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1776 MEN MAGAZINE
If I Had One... (part 2) by Tim Siewert
I admit that I have been a “gun nut” since a very early age. As such, I have owned a few guns and still do. My attitude for a long time about many things, guns included, has been if it works don’t try to fix it. My reason for stating this here and now is that there have been many “new” gun designs during the last 100+ years that are really little more than minor changes to older designs. Some of these changes may or may not be improvements. A good example of improvements on guns that really aren’t is extractors on bolt-action rifles. One of the first bolt-action rifle designs was the model 98 Mauser. The model 98’s extractor was a relatively large piece of spring-steel attached to the side of the bolt with a large “claw” that grabbed the rim of the case to facilitate extraction. This design was known for very positive extraction of the fired case but necessitated controlled feed of the ammunition from the rifle’s magazine. The models 54 and 70 Winchester rifles used the same style extractor. All of these rifles were known for never having any extraction problems because of their extractor design. These extractors always worked, never broke, and only wore out after decades of use. Many bolt rifles today utilize the much smaller (and newer) Remington style extractor. These extractors are known for being prone to breakage; usually at the most inopportune time. My point is that for all of my readers that are new to guns I encourage you to consider this: when choosing a gun for personal use choose something that has a proven record. The market seems to be awash with new guns and gear. There was a time when I was a young man that unless you were a fool you could not lose money on guns. This is no longer the case. This is my reason for recommending items that some may consider out of date. When it comes to guns; tried and true is the way to go in my opinion.
I have said many times to many people that everyone should own at least one gun and a good start is a .22. As part of the basic adequate arsenal (BAA for short) the first gun that should be added is a .22lr caliber handgun; either a revolver or an auto. The Ruger .22 auto is a great start; over 10 million have been made by Ruger since 1949. The standard model Ruger .22 comes with a 4 ½” barrel and fixed sights. If you want adjustable sights, you have to buy a target model. Another excellent little gun which is still available is the S&W model 17. You will not be disappointed with a model 17 w/ 6” barrel. The model 17 comes with adjustable sights.
The next addition to the BAA should be an auto in 9mm, 40 S&W, or 45 ACP. This would be your front-line defensive/fighting handgun. Frankly, in my mind the caliber is more personal preference than anything else. People have been killed with the .22 short and have kept coming after multiple hits from a .45. As I wrote in “Defensive Handgun 101” marksmanship, training, and mind-set are far more important than what caliber of gun you may have. I know that some of this may seem contradictory to what I wrote in part 1 but really it isn’t. A 9mm, 40 S&W, or 45 ACP pistol is not the optimal choice for an all-around handgun but it is a good choice for a defensive handgun with the 357 as a back-up. I also wrote in “101” some of my thoughts about different makes of pistols. I will reiterate here though, I do not like Glocks. Ruger makes a number of auto pistols but I have no experience with their autos only their fine revolvers and consequently can not recommend them one way or another except that they are made by Ruger. As far as makes of auto pistols, I like EAA witness pistols. I also like Colt (to include most 1911 clones) and S&W (except for their Glock clones). I think Sigs are overrated and overpriced. Sigs also feel “clunky” in my larger-than-average hands. Another fine pistol, while dated like the 1911, is the Browning Hi-power. The only thing wrong with the Hi-power is the magazine safety. This safety is superfluous because the Hi-power has an external safety and an exposed hammer just like the 1911. The trigger can be improved on the Hi-power by removing this magazine safety. The reason for the mag. safety was the fact that the Hi-power was originally designed as a military pistol and was added because the Hi-power has no grip safety like the 1911. The magazine safety took the place of the grip safety on the 1911 because when John Browning designed the Hi-power he did so as a possible replacement for the 1911 and the military required multiple safeties on any semi-auto pistol they considered. The Beretta M9/92/96 is an adequate pistol also. I have shot one a little and the only two things that I have to say are: 1) the grip frame is quite large therefore it may not be suitable for someone with small to average hands and 2) the barrel is exposed which may be a concern. One other auto pistol make is the H&K. I put these in the same category as Sigs. I also reiterate that I do not like striker fired pistols for reasons that I covered in “Defensive Handgun 101”.
So, the handgun BAA would be a .357 mag revolver, a .22lr revolver or auto, and a quality auto in 9mm, 40 S&W, or .45 ACP. Add to this a minimum of 6 magazines or speed-loaders for each gun. Also add 1000 rounds of ammo for each gun being an absolute minimum with 2K a comfortable minimum.
Now for a section about real working guns, rifles: again the first addition to the arsenal should be a .22lr cal. rifle. A .22lr rifle is a necessity. The Ruger 10/22 or 77/22 would be excellent choices but not the only options. Another option may be a Marlin model 39 or possibly some other lever or bolt action rifle. The one advantage I see to one of the Rugers is all of the after-market accessories that are available. The 10/22 and 77/22 use the same method of barrel installation therefore any barrel designed for the 10/22 will also work on the 77/22. The magazines are also interchangeable. Dime size groups at 50 yards are easily attainable with a tricked-out 10/22 using good ammo. By “tricked-out” I mean a match barrel, trigger, stock, and scope. All of this can be accomplished for about $500.00. If you are considering up-grading a 10/22, then an up-grade of the firing pin, extractor, and bolt handle/guide rod & spring is also a good idea and can be accomplished for another Benjamin. I have seen some Marlin model 39s shoot almost as well out of the box along with many bolt-action .22lr rifles. Other fine makes of .22 rifles are the CZ and Anshutz rifles although they are pricey. As far as vintage .22 rifles, there is a plethora of Winchesters, Remingtons, Mossbergs, and others that can be found for very reasonable prices. As an example: I had a Mossberg model 144 target rifle that was great for squirrel hunting that I paid $100.00 for. It was a little heavy with a 28” target barrel but it definitely had “minute-of-squirrel” accuracy out past 100 yards which is more than adequate when shooting tree-rats in the early fall; and for everyone’s info: I really like squirrel, it tastes just like chicken when deep fried.
