Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fabulists' Favorite Five Firearms

Some guy at a site called Gun Nuts Media posted his list of "The 5 Most Overrated Firearms of All Time".  It's supposed to be humor, but it is mainly click-bait, which is fine.  Hit it if you like; some of the comments are pretty entertaining, and the whole thing is ridiculous.  Almost as ridiculous as my list.

This is a little different.  It's not that these firearms are overrated where they fit in or for people who are fans.  They are good at what they do.  They seem to me to have a sort of aura around them that it wouldn't hurt to peer through just a little.

5.  Sub-machine guns and machine guns in general.  For those of us not interested in doing the paperwork and paying the fee for Class 3, we're not going to buy these anyway. 

These are tactical arms in the military.  Machine guns offer suppressive fire and allow a very few men to deny access to a much larger group across several hundred yards of ground.  The cost of that is ammunition and barrels.  Subguns, like the classic Thompson, offer suppressive capability as well.  However, there was a reason that "choppers" weren't carried by every American soldier in a WWII squad.  They lack range and accuracy.

Also, unlike the military and the police, I have to buy my own ammunition.  This, and not the stigma of evil, is why I have no use for a select-fire assault rifle like the M-16 or its variants.  I wouldn't waste ammunition on a warning shot, let alone suppressive fire.

In answer to the operators who say that I do not understand small unit tactics or whatever, I agree.  I have never been part of the military and my brief time in law enforcement was long before the police became so militarized.  I'm not going to be "operating".  I will do my best, should it ever come to that -- and I hope sincerely that it never does, to defend myself, my wife and any other innocents from harm.  If I am ever faced with overwhelming odds, I expect I will be dead long before how hot my 870 barrel gets becomes my main problem.  Rambo is fiction.

4Sniper rifles.  I'm not Carlos Hathcock or Simo Häyhä, but it has nothing to do with my rifle.  What I lack are the shooting skills, the bushcraft, the stealth and concealment abilities of snipers such as those two notables.  Häyhä used an iron-sighted variant of the Mosin-Nagant for most of his 505 kills.  Hathcock, for most of his 93 confirmed kills, used a standard-issue Winchester Model 70 with an 8-power scope.  Hathcock made his record distance shot by mounting scope on a .50 BMG.  Sniper rifles are special purpose tools for very special individuals.  If a person wants to be a better shooter, that can be accomplished with almost any modern rifle.  I have yet to find one that couldn't outshoot my ability most of the time.

3. Snub-nose revolvers -- Detective Specials, the kind of gun Sam Spade used.  They are very concealable.  Now, I am talking specifically about .38 Specials, even the +P versions.  These things are anemic.  If I am going to have to defend my  life with a snubby, I'd prefer a .44 snubby.  I've had a snub-nose .38 for decades.  It used to be my car and travel weapon because you could drop it in the console or a Dopp kit.  I've even carried it along as a fishing and trail gun.  I'm trying to think if I ever killed anything with it.  I did shoot a large snapping turtle with it once.  About then is when I decided it was weak.  I wouldn't want to be shot with it, but I've been shot with a BB-gun and didn't care much for that either.  They really are belly guns.  They are better than a sharp stick.

I like my .38s to have at least a 4" barrel.  It's a whole 'nother world. 

2.  AR15s and their kin in 5.56mm.  If you didn't see this one coming, you probably haven't read some of my other remarks on firearms.  The .223/5.56mm is a fine little varmint round.  It works well on whitetail deer -- at reasonable distances with the right ammunition.

I personally do not care for the ergonomics of the AR-type weapons.  For a lot of the younger generation, however, their first introduction to a rifle is via the pistol-grip autoloader.  To them, it comes "naturally".  I'm cool with that.  As a platform, it begs to be customized and accessorized.  I'll say this again with regard to my No. 1 pick, it's the perfect gun for the person who would rather fiddle with and work on a firearm than shoot.  Not being an operator, I doubt that I need some of the stuff that can be attached to an AR.

But all that is rather beside the point of what I think about ARs.  You put a 6.8 or .308 upper on an AR lower, and you have a good, long-range defensive weapon.  I know that heavier .223 caliber bullets from the 1-in-7 or 1-in-9 twist barrels will carry and penetrate better than 50-grain bullets from my 1-in-12 barrel.  I know this has been the standard American military round for fifty years.

I also know the military has lots of bullets and lots of other options for killing enemy combatants -- air strikes, for example.  I know the military considers a wounded enemy combatant more of a drain on the opposing force that one that is DRT (Dead Right There).

I can't call in an A-10 to bail me out.  I can only buy and maintain so many bullets.  My concern is not wounding or killing but stopping an attack. 

Part of the problem for civilians comes from the whole "one gun" thing, and "train like you fight".  I'm not interested in having only one gun.  I'm not interested in fighting.  I like shooting. I do a little hunting.  If I am ever attacked, I will do what I can to stop it, but it's not my focus in life, and it's not why I own firearms.

I have a .223 caliber rifle that I enjoy shooting, but it's not the first weapon I would grab if I had to defend the homestead, even if it were in an AR.  I'm not sure I would trust it to stop someone attacking me from beyond, say, 200 yards.  However, even out here in the country, any scenario that involves an attack initiated beyond 50 yards has exactly the same probability as being abducted by aliens.  In the city or the suburbs, it's not going to happen.  No citizen is going to be picking drug cartel snipers off rooftops in downtown Des Moines.  I'd rather have a shotgun or a handgun as my "one" primary defensive firearm.

Again, this is not a knock on the platform or the caliber itself.  If I were more comfortable with the platform and configuration, I would like to have an AR-style .223 set up for calling in coyotes.  It would be great for that. 

1. The 1911 in .45ACP.  This is a classic firearm.  It is the Harley-Davidson of firearms, i.e., old, proven technology with tons of customization potential.  They are good guns.  Forget that you can go plop six or eight hundred bucks down for a Glock or Sig or Springfield that will outshoot a custom 1911, is impervious to rust, and is 100% reliable right off the shelf.  If you want lights and lasers, you can attach those with no problem.

Just forget all that, because you want a gun that you can make your own.  It is the testimony to the undeniable genius of John Moses Browning.  God shoots a .45.  Right?  Two words:  Jeff Cooper.  Now, get out of here with your tupperware .40 Short & Weak and get you a solid steel 1911.  

Yes, they are great guns.  They are effective and fairly concealable.  A well-trained 1911 operator can get that first round off very quickly.

Understand that my favorite handgun is a single-action revolver.  I consider those who like 1911s to be kindred spirits.  Realistically, though, it doesn't make too much sense for a lot of us who didn't "cut our teeth" on a 1911 to choose it as our primary weapon, especially when it involves putting hundreds of dollars into fine-tuning it.  Not that the hobby of shooting has to make sense.  We do this because we enjoy it.  If somebody enjoys building cool, custom 1911s, let's let them enjoy it.  

For the rest of us, there are better choices.  


  1. I was looking for something there for me to pick a fight with you Mush. But you know, I think we have pretty much similar attitudes about firearms -except you are much more knowledgeable.

    Good analysis on the AR fitting in as a piece in a whole combat arsenal.

    Anything I own is, presently, past my shooting skills.

    I would like to get particularly good with the Enfield with iron sights. But, time and money are in short supply at the moment.

  2. The Enfield is a great battle rifle. They just keep shooting.