will cock the hammer and then release it.
I am going to make three suggestions right off the bat:
Most of the swing-out cylinder revolvers on the market are both single and double action models. The single action trigger pulls take from 4 to 8 pounds of pressure to make the gun fire. The double action, trigger pulls usually take from 10 to 16 pounds of pressure to cock and fire the gun (in addition to cocking the hammer, the gun is also revolving the cylinder to bring a fresh cartridge into line with the firing pin). Most of the .22 revolvers with swing-out cylinders hold either 6 or 9 shots.
The vast majority of the .22 semi-auto pistols on the market are of the single action mechanism. They have internal hammers, so to cock them you’ll have to pull the slide back (you need to do this anyway to chamber the first round). The trigger pull pressures are about the same as for the revolvers. Most of the .22 pistols hold 10 rounds in the magazine plus an additional round in the chamber. Most people will find that the semi-auto pistols tend to point a little better that the revolvers. The target shooters believe that semi-automatics tend to be inherently more accurate than revolvers as well. I would suggest that you make your decision based on the fit of the handgun in your hand.
The following makes and models of .22 handguns have proven to be good buys for the money ($150 - $260). Listed in no particular order:
With the onset of the requirements of the Brady Law, it is extremely difficult to out-guess the handgun market, either on prices or availability! As the paperwork requirements (from a licensed dealer) increase, the retail sales of new guns goes down - while on the secondary used gun market (primarily individual to individual, with little or no paperwork), the prices skyrocket, while the availability of the most desirable models of handguns decreases. The price range that I’ve quoted is, at best, a S.W.A.G. (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess). Due to the rules of supply and demand, your local market could be either much better or much worse.
A Basic Battery on a Budget Part Four
By: L. S. Barrel
After discussing shotguns and .22 LR firearms, now it is time to move up in caliber and talk about centerfire rifles as the next acquisition in your firearms battery. Since the shotgun and the .22 rifle serve admirably well out to 100 yards of range, obviously we’re now looking for a rifle capable of shooting farther than that.
Keeping in mind that one of our goals is exceptional value for the dollar spent, perhaps the best buys in rifles are in the military surplus rifle market. Firearms that were adopted by the military tend to be very reliable, rugged, and user-friendly. The ammunition is usually inexpensive and fairly easy to get on the civilian market. One of the few drawbacks to most military rifles is that they are difficult to mount telescopic sights on. Fortunately, most military rifles (without scopes) exhibit accuracy that is good enough to hunt large, deer-sized animals out to 300 yards.
One of the often over-looked “sleepers” on the market is the British Enfield No. 4 MkI .303 bolt action rifle (as used during WW II). The No. 4 Enfield has a stiffer barrel for better accuracy than the WW I’s No. 1 MkIII rifle. The fastest way to tell the two models apart: WWI - the rear sight is mounted on the barrel. WWII - the rear sight is mounted on the rear of the receiver. The .303 cartridge (like its turn-of-the-century contemporaries: .30-06, 8x57mm, 7.62x54R) was designed to stop a cavalry charge at 600 yards by the killing of the horse (by today’s military standards, it is considered a vastly over-powered cartridge). No. 4 MkI rifles can be had for about $75-$125 and military surplus ammo tends to cost $5-$8 for a box of 20. It seems the closer you are to Canada, the easier it is to get ammo on a day-in and day-out basis.
Accuracy trick for the No. 4 MkI Enfield rifle: Remove the top (and if needed, bottom) handguards and make sure the barrel does not touch the wood on the inside of the handguards. If the wood touches, then sand (file or scrape) the wood so that it no longer contacts the barrel. Take care that the barrel has clearance room out at the nose of the handguards, near the front sight. Once you have the necessary clearance, then re-assemble the rifle. You’ve just free- floated the barrel - a BIG accuracy-improving trick!
The hands-down Best Buy of all time is the new SKS rifle coming out of the ComBloc countries. At present, a brand new semi-automatic SKS rifle costs around $100 (you’ll note that this is less expensive than most .22 LR rifles). The rifle and its 7.62x39mm ammo are capable of acceptable accuracy out to 300 yards. Try to buy a SKS rifle with a milled (not stamped) trigger group and the slightly heavier, threaded barred - these were made in the 50s and 60s (rumor has it that they shoot a little bitter). There isn’t an accessory made that can’t be bought for and SKS rifle these days (scopes, mounts, bipods, flashhiders, detachable high-capacity magazines, etc.). Military FMJ ammo costs around $4-$5 for a box of 20 (less if you buy it by the case) and imported hunting ammo is between $6-$7. While the ammo isn’t as cheap as it was a few years ago, it still is the least expensive combination where a NEW rifle costs less than 1,000 rounds of ammo and they both can be purchased for less than $300. As of July of 1995, over 8 million have been sold in the U.S.