An alternative to a .22lr caliber rifle would be a rifle in .22 Hornet caliber. The .22 Hornet was developed in 1920 by Col. T. Whelen as a survival cartridge. One big advantage of the Hornet is the fact that it is a center-fire cartridge which can be reloaded. This cartridge can be hand-loaded to duplicate .22lr specs and can also be loaded to exceed .22 WMR specs by 500fps for much less money compared to .22lr and .22 WMR ammo. The Hornet is a versatile cartridge that has been overlooked by most shooters for decades mostly because of the incessant quest for speed.
A person who purchased my first book asked me a while ago about using spent 22 rim-fire cases for making jacketed 22 caliber bullets. This can be done but a considerable amount of additional equipment is needed. This is how several of the men who started a few of the now big name bullet companies got started like John Nosler and Joyce Hornady. It can not be done on a standard reloading press. Also, the heaviest bullet that can be made from 22lr cases is 55 grains. If the object is to make heavier bullets, then 22 WMR cases must be used. An internet search for bullet making supplies will yield sources for equipment. A bullet making press, a set of forming dies, and the means of accurately forming the cores is required for this. Making jacketed rifle bullets is a whole separate aspect of reloading that should only be attempted by someone who is experienced with reloading already and requires meticulous attention to detail.
The next rifle that should be added to the BAA is a quality battle rifle. The AR, AK, and SKS are not battle rifles; they are assault carbines along with the Ruger mini-14. A battle rifle has an effective range of 600+ yards. Mel Tappan recommended the M1 in 30-06. The M1 is a very good, dependable rifle but there are better choices today and M1s are very collectable today along with the 8 round clips becoming hard to find. Some choices are the FN-FAL and its clones, H&K 91 and its clones, and my personal favorite the M1A. All three of these choices have downsides. The FN-FAL is expensive, always has been, and so are the magazines along with being hard to find. The M1A is also expensive along with the mags. Clones of the H&K are the most reasonably priced but the H&K is hard on brass if you reload. Of the three, the H&K is also the least accurate while the M1A is the most accurate. There is another downside to the M1A. M1As from Springfield Armory are no longer made to GI specs. The receivers are no longer forged and many of the internal parts are not GI spec either. There is a company making “M1As” (which is a name actually coined by Springfield Armory) and that company is LRB arms. LRB’s receivers are forged and they advertise GI spec internal parts but these rifles sell for over $2500.00 and are also hard to find. Over the years there have been a few other companies that have made M14 clones but I can not report as to the quality of these rifles. One company that made M14 clones was Norinco. These rifles were imported during the 80s. I do not recommend them; these rifles were definitely not GI spec. There are two different types of FAL; inch and metric versions are both available. If I were going to buy an FAL, I would buy a metric version for two reasons: 1) the FAL was originally designed as a metric rifle and 2) there are more spare metric parts available. Considering these things the FN-FAL is a fine rifle. There are scope mounts available to facilitate installation of optics on the FAL if desired. About the H&K 91 and its clones I have this to say: it is a “Timex” also. It is hard on brass, not very accurate, and the sights are crude and limited to 400 meters. When I lived in Florida I associated with a few individuals who owned H&K 91s. When it came to shooting contests, I cleaned their clocks with my M1A.
The last rifle to be added to the BAA would be a “big bore” rifle; a 375 H&H caliber rifle or larger. This rifle should be a bolt-action rifle with a low power variable scope on it; possibly a 1.5x5 or a 2x7. This rifle would be for hunting large game like bears, elk, and moose only. The criteria for this rifle would be the same as the 30-06 rifle.
As far as the shotgun aspect of the BAA, I do not think that another one is necessary. The do-it-all pump 12 gauge is good for just about everything.
So the BAA for an individual should consist of these:
HANDGUNS: a .357 mag revolver, a 22lr revolver or auto, and a 9mm, 40 S&W, or 45 ACP auto.
RIFLES: a 30-06 bolt-gun, a 22lr or 22 Hornet, a .308 battle rifle, and a .375 H&H or larger bolt-gun.
SHOTGUN: a 12 gauge double-barrel or pump.
For a couple:
HANDGUNS: the addition of another defensive handgun in the same caliber (and best case scenario) the same make and model of gun i.e., two 1911s or two Hi-Powers etc.
Also add an AR, AK or an SKS, or a Ruger mini-14/30 along with a second shotgun
Add to this a minimum of 12 magazines for the each rifle that uses magazines, 1000 rounds for the 22 and 30-06, 2000 rounds for the battle rifle and carbine when applicable, 200 rounds for the big-bore rifle, and 500 shotgun shells per shotgun along with my previous recommendations for the handguns. With this BAA a person/couple should be able to handle any situation that would require the use of a firearm along with the proper training. Another addition to the BAA should be a basic spare parts inventory. Spare firing pins, extractors, and a few other parts that may be prone to breakage depending on the model of gun should be added.
Next, the ultimate arsenal.
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