Let’s Talk about Guns

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by Cliff C

In all our recent discussions there has been a lot of back and forth about guns. Which one to buy, what to use, what ammo and stuff like that. I’m a life time gun collector but am by no means an expert of what works best for what situation. But, I’d like to throw a few thoughts out and see if anyone wants to wipe their feet on them.

First off, you have your basic home protection situation. Many, many people sleep with a handgun in the nightstand. I keep mine in the nightstand when I’m not wearing it (that’s only when I don’t have my pants on) but that’s not my go to gun if I hear a bump in the night. I have a “youth model” Remington 20 gauge pump shotgun under the bed. There are 4 rounds in the magazine and a spare 5 on a holder on the butt stock.

So, you say to yourself, sonny, why did you get a youth model pump. I got it at Wal-Mart for under 210 dollars. It’s a solid shotgun, inexpensive and when I hear that bump, the bump hears the racking of the first shell into the chamber. The shotgun sleeps under the bed on my side and I can reach it without getting out of bed. Being a youth model it has a shorter barrel and a shorter stock so rather than having a shotgun with a pistol grip I’ve got a street legal, little bit shorter than regular shotgun that comes around corners fast and you’ll be hard pressed to get it out of my hand (unlike when someone is holding a pistol grip shotgun).

So, there you have the youth model, but why the shotgun and not the pistol. First, the racking of the first shell is a universal noise recognized everywhere, that’s the warning you get. Second, in 20 gauge I can let loose and not kill my daughter 3 or 4 wall down and if someone is at the door and I shoot then I don’t have to worry about killing the people across the street when the bullet passes through. My carry handgun is a Glock 23 in .40 S&W calendar. I carry it loaded with self-defense rounds with 13 rounds in the magazine and I always carry 2 spare 13 round magazines in my back pocket (no, those are my magazines, I’m not happy to see you).

If I had to fire on someone in self-defense I am almost guaranteed a stop with a double tap (that’s how I was trained and that’s how I practice). If the bullet does not expand on contact and passes through I stand a really good chance of hurting a neighbor or if I miss that bullet is going hot and heavy across the street. Killing my neighbor is not in my plan. Killing someone breaking in is also not in my plan. Life is precious and I’ll only take it when I have to.

The last shell in the shotgun and the first to be chambered in #8 shot. It’ll hurt like heck but probably not kill unless we are less than 1 or 2 feet apart. All follow ups are #4 buckshot. I can go through all 4 shells in less than 5 to 6 seconds if need be but I’d really give the person a chance to change their mind and a ride to the hospital rather than killing them outright. I can also reload 5 shells from the stock in less than 10 seconds but I surely doubt that will be necessary.

So, first thing to think about is getting a good pump shotgun. Inexpensive. 20 gauge ammo is cheap and its comfortable enough so that my wife and daughter can run through a box of shells without bellyaching about their shoulders. That’s number one home defense.

Self defense is my Glock and when I’m in my vehicles I usually have a spare 40 or 50 rounds sitting within reach. I carry on my belt, under my shirt which is always untucked. The nature of my work and demeanor means that I’m almost always casually dressed but if I’m in a suit the suit coat will cover the bulge. I tried a lot of holsters before I found the Blackhawk holster that I always wear. I tried the pancake options and saw too many of them ripped off the side of people’s pants.

My holster has a retention system and as I draw I also depress a button on the side of the holster that releases the handgun. Without that button being mashed it’s not coming out. As I draw and since I’ve had my finger on the button, as the gun comes free my trigger finger is indexed on the side of the gun just about the trigger guard. Never pull a handgun with your finger on the trigger unless you like holes in your pants or legs or feet. Because I bet mine and my family’s life on that handgun I didn’t mind paying the 600 for the gun and the custom trigger work.

I also carry a backup gun. It’s a Taurus ultralight .38 special that lives in an ankle holster. If I get knocked down on my gun side and can’t pull my pistol I can more than likely pull the .38. I’m double tap trained on that too. I do not carry extra ammo for that since it’s not my main go to gun but the 5 it carries will give me the time to get to my Glock.

As I stocked up on guns I got the usual SKS, AK47, Mini-14 and a heck of a lot of other things that might be called main battle rifles. Problem with everything except the Mini-14 is the others look bad and look dangerous if you are just carrying it around shooting down some mistletoe. Their job is to lay down a lot of rounds in a hurry of a military caliber an they do their jobs just fine. But, if you watch TV and there is a gun battle, one guy leans out, shoots a bunch of rounds and then pops back behind concealment and then it’s the other guys turn to lean out, shoot at no target and then back behind his concealment.

That’s not the way it works. If you are in that type of gun battle, let the other guy lean out, shoot at you, you lean out, shoot a round or two back and stop and when he leans out for his turn you have a target that can be neutralized. The idea of expending 500 rounds per kill or some other such ridiculous number is fine during a Vietnam war but not so good for protecting the house. If you can empty a 30 round magazine in 10 seconds than you have a club in your hand until you can get another magazine in place and ready.

