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​​If I Had One... (Part 3) by Tim Siewert

I have often said that guns & ammo are the same as money; it is impossible to have too much.  Therefore I would like to offer my thoughts about the ultimate “gun wish list”. Granted there are so many brands, models, and calibers of guns today that really the “sky is the limit” so I am going to keep the list manageable.  Also, I would like to say this: personally I have three categories of guns; practice, working, and collection.  Sometimes there are overlaps of these categories.  I am not saying that this is necessary, just that my taste in firearms has evolved into this.

​Let us consider handguns for a moment.  The first addition would be a .44mag revolver with either a 5” or 6” barrel.  S&W has just announced the model 69; an L-frame, 5-shot .44mag revolver with a 4.25” barrel and adjustable sights.  While I think that a 4 ¼” barrel on a .44 is a bit short, this new gun may be a very good choice, particularly if one waits a while and S&W decides to offer slightly longer barrels on this gun.  There will be a considerable amount of muzzle-flash with a 4 ¼” gun, though.  The .44mag is adequate for defensive purposes in bear country.  An alternative to a .44 mag would be a late model revolver in .45 Colt; possibly a Ruger single-action.  Ruger single-actions are well known to be able to handle magnum level hand-loads in that caliber.  S&W offers the model 25-5 in .45 Colt caliber.  These revolvers can handle loads that are “stiffer” than traditional .45 Colt ammo but they are not as strong as Ruger single-actions.  Of course one of each would be best; a .44 mag and a .45 Colt.

​The next addition would be a “hide-out” (concealed carry/back-up) gun; either a 2” .38 Special (or a small frame 2” .357 mag) revolver or a .380 pistol, or both.  Some good 38 Special revolvers are the S&W model 36 (a J-frame gun) or a Colt Det. Special, Agent, or Cobra.  The S&W model 19/66 in 2” is an excellent .357 revolver and still relatively compact with a round butt.  There are several choices in .380 like a Walther PPK/S (James Bond’s gun) or a Beretta model 84.  Another option that I really do not recommend but will mention is a derringer; my reasons for not recommending this are: first, you are limited to two shots; and second, derringers are very small.  Consequently, since derringers are normally small they are hard to control, not very accurate beyond arms length, and unless you have small hands difficult to properly operate.  A good choice here is a model 65 S&W in 2 ½” heavy-barrel configuration and fixed sights.

​The next addition would be to “round-out” your defensive/fighting handgun line-up.  By this I mean if you have a 9mm pistol already, then a 40 S&W and a .45 ACP caliber pistol should be added.  The reason for this would be to be able to take advantage of ammunition availability.  To explain: let us just propose a hypothetical scenario.  The proverbial “SHTF” has become reality.  You have a .45 ACP pistol as your primary defensive handgun.  You “acquire” some 9mm ammo that the former owner no longer has need of but you do not have a 9mm gun.  What do you do with this find?

​Finally, a “big-bore” pistol could be added like a .480 Ruger or a 500 S&W mag revolver. Of course, this is not the end of the list but only a good beginning.  For a couple, double the list and for a family, everyone should have their own .22lr handgun and defensive handgun at the very least.  All of this would be in addition to what I outlined in parts one and two.  N.B.-I believe that children should be taught from an early age in the four rules. Considering that the age of reason is generally accepted as 7, I believe that age 8 is a good time in a child’s life to start learning responsible use of firearms.

​And now, for my personal favorite topic, rifles; where should I begin?  First of all, if you do not own a rifle in 22 Hornet, buy one.  A rifle in 22 Hornet is far more versatile than a rifle in 22 mag and reloaded 22 Hornet ammo is much cheaper than 22 mag ammo.   Next, even if you already have an AR-15 in 223, you should have a bolt-action rifle in 223 Rem. An alternative to the AR is the Ruger mini-14; this rifle is available in .223 and 7.62x39 as the mini-30.    Then to round out the 22 center-fire assortment, one of the “speed-demons” like the 22-250 or the 220 Swift would be a good choice.  Of course, all of these rifles should have optical sights that are appropriate for the rifle.  I will get into this more a little later.

Moving up the caliber spectrum, my next recommendation would be a 25-06 or 270 bolt gun.  Both of these “flat shooting” calibers are excellent for mid-sized game in open country.  I have shot a couple of antelope and did so with a 25-06.  Then, if you wanted to go all out, a 7mm mag is also an excellent choice.  The only thing that a 7mm mag will give you is a little more effective range at the cost of burning more powder.

