Everyone who is into guns has opinions on them, just because they are different doesn’t make them wrong. Different needs, uses, comfort levels, hand size, etc. make for varied likes and dislikes. 

After four years full time and eight years part time working in two gun stores, I have heard a lot of pontificating. So I have formed a few thoughts of my own, viewed through the prism of my experience. 

Most of my guns are old military firearms that I collect, but that is a niche that does not appeal to most. So I will address what I recommend to folks who are relatively new to guns.  Now if you are an experienced gun owner, please read on and comment. I welcome your feedback. I learn something new everyday, no matter how careful I am.

Rifles are my favorite, but I believe that you can get away with owning only two, but you have to have these two. First is a .22cal for plinking, practicing, and teaching new shooters.  The ammunition is cheap, you don’t need a huge backstop, and to is just plain fun.  A bolt action is the safest and the most accurate, but after a while you will probably want a semi-auto too just for the fun of it.  Ooops, now we are up to three rifles. More is better!
The other rifle you need is a big bore, not a giant bore, hunting rifle, and if you get the right one you can take down almost anything that you can hunt in North America. 

I personally use a 300 Weatherby Magnum.  This caliber was credited many years ago with dropping the second largest polar bear on record–don’t tell Al Gore. I have shot whitetail deer and a pronghorn antelope with mine. Sometimes I get flak for this. Once in New Mexico I was publically asked “Don’t you think that cannon is overkill?” To which I responded in my best Sam Elliott voice “Overkill isn’t in my vocabulary.” The 300 is flat shooting out a long distance and I never wound an animal. That is partly because I almost never take moving shots. I am never that hungry, and I am cheap. I won’t kid you, Weatherby ammo is not cheap. I usually use more bullets checking my zero than I do hunting. But this is just my favorite big bore, there are many others that are just fine 300 Remington Magnum, 7mm Magnum, to name but a few. A giant bore like a 458 or a 50 cal might actually be a little overkill, but who am I to judge, it is your shoulder–and wallet. Moreover, on the low side a 30-30 Win. or a 35 Rem. is great in the brush and at short range, you will probably never get anywhere close enough to a pronghorn to get a shot with it. 
You are best to go with a bolt action. Besides generally being more accurate, you can hunt with them anywhere rifles are allowed. To the best of my knowledge, lever actions and pumps are also accepted in “Manual Action only” areas.  Semi-autos, though more fun, will limit your hunting and are considered less accurate, and less safe.

For home defense we would always suggest a .38 Special revolver, especially for someone who is not very experienced with firearms. The thought being that if you wake up at night to the sound of breaking glass and grab your handgun out of the nightstand, it is ready.  If you have a pistol then you have to wonder is there a round in the chamber? Is the safety on? If you have a malfunction can you rack the slide and go through immediate action drills in the dark? With a revolver if there is a malfunction, you just pull the trigger again. 

This was sometimes a hard sell to the guy who was adamant about getting an automatic.  We could usually placate his inner Dirty Harry by selling him a 357 Magnum and have him keep it loaded with .38 specials in his house.
Now if you are fortunate to live in a concealed carry state, carry what you will, but practice and be proficient with it. You should pick one gun and be comfortable with it.  Don’t change guns everytime you change socks. Personally I have an old Star PD 45 ACP air-weight automatic that I carried for years.  But I changed recently to my Sig P-225 9mm single row magazine with Trijicon night sights. I get questions about the small magazine capacity. Well, when carrying it smaller is more concealed. If you think about it, in a defensive mode, what is the longest shot you are going to take? In your house it might be thirty feet? In a restaurant, or bank, or even outside maybe a forty foot shot?  If they are further than that, they are of questionable threat to you. So at those close ranges are you going to miss? Maybe once.  So perhaps there is more than one shooter?  So say that there is two, or on the very outside three bad guys, you should be able to drop them all with an average two rounds each. I always say, “If I can’t solve the problem with the eight bullets in my Sig, I need to spend more time on the range or piss off less people!     

I will admit am not very experienced with shotguns. In my humble opinion a 12-gauge pump combo package with two barrels will cover you pretty well, at least to get started. To reach the best of your potential in a specific area you will want to buy a gun designed for that event.  For Trap shooting there are long barreled guns with tight chokes. For Skeet you normally want short barrels with open chokes. List goes on and on. But most people agree that the best home defense gun is a 12 gauge pump. You never even have to fire it.  You just pump it once and the bad guys go away.
I will save assault rifles for another day, it is a whole separate chapter in FM-7-Andringa
I look forward to your comments.
Respectfully submitted,

Eric J. Andringa