I sold off several of the SKSs and AKs but kept a few for old times sake, but went with the mini-14 in-depth (1 is none, 2 is one, 5 is depth) plus spare parts. I can carry that out in the open and it looks like I’m going hunting rather than to war. I have several of the AR platforms in various configurations and that’s good in that they use the same ammo as the Mini-14 from Ruger, the .223. It’s a well-tested, well proven round. I don’t really care for the AR style rifles. Every billy-bad-ass has one and doesn’t know what to do with it. Again, if you want to spray and pray, they are fine for that. I’d rather pick my shots and still be able to follow-up quickly when needed.

OK, now you’re saying, sounds like a lot of guns right there and a lot of money. I’m a collector and have been able to get pretty much any of the guns that I’ve wanted over the years. I have multiple .22 rifles, bolt-action, pump and automatic. I have a really old JC Higgins .22 revolver that carries 9 shots and it has a 6 inch barrel. I grew up shooting that and am still pretty good with it. I also have, in-depth, Ruger 10/22 rifles in various configuration and since Ruger started making their own 25 round magazine for this rifle I’ve gotten rid of my other after market magazines. So, the .22 is great. It’s a person stopper if used right, but it’s also a squirrel or rabbit getter without a lot of noise. You can get a nice, plain jane 10/22 on sale usually around 160 or 170 dollars.

Now, lets talk about inexpensive first guns. A lot of people talk bad about Hi-Point and how it’s a gansta gun and crap like that. It’s made in America, comes with a life time warranty, holds 10 rounds in the magazine and I have one in .40 S&W (same ammo as the glock), one in 9mm (just because I can) and one in .45. These handguns are made mostly of polymer, they are a bit bulky and don’t work well for concealed carry but I have put several thousand rounds of ammo through each one and have never had a failure to feed or a failure to fire.

They are what they are, an inexpensive, entry-level gun that can be outfitted with laser and all that other happy stuff. Hi-Point also makes a carbine in .40 S&W and .45 ACP that uses the same magazines and ammo as the pistols. Yes, we are talking about handgun calibers in a carbine. They look like something from Planet of the Apes, they are pretty cheap, I got a used .40 for right under 200.

I got a new .45 with all the bells and whistles they could put on it for $400. This .45 is a deadly tack driver. I didn’t opt for the 9mm but they also sell a carbine in that caliber. I don’t really care for 9mm. If you remember the lady senator that got shot in the head a while back and survived and is still going strong, you’ll know she was shot with a 9mm. If the shooter had used the .40 or .45 there is no way she would have survived. 9mm is just not enough in a handgun or a carbine.

Other rifles, I have bolt-action 308s, level action 30-30s (which I love to shoot and everyone else at the range also wants to shoot), along with bolt-action .243, 30-06 along with the various magnum and larger calibers. I also have quite a few military rifles from the first and second world war that I got very cheaply. Most of then kick like a mule but if you only have 200 dollars to spend, buy a Mosin Nagant and a tin of ammo and you have a guaranteed man stopping bolt-action rifle with a nasty looking bayonet on the end. Do yourself a favor if you buy one, get a recoil pad and warn anyone that is going to shoot it that it kicks.

OK, we’ve covered home defense with the .20 gauge (I also have a 12 gauge and a 16 gauge double barrel and a .410 from my youth). The 12 gauge is very effective outside but not comfortable for my wife or daughter to shoot. OK, we know you can get the shotgun for some where around 200 to 250 and then you need to buy a few boxes of ammo from Wal-Mart, they sell 100 rounds of #6 o #8 shot for less than 30 dollars. The buckshot is more but stock up on the bird shot, practice with it and then go to buck if you need it.

Now, if you are willing to jump through the hoops (not very big ones here in Georgia) you can get a concealed carry permit that lets you carry your handgun concealed just about everywhere except the bank and the post office and the air port and by a strange quirk you can’t wear it to church because of the law. The preacher, when I visit my home church, knows that I’m one of 15 or 20 guys in the congregation that are packing and if there is every an instance where a madman comes in shooting, he’s not going to have the opportunity to hurt many people before he is stopped. Law be damned there. Rest of the time, if I go to the bank or post office the pistol comes out of the holster and goes in the console until I come back.

I have no intention of putting myself between a bank robber and his way out if I’m unlucky enough to be there when that happens. The bank can afford to let them take the money and as long as you don’t ask for my wallet we’ll be fine. So, here we are at a concealed handgun. You can get small .38s that you can carry in your pocket, you can carry up to a .45 or so on your belt without the world knowing. When I carry my Ruger .44 magnum with the 7 1/2 barrel and scope it has to ride in a shoulder rig and my jacket fairly well hides it although I look more like a really well endowed woman in profile it’s very comforting to have if I’m some place with bears or lions and tigers and flying monkeys. The Glock is also riding along.