​Now for my favorite rifle caliber, .30: to begin, if you have a battle rifle in .308, then you should have a bolt-gun in .308 also.  This .308 rifle could be a scout rifle but does not have to be.  This of course is in addition to the 30-06 bolt-gun that I initially recommended in part one.  The next .30 caliber rifle I recommend is either a model 94 Winchester or a model 336 Marlin in 30-30.  Contrary to what many people may know or want to admit, the only rifle/cartridge combination that has been used to kill more deer than the 30-30 is the .22lr.  To round out the 30 caliber line-up a 30 cal. mag. like the 300 Winchester magnum for example would be a good addition.  This cartridge/rifle combo is a good choice for larger game up to bears.  An alternative to the 300 Win. mag. is the 30/338.  The 30/338, which is based on the 338 Win. mag., is equal in performance to the 300 with the advantage of being compatible with standard-length actions and using about 10% less powder.  The one downside of the 30/338 is that there is no factory ammo available.  Two alternatives to either the 300 or the 30/338 or other 30 cal mags are a 338 Win mag or an 8mm Rem mag rifle.  The one downside to either of these are fewer choices as far as variety of ammunition and bullet sizes.  There are other 30 caliber magnums like the 300 Weatherby for example but most of them do not offer much superiority over the aforementioned cartridges and one should always consider ammunition availability.

​While the AK-47 and the SKS in 7.62x39 are not really 30 cal. rifles (the bullet size is actually .311”), these are generally considered 30 cal. rifles.  If you don’t own at least one of these you should add one to your arsenal if for no other reason but diversity.  The 7.62x39 w/soft point bullets in a 20” barreled SKS is comparable in performance to a model 94 Winchester in 30-30.

​After 30 cal., I do not see a need for anything except to augment your “big-bore” collection.  Like I wrote in part two, the 375 H&H is an excellent start (remember that the 375 H&H was developed in 1912 and was one of  the first smokeless cartridges with enough power for any African game animal along with the 416 Rigby which was developed in 1911).  The way I see it, all of the cartridges between the 338 Win Mag. and the 375 H&H are the result of someone’s ego.  Now, there are a few alternatives to the 375.  Two alternatives to the 375 are the 416 Rem. Mag. and the 458 Win Mag.  A totally well-rounded arsenal would include a rifle in at least two of these three chamberings.  Of course again there are other cartridges to choose from; there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the 140 year-old 45-70 for example.  It is possible to realize modern performance from the 45-70 with judicious handloads in a strong, modern, lever-action rifle like a model 1895 Marlin although effectiveness will still fall short of the 458 Win Mag.  Then of course there are the big Weatherby magnums like the 378, 416, and 460. The downside of these is cost.  The rifles are usually $2000.00 or more when you can find them and the ammo is usually $5.00+ a shot.  Ruger has been chambering their model 77 in 416 Rigby along with 375 H&H, 458 Win. Mag., and their own 375 Ruger magnum.  I think that this rifle in one of these cartridges would be an excellent choice also.

​When Mel Tappan wrote his book, the 50 BMG was not considered an option.  If it were, I think that he would have considered it cost prohibitive.  50 BMG rifles are even more expensive than Weatherby rifles; so is the ammo.  The 50 BMG cartridge was developed during WWI as an anti-tank round.  The rifles that chamber the 50 BMG are too heavy and the cartridge itself over powered for hunting anything except tanks.  Having said that, I think that if you can afford a 50 BMG rifle and want one, why not have one?

​Concerning the make and model of rifles I would like to offer these thoughts.  First of all, the bolt action rifle in its fundamental form has been around for over 100 years, is the strongest rifle design, and as such has been just about perfected.  There is now a trend to try to improve on this perfection.  One such “improvement” is to have a Glock-style knob on the trigger for a safety.  This is just as ignorant on rifles as on handguns.  My reason for saying this is that to do this eliminates the separate step of disengauging the safety (because the trigger knob is the safety) to fire the weapon and presupposes that everyone will never violate rule #3 (see Defensive Handgun 101).  Therefore, I caution anyone about buying a rifle with this feature.  As far as makes of bolt guns- I like Sako, Remington, CZ, Winchester, and Ruger; not necessarily in this order because all of these are fine rifles.  As far as accuracy out of the box, CZ and Sako rule unless you can find an older one of the others.  The trend for the last 15 years or so to use hammer-forged barrels on factory guns has been for the purpose of quantity at the expense of accuracy.  If you want to know the truth about barrel manufacture and accuracy buy my second book.  Lever-action rifles are faster to operate at the expense of some strength.  The aforementioned lever guns are some of the most modern in design and hence the strongest.  A few other lever guns that are good are the Browning BLR and the Savage model 99.  The Savage 99 was made for over 80 years in many different styles and calibers.  Sometimes these can be found at shows for very reasonable prices.  Another lever gun that I think deserves mention is the reintroduction of the Winchester 1895 by Browning (these should not be confused with the 1895 Marlin rifles which are of different design).  While these rifles are now collectable, they are also excellent working guns.  I do not recommend pump/slide-action rifles; these are no faster than a lever gun and from what I have seen not as dependable.  The only semi-auto rifles that I recommend are military grade rifles.  Military grade semi-auto rifles are designed to be able to endure the rigors of combat and still function; commercial semi-autos are not as hardy.