Some of the other recent entries into the market place that are worth considering: German model 1898 and 98-K 8x57mm Mauser rifles and the U.S. Model 1917 .36-06 rifles. These bolt action rifles are relatively inexpensive ($150-$200) and have proven themselves to be good buys. Any time you’re looking at a military surplus rifle, make sure that the rifling in the bore is sharp and that the barrel is pit-free (it is cheaper to replace or repair a damaged stock than it is to replace a bad barrel).
As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t said too much about U.S. made semi-auto rifles. The reasons are simple:
If the military surplus rifles are not to your liking, your best bet may be the used gun market for commercial rifles. I’ve found that the Savage 110 model rifles shoot as well as the Remington model 700s and the Winchester model 70s, but they cost about $150 less which lets me get a scope, sling, and ammo for less than the purchase price of just a Remington or a Winchester rifle alone. I would suggest that your rifle, whatever you decide to buy, be in a caliber of sufficient power to hunt medium to large game animals, like White-tail deer, and that you make sure that the caliber is commonly available in your area: Does K-Mart or Wal-Mart stock that caliber in quantity??
I am not ignoring your local gunshops at all, merely pointing out that having alternate sources of supply is smart.
A Basic Battery on a Budget Part Five
By: L. S. Barrel
This, the final article of this series, was almost not written due to the upheavals in the handgun market caused by poor legislation, passed in the name of “being stylish”... oops ... I meant “political correctness”. I’m going to assume that you’ve read the previous part on rimfire handguns, so I won’t go back over familiar ground, while I cover centerfire handguns.
The average shooter will be well served by selecting a firearm similar to what the police or military have adopted. The government agencies have spent a great deal of time and money determining what calibers and guns their average employee can both control and hit the target with. If at all possible, see if there is someone that you can go shooting with that has handguns of the type and of the caliber that you wish to by... kind of a test drive.
I firmly believe the infrequent, occasional shooter is best served by a revolver. The revolver is simpler to operate, it can readily be checked as to loaded status, and has no external safety mechanisms to be undone in a high stress situation. The person who is willing to practice and become proficient with a handgun, will be best served by a semi-automatic pistol. The pistol will point and balance better, have slightly less recoil and hold extra rounds of ammunition, more conveniently than a revolver.
I know that some people will disagree with the above statement. For those who do, please put yourself into the following scenario: It is 2:30 am, the power is out, and you awaken to the sound of breaking glass from the front of your home.
A : Pull your revolver from the nightstand. Swing the cylinder open and feel the cartridges in their chambers and then close the cylinder - knowing that you revolver won’t fire until you deliberately pull the trigger to the rear.
OR DO YOU:
B : Pull your semi-automatic pistol from the nightstand. Since you don’t know if there’s a round in the chamber, you must pull the slide back to chamber the next round out of the magazine, assuming the magazine is loaded and in the pistol. Having chambered a round, now the hammer is back - so, to lower the hammer without firing the gun, you activate the hammer-drop safety. Now the hammer is down but the gun won’t fire with the safety ON, so you must return the safety to the OFF position. Now you know the pistol won’t fire until you deliberately pull the trigger to the rear.
In a high stress situation, you will do what you have practiced. If you practice with a semi-automatic pistol frequently, answer “B” will take you less than 2 seconds. If you don’t practice regularly, my advice is to stick with revolvers. According to the FBI, most gunfights occur at distances of less than 7 yards, closer than your living room’s far walls probably, and are generally over in three shots or less. Knowing this, you probably won’t be at a disadvantage by being armed with a revolver. However, one of the disturbing new trends in crime, involves multiple assailants, which is why the police have switched to semi-automatic pistols, and they practice FREQUENTLY.
The average shooter can handle 9mm and .38 calibers without much trouble. After a little bit of practice, an average shooter can learn to shoot well with handguns in the .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .357 Magnum calibers. I would not recommend 10mm, .41 or .44 Magnum calibers to novice shooters, due to gun and ammunition costs, (remember our goal of best value) and combination of muzzle blast and recoil that leads to flinching and poor shooting.
Most people prefer shooting revolvers in either .38 Spl. or .357 Mag., due to the low cost of ammo and the absence of kick. This helps to explain why the police have carried revolvers in these calibers for over 100 years (.38 Spl) and over 60 years (.357). By simply changing the grips, the total “feel” of a revolver can be changed to accommodate individuals with large or small hands. I’d suggest a 4” barrel for defense and home protection, while a 6” barrel is better suited for hunting. A snub-nosed revolver (2 1/2” or less) is best suited for concealment and self-defense. As I mentioned in a previous article, I recommend fixed sights over target sights, primarily for their durability. I’d also suggest that you buy your revolver in .357 Mag. You can shoot the cheaper .38 Special ammo in it for practice and load it with .357 Magnum ammo for defense, although you should shoot enough .357 Magnum so you know how the gun handles using the “hotter” ammunition. A .357 Magnum revolver may cost about $35.00 more than a similar .38 Special model but you have more flexibility in ammo choices and the gun will hold its value better and be easier to re-sell in the future, if need be.
