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Firearms for Beginners:
The Second Step
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By Dan S. Defense

In this article we'll look at firearms which are suitable for new owners. We'll provide a taxonomy that will help you select the best firearm for your needs. We'll look at the different needs that each category of usage scenarios presents and then see which firearms work best to meet those needs. When you are done reading this article, you'll know which firearm works best for you and even be able to select a specific model based on in-depth reviews.

Recap from our First Step Together

In the previous article we've established that firearms are tools that can be used to save lives or ruin them, and that since firearms lack both volition and morality, it is up to you to assure that firearms will only be used in moral and just ways. We've also established that rifles are more powerful and easier to use than handguns. Finally we've covered the fact that you need to get some form of training, whether face-to-face in a class or by watching a firearm education DVD or by reading up on the basics of safety and safe handling of firearms. With this basic but solid foundation we can proceed forward and move from ideas to action.

Approach and Taxonomy

Firearm selection will depend on intended usage. We'll first create a basic taxonomy and then examine each element in detail and offer specific firearm recommendations. At a very high level we can look at the following categories: farm and country work, home defense, self defense and concealed carry, sport and recreation, and financial investment. I'll ignore the last two categories since they are out of scope and focus on practical ownership for addressing specific needs. We'll create sections with headers and you should feel free to skip to the category that meets your current needs, since each segment is written to be self-standing.

You'll see that some firearms work across multiple categories. If possible, I'd recommend that you give priority to firearms that work well in several categories since your needs today, as limited as they may seem, will likely expand in future. Most folks I know start with a single firearm and then build small, practical collections over time.

Firearm Selection: Farm and Country Work

Life in the country is demanding and calls for a firearm that can work outdoors and deal with a variety of problems. While we can define that variety in different ways, I was given a set of real and concrete requirements for this section. These primarily include the ability to deal with coyotes, skunks, raccoons and other predators or pests. Secondary requirements called for a firearm that could also be used for hunting and self defense in case of a home invasion. I think these requirements are fairly universal and I'll use them as a base for our firearm selection. I suggest you also look at how we translate the requirements, since you can do the same, and expand this to cover other needs.

The first thing we need to do is asses the threat that we'll engage with our firearm. In the case of our primary requirement it revolves around medium to small sized animals, some potentially dangerous and all quick and highly maneuverable, which to me means a small, possibly fast moving target. Range for engagement for these predators will be medium to short and number of targets should not exceed two. These threats could appear during the day but there's a high probability they will also be active at night. I could draw additional data points but I doubt you'll find them interesting at this point.

Given these data points, the best firearm would be a long arm or rifle. Now, for dealing with these predators and pests I'd recommend a rifle chambered in NATO 5.56x45mm / .223 Remington. It is a sufficiently powerful round to kill with one shot, it has a nearly flat trajectory in the range most likely used and it produces very little recoil. The 5.56 can take down small game, if the distance is relatively short and if shot placement is good ,but there's a high probability someone new to firearms wouldn't be able to produce a one shot kill. The problem is that the 5.56mm round isn't sufficiently powerful for larger game. So this meets the primary need but not the others.

This leads us to the secondary requirements which entails hunting (note: knowing which game is targeted is critical for proper recommendation), and I'll assume we are dealing with a deer or an animal like a deer . Then we have home defense, which means the threat would be one or more human predators. These two additional requirements call for a more powerful rifle. Here I'd introduce two new calibers and we'll look at proper long arms a bit later.

For human predators and deer I would recommend the 6.8 SPC cartridges or some 12 gauge ammunition. The 6.8 SPC was designed for dealing with hostile humans and I have seen it used successfully for hunting deer. The biggest advantage of the 6.8 SPC is relatively low recoil and good trajectory. Low recoil will allow better accuracy and easier follow-up shots. The second alternative is a 12 gauge with OO buck or slugs. This will stop a human in his tracks, take down a deer or an elk and easily dispatch a coyote. The trade-off is higher recoil, even with reduced recoil shotshells.

A shotgun is easy to use and very cost effective but it kicks hard and a new user may not was to practice with it. Given that, my weapon recommendations here will be an AR-15 that can come in 6.8 SPC out of the box or 5.56 NATO which can easily be adopted for shooting 6.8 SPC later (in an AR-15 you simply replace the upper half and magazine to get the caliber of choice ). The AR-15 is highly reliable, easy to use and maintain and plentiful on the market.

As your skills and needs expand, you can always upgrade your AR-15 to meet any needs you may have. For example, you can install an optical sight and a flashlight to make it easier to hit fast moving targets at night. You can see my personal 6.8 SPC rifle and read more about it here.

My second choice will be a 12 gauge shotgun with a flashlight and my third choice would be a single action in 7.62mm / .308 rifle but you need to take great care with it because it's powerful. If you miss, the bullet will just keep going, so be sure there's sufficient space or obstacles between yourself and the next neighbor!

As for brands, for AR-15 I would recommend Stag Arms, Bush Master, Rock River Arms, Ruger, Daniel Defense (expensive but worth it) and Smith & Wesson. I personally own Stag Arms and Rock River Arms with several Daniel Defense parts. For shotgun you'll do well with a Remington 870 or Mossberg 590. For a 7.62mm rifle, I'd go with a Remington 700 or Savage 10 (there are several models, so go by price and add a scope).

Finally, no matter the choice of firearm keep in mind that rifles are powerful and can kill at a great distance. Be sure to follow the safety rules and always be sure of your target and what's behind it!

Firearm Selection: Home Defense

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