I’ve talked about home defense, I’ve talked about personal defense and I’ve talked about a main battle rifle. Sounds like a lot to keep up with and in my case a lot of calibers to keep up with. It’s a life time of buying, selling, swapping and dealing too. But, bottom line is when you look at my ammo safes, there are a lot of bricks of .22, boxes of 12 gauge and 20 gauge ammo, along with a lot of 30-30 and a whole lot of .223. I’m heaving in .40 S&W and .38. Everything else has ammo but it runs from 200 rounds to a few thousand rounds. Again I have the variety because I can and I want to. You could easily get by with .20 gauge, .22 and then a larger caliber if that is what you want and you can easily pick up a box of ammo a week fairly cheaply.

Bottom line, guns are like belly buttons, most people have them, some are pretty, some are ugly and they are no good if you don’t know what you are doing with them. If you have one you have to know it intimately. Learn all its secrets. Take it out and practice and when you are tired of practicing, practice some more. Practice in the daylight, practice at night (most people are shocked when they shoot at night and see the blast of fire from the burning power envelop the gun, it’s bright and scary).

Practice when you are dog tired but not before you get really good. When you are dog tired you can get careless and careless can get you killed. Make a family outing of going to the range. It’s fun for everyone. If you have smaller children and a lot of patience, get them a “cricket” .22, it’s a single shot, bolt-action, and you have to “cock” it before each shot. They are very small, kid sized and are great for them to learn on. Always assume that every gun you pick up is loaded.

If I’m going to hand my Glock over to someone to look out I’ll take the magazine out, open the slide and visually inspect it and then hand it to them. I expect them to check the magazine well and to pull the slide back to check for themselves before they ever get near the trigger. When they hand it back I’ll do the same check again then remount the mag, chamber a round and put it back in the holster. If you do it that way every time then you are in the habit of doing it that way and less apt to have an accident.

Years ago a guy came by wanting to sell is old .38 that his wife didn’t want in the house anymore. He kept it in a sock and when he got here he just tossed it over to me. I took it out of the sock and it was loaded. Gave him hell for handing me a loaded gun, not just throwing it but handing it too, we, in our polite Southern way just don’t do that.

If you can only have one gun, get the shotgun first and ammo. If you are on a budget, don’t be ashamed to buy a Hi-point, it puts the bullet where you want every time you want it. But, if you are going to go pick out a new gun from the gun store, see if you can rent the same gun and put 40 or 50 rounds through it before you buy it. You might just find that the slide coming back likes to take a chunk out of that web of skin between your thumb and first finger so it would be a bad buy.

Get armed, get ammo, get trained, practice, practice, practice and practice some more. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:


  1. I have attempted to respond to Jarhead 03 and others. So its not that I’m being rude but my server no longer seems to ENTER on Reply.

    • Methan, have you tried rebooting or switching the web browser? If you ever have a question and I don’t respond you can click my name and I have responded to peoples questions that way. I just got a promotion at work so I haven’t been on as much as I would like. GF says I’m on here more than facebook lol I told here people are more interesting with the topics since my friends (with a few exceptions) don’t prep.

      • Jarhead – Excuse me butting in here, but as neophyte online, I am scared to death of FB and avoid at any chance, probably due to my paranoid nature and imagination considering all the way info can be handled, processed, stirred and shaken and used to my (possible) detrement. Do you think an average browser, occasional commentor, runs the same risks and should I just get over it and use FB like everyone else? This is a sincere question. I opened a ‘site’ on FB a few months ago when first on line but have avoided on second thought. Now old class mates are knocking… Anyone?

  2. Great post, Cliff;

    I have a Hi Point JHP .45 ACP for my home defense gun its load with critical defense ammo. You are right when the trigger is pulled it goes bang. My friend has a sign on his door that say’s Forget the dog, beware of owner. I was in the service and trained on the .45, so this is what I’m used to. I like your thought on the 20 gauge shotgun, I usually keep that one locked up. What you said make a whole lot of sense. Home safety first.

  3. Uncle Charlie says:

    I have Hi-Points in 9mm, .40 cal and .45 ACP. They all go bang with no problem. They are heavy guns which helps with the recoil not to mention they make a pretty good weapon empty due to their heft. I also have the Hi-Pont carbines in 9mm and .40 cal. I haven’t decided to get one in .45 ACP, yet. The carbines have a 16″ barrel and are fairly light but have no noticeable recoil which makes them easier to use for the average person who, unlike Steve, is not trained in the use of the heavier calibers. All 3 caliber have much greater stopping power coming out of the carbine barrels. Both the pistols and carbines are rated for +P ammunition. These are about the cheapest “good” guns you can get and currently run $135. The pistols have been widely criticized for mis-feeding but I have never had a problem with them. The break-in period is between 100-220 rounds. If you have problems after that, contact the manufacturer. The carbines are generally well received. They both have a life time warranty.

    • Uncle Charlie, one issue with the .45 in a carbine rifle is that it looses velocity pretty fast compared to the 9mm round. I was looking to by a .45 upper for the AR and when I saw the drastic loss of velocity I opted against it.
      When I looked at the velocity compared to an M3 grease gun, pistol and tommy gun it looked as if the longer the barrel, the heavy 230 grain bullet just slowed down too much for my taste. I’d stick to the 9mm and 40 due to the velocity and range unless you are looking at the 45 carbine to be an up close gun, then I’d say go for it.