The average person will find that the 9mm and .40 S&W semi-automatic pistols are very user-friendly. This, combined with the ability to carry more ammo in the gun, are the primary reasons most police departments have switched from revolvers to pistols over the past ten years. The average shooter will find that either the 9mm or .40 S&W will probably be all the caliber that they want or can shoot well... high speed misses don’t count. Again, take a look at what models the police and military have adopted when you’re looking for a pistol of your own.
With the high-capacity magazine ban in effect since September of ‘94, the semi-automatic pistols with magazines holding more than 10 rounds, have had a price explosion (upward) on the used gun market. Gun stores, by now, are pretty well sold out of the pre-ban models. In the used gun market, the pre-ban pistols are commanding unholy price premiums. As a side effect of the high pistol prices, good quality used revolvers are quite good buys right now. I’m only going to make some recommendations as to makes and models of handguns, without any guesses as to price ranges. I suspect that it MAY be cheaper if you can find a used model of the handgun that you want, rather than buying a new one.
Handguns that have proven to be good values for the dollar spent:
Smith & Wesson models: 10, 13, 581, 681
Ruger models: Service Six, GP 100
Taurus models: 65, 80, 82
Colt models: Police Positive, Official Police, Lawman, Trooper
S&W: all 9mm and .40 S&W models
Ruger: P-89 family *
Taurus: all 9mm and .40 S&W models*
*note* I sold a lot of pre-ban Ruger P-85/P-89s and Taurus PT92/PT100s as being exceptionally good buys for the dollar spent. You might check around and take a gook look at the pre-ban models IF you can find anyone who cares to sell theirs.
Caveat Emptor ! (Buyer Beware).
Precious Metals: Investing in Steel & Lead
By: L. S. Barrel
I just finished a series of articles on buying a basic firearms battery on a budget and it occurred to me that a follow-up article was necessary in regards to purchasing certain calibers of ammunition and guns in those calibers.
Shotgun Gauges: Only 12 and 20 gauges make enough sense to justify having firearms in these calibers. These two gauges are the most common available, they are on sale most of the time, year-round, at all of your gun stores and at your discount stores as well.
Rifle Calibers: The first calibers that I would consider are the military's. .22 Long Rifle is cheap and effective out to 100 yards. You should pick up as much of this a possible. $100.00 will buy you almost 5,000 rounds, which will all fit into a GI .50 caliber ammo can. The U.S. military rifle cartridges will almost always be available on the civilian market. The first U.S. Army rifle cartridge that was adopted in 1872 is still available at your local K-Mart store - .45 - .70. The .223 has an effective range of 300 yards for hunting small to medium sized game. The .308 has an effective range of almost 600 yards for medium to large sized game. It virtually duplicates the performance of the next cartridge, .30-06, at up to 600 yards for less than half the cost of the .30-06 ammo. The .30-06 cartridge can be used for hunting almost anything on the North American continent. Normally, I would also suggest that you seriously consider any cartridge that has become popular with the police departments, but in this case, the choice of the police is identical to the choice of the U.S. military.
The foreign rifle cartridges are not always available, and if you want ammunition year-round, it is usually to your advantage to buy it in quantity, if at all possible. 7.62x39mm is an excellent example of the price savings if you are willing to buy in case lots. The .303 British, German 8x57mm and the Russian 7.62x54R cartridges are usually available, but sometimes there is none to be had until the next shipment comes into the country. My advice here is, when you find a manufacturing lot of these calibers, that your rifle shoots well, buy all of that lot that you can afford to in preparation for the day that the ammo might not be available when you need to buy it.
Pistol Calibers: As with the rifle calibers, I would only consider calibers that the police or the military have adopted for their own use. .22 Long Rifle is the first cartridge that I would acquire in quantity. The .38 Special, .357 Magnum, 9mm, .45 ACP, and the .40 S&W calibers are all commonly used by either the police or the military, so they are available all over this country and are fairly affordable. There are other more powerful handgun cartridges on the market, but they are more difficult to learn to shoot well, or they have greatly increased costs. While I love the .41 Magnum cartridge, I would not recommend it to anyone who is not into reloading their own shells due to the high cost of the hard to find factory ammunition.
NOTE: This was based strictly on the ready availability of ammunition off of the shelf at your local gun store, discount store, or local gun show. If a ban or other catastrophic event occurs, will you be able to feed your firearms during the time it takes for the distribution channels to re-establish themselves? I would suggest that you acquire enough ammo now, while you can still get it, to tide you through. Federal studies indicate that the average gun owner has fewer than 200 rounds of ammunition for ALL his/her firearms (excluding .22 rimfire ammunition).
This Article By:
L. S. Barrel