Monday, April 12, 2004

April 15th. It's only 3 days away so you have to get moving.

No, I'm not trying to encourage you to send your yearly extortion payment to the IRSS; I'm telling you about B.A.G. day.

Aaron the Liberal Slayer came up with this last year. His original goal was for everyone to buy a gun on April 15th just to piss off Michael Moore. Can't say his heart wasn't in the right place with that one, but he decided to shorten it to B.A.G. so it'd be a little catchier this time around.

Unfortunately due to a lack of finances & a recent purchase I won't be able to join in with y'all this year. But that will not stop me from vicariously shopping through you - so if you're undecided on what you want to purchase feel free to drop me a line & I'll give you my $0.02 for free.

But allow me to go over what in my opinion is a complete battery for anyone in the U.S. to have in their gun safe:

First & foremost a .22LR chambered firearm is essential. No, it won't stop a tank with one shot nor will it shoot flying saucers down from a low orbit. It will put food on the table. I've never seen a squirrel or rabbit that's immune to a .22LR. It will also keep pests out of your garden. In a pinch it'll keep the two legged vermin from doing much damage to you (although there are better choices). Most importantly it's cheap to feed. You can still get a 100 round box of decent quality ammo for around $3.50. Three cents a round ain't anything to laugh at & you can find plinking ammo for a bit less than that. But the beauty of its economic friendliness is that for under $10 you can have a nice little practice session. & practice, even with the lowly little .22LR, will help your shooting skills to develop.

As far as which .22LR to get it's hard to go wrong with damn near any well know make of firearm. Ruger makes a superb autoloading pistol as well as a decent single action revolver in .22LR & .22 Magnum. CZ makes a much talked about line of .22LR bolt action rifles. Browning makes fine autoloading pistols in .22LR. Smith & Wesson & Taurus have both pistols & revolvers to choose from. Remington makes a superb line of .22 rifles as does Marlin. But my favorite for a host of reasons is the Ruger 10/22.

Next I'd list the shotgun. In fact if a pragmatist was limited to one firearm a repeating shotgun of some sort would not disappoint. The main virtue of the shotgun is its versatility. By switching the ammo you can have a firearm that propels multiple projectiles or a very large single projectile. It's ideal for close range hunting of damn near any game in North America & is an ideal choice for close range defense against bipedal predators. I would also advise getting a 12 gauge. For the recoil sensitive people out there (& it's nothing to be ashamed of) you can use target loads in your 12 gauge to reduce the perceived kick. If it comes down to it Aguila makes a 1 & 3/4" (as opposed to 2 & 3/4" or 3") shotshell they call the Minishell. They make slug, buckshot & birdshot loads. As you might imagine it doesn't have as much projectile as the longer shotshells but a 7/8 slug or 5/8 ounce of birdshot will get most jobs done that you need done at close range. The big plus is that they generate very little recoil so those who are sensitive to kick don't have to settle for a smaller gauge (not that there's anything wrong with 16, 20 or 28 gauge guns).

Remington makes perhaps the best pump action shotgun available in the model 870. There are other very reliable & very decent pump action shotguns out there but I've always had a soft spot for the 870. One other one I will mention is the Ithace model 37. It's another one of JMB's designs & as such I wouldn't feel slighted with it at all. (For more on JMB look here, here & here.)

Of course being somewhat of a traditionalist I have a big soft spot for double barrel shotguns; particularly side by sides. My grandfather was an avid bird hunter in his youth & the first firearm I ever had any exposure to was his L.C. Smith 12 gauge field grade. Unfortunately it was stolen from him when I was still a teenager. I'm primarily a rifle person so I could never justify spending a grand or two on a long gun that doesn't have any rifling although when I think of the old man & the look in his eyes when he'd tell me about dove hunting with his favorite pointer I'm tempted to sell something & find an L.C. Smith that needs a good home. In the meantime however I'm making due with a rather enjoyable & economical Brazilian side by side imported by Stoeger called the Uplander. I doubt my grandfather would turn his nose up if he'd have been handed one though I'm sure he wouldn't have favored it to his Smith.

But there are automatics as well as single shots & over/unders made by many manufacturers. Depending on your needs finding something suitable won't be nearly as difficult as narrowing the selection down.

Handguns are next on the list. Revolver or auto is strictly a matter of preference. Personally I'm intrigued by the S&W model 610 although I haven't acquired one for various reasons. The steel frame 10mm EAA Witness is another one I've had my eye on. Keep in mind though that the fit & feel of a handgun are the most important things to consider. A gun that fits comfortably in your hand may feel awkward in mine. & recoil that you're comfortable with may cause me to flinch. So try to narrow your choices to handguns that feel comfortable in your hand when you hold it & cartridges that are tolerable when you shoot them.

Now if you're thinking I'm a fan of the 10mm you'd be correct. It's odd because I don't own one & can't honestly say I've ever fired one, but the external ballistics have me hooked. A full powered 10mm load would be ideal for hunting medium to large sized thin skinned game & I wouldn't feel too peevish about carrying one into brown bear country. But the thing that has me most intrigued is that in my opinion the 10mm would make the ideal cartridge for military use. It'd be a much more decisive fight stopper than the 9x19mm & I'd wager it'd be more effective than the much revered .45 ACP. But that's another discussion all by itself.

The important thing to remember about handguns is that their main purpose is to allow you to fight you way to your long guns. So without further ado...

Rifles are what make my world go round. & nothing spins it faster than an accurate rifle. Remington, Browning, Ruger, Savage & many other make brand spanking new bolt rifles that will usually shoot better than you can right out of the box. Those same companies also make fine auto-loading rifles. A few companies even make single shot break open rifles.

But in my opinion there is no finer product offered today than the ones offered by the Civilian Marksmanship Program. They sell government surplus 1903 Springfields, 1903A3 Springfields, 1917 Enfields & M1 Garands. All four rifles are chambered for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge & as such I cannot think of any man or beast in North America that would not be deterred by its judicious use. Now in keeping with the original theme of B.A.G. can anyone think of a way to piss off Michael Moore, Sarah Brady or any others of their particular ilk more than to buy a battle rifle from the U.S. government? I think not.

Another reason to buy the Garand in particular is that it can have 5 (count 'em - 5!!!) of the features that make a semi-automatic firearm into an evil "assault rifle". Reese Surplus has some BM-59 folding stocks that will fit on the Garand. That'd knock out the folding stock & conspicuously protruding pistol grip. The Garand's gas system uses a threaded part on the barrel that will accept a flash suppressor so even if you don't have one that knocks out that requirement. All Garands come with a bayonet lug - it's part of the gas system. & finally Numrich Gun Parts among others offers grenade launchers for the Garand. So all 5 of the evil features can be on your rifle at the same time. The only thing lacking is the "high capacity" detachable magazine.

One rifle, sold to you by the government that can have 5 of the 6 features that the hoplophobes feared so much they sought to make them illegal. I'd say that alone would be reason enough to buy a Garand. Of course I am of the opinion that the Garand is the finest piece of machinery available, so forgive me if my bias shows.

But just as important as the platform you select to launch projectiles from are the projectiles themselves. Or more precisely the cartridge. If you only want one or two rifles in your collection then a general purpose cartridge such as the .30-06 or .270 Winchester would be what to look for. But if you don't mind having two or more cartridges in your ammo locker then I'd say there are three areas you'd want to focus on: a small bore, a medium bore & a large bore. Now keep in mind these are all dependent upon your needs: I'm only offering an opinion.

For a small bore I'd look at one of the medium velocity .22's such as the .223 or the .222 Remington Magnum. They're not the fastest out there but they're close enough to give good performance without the decreased barrel life offered by the .220 Swift or the .22/250 Remington. & I'd prefer a decent bolt action but I wouldn't be opposed to an accurate autoloader since these cartridges would be limited to target shooting & varmint hunting. So don't misunderstand - I am not telling you to get an AR-15 for defense from anything other than prairie dogs. A decent variable powered scope would be a must no matter what type of rifle as the targets are often small & far away, but occasionally closer than you'd need a 14x scope for.

I also wouldn't discount the .243 Winchester or some other 6mm cartridge to bridge the gap between a small bore & medium bore. Truth be told for deer (not elk) & varmints a .243 is pretty close to ideal as long as you use the appropriate bullet weights for the game you're hunting.

For a medium bore I'm all set with the .30-06 Springfield. But the .270 Winchester, .280 Remington or any of the .30 caliber magnums would work just fine. & almost any action type will work depending on your needs. Bolt actions have a reputation for accuracy, but I've seen Garands that will shoot 1 inch groups at 100 yards.

For a large bore I'd look somewhere between the .338/06 & the .375 H&H Magnum. Personally I don't see a need for anything larger than the .375 H&H for any North American game, although if I were in Alaska amongst the grizzlies I might consider revising my standards considerably. But for me a .35 Whelen would be about ideal for anything that could be hunted. This has nothing to do with the fact that Garands can be chambered in that particular cartridge. I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

If you plan to hunt in Africa then that's a whole ?nother ball game. I'm sure there's a host of people that could give more accurate detailed advice on which cartridges are best for Cape buffalo & other dangerous quadrupeds. But feel free to ask & I'll try to point you in the right direction.

I'd be remiss in not pointing out that the pistol caliber carbines such as the Ruger PC4, High Point carbine & M1 carbine fill a very unique, if somewhat limited niche & they'd be worth considering. Also the cheap surplus rifles aren't a bad idea especially for those on a budget. The SKS in 7.62x39mm, Mosin-Nagant in 7.62x54R, & 98 Mauser in 8mm can still be found relatively cheap.

So to sum it up I think everyone should have a .22LR (either handgun or long gun but preferably both), a shotgun, a centerfire handgun, & at least one rifle.

I regret that I won't be able to make any new (or used) purchases this week but by all means let me know if you do. Hearing from a reader who buys a firearm isn't quite as good as getting one myself, but it's definitely the next best thing. Thanks again to Aaron for not only coming up with the idea but for doing a lot of footwork on its behalf.

So do him, me & yourself a favor - go buy a firearm on the 15th.

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