To augment your shotgun collection, a .410 would be good.  A .410 shotgun is another good alternative for hunting small game.  This is all I can offer as far as shotguns except possibly another 870 as a spare with a different barrel length.  For a long time Savage made the model 24 which was an over/under combo gun available in both 22lr/20ga or .410 and center-fire/12ga configurations.  One of these at a gun show would be a find in my book and would be the only time I would recommend a shotgun in another gauge besides 12 or .410.

​Regarding sights on guns I have this to offer.  I recommend optical sights for most rifles. My recommendation of a model 94 Winchester or 336 Marlin are some of the exceptions; another is the AK or SKS.  When considering a scope for a rifle, the effective range of the rifle should be the main point.  For example: your 22 Hornet rifle would be well outfitted with a 3-9 power scope (this is what I have on my Hornet rifle).  This is due to the max effective range of the Hornet which is about 250 yards.  A 4-12 scope is more than adequate for either of the other two 22 center fires that I recommended.  A 2-7 scope is great for the 375 H&H.  Another consideration when choosing a scope is the fact that any scope when used above 14 power significantly magnifies mirage; particularly on a warm, sunny day.  A good example of this effect would be trying to look through a swimming pool at your target.  I do have a 6.5x20 scope on my 6.5x284 target rifle.  This scope also has a 50mm front objective which is the main reason it is on the rifle because I rarely use it above 14 power; the 50mm front objective enhances clarity.  As far as the other rifles that I recommended: the 308, if in scout configuration, should have 3-9 with a long eye-relief'; and, any magnum caliber rifle is well suited for a variable with a broader range, such as a 416 Remington mag.

​As far as sights on shotguns, I think that fiber-optic sights are a good addition.  These sights really stand out under a wide variety of conditions.  Also, several of my handguns have luminescent paint judiciously applied to the front and rear sights (in three dot fashion).  I have found that this is a significant benefit particularly when fast acquisition of the front sight is necessary.  I use green or orange for the front and white for the rear.

​As far as accessories are concerned I have this to offer:    The first accessory that should be added to every rifle is a sling.  A good sling aids in using the rifle in various positions along with making it easier to carry in the field.  A sling is a good idea for most shotguns as well but not a necessity.  ​Spare parts should be a high priority.  About the only thing on a bolt-action rifle that routinely fails is the extractor.  I have had to replace a few.  Therefore, I would recommend having spare extractors for all of your rifles.  Firing pins go first on military grade rifles.  Lever-action rifles are also known to wear out springs.  If you have an M1A or an M1 it is a good idea to have a spare trigger group and complete bolt on hand.  Spare firing pins are also a necessity for all handguns.  Revolvers wear out a part known as the “cylinder hand”; this is the part that rotates the cylinder.  An easy way to tell when the cylinder hand is worn out, is when a revolver is “out of time”: the cylinder bolt engages the notch in the cylinder before the cylinder is fully rotated.  Semi-auto pistols wear out extractors also.  For shotguns: firing pins and extractors also.

Note: NEVER dry fire a shotgun or a bolt-action rifle on an empty chamber.  This is a great way to break a firing pin.  It is not a good idea to store any firearm in the cocked position.  Firearms should be stored for extended periods of time in the “fired” position.  To do this on a bolt-action rifle simply close the bolt slowly while depressing the trigger.  MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE THE RIFLE IS UNLOADED WHEN DOING THIS!!!!  The same can be done with most pump-action shotguns.  Typically, I keep my model 12 loaded for home defense; I do not keep a shell in the chamber and have the hammer down meaning in the fired position.  Then if needed all that is necessary is to work the slide thus chambering a shell and cocking the gun at the same time.  The distinctive sound of the slide on a model 12 being racked back and then home is better than any warning shot.  A good way to keep a home defense pistol at the ready is hammer down on an empty chamber with a loaded magazine in the mag-well.  Col. Jeff Cooper referred to this as “condition three”.

​I think that 50 magazines for any rifle that require magazines and 20 for any pistol is a comfortable amount to have on hand.  A good spotting scope and/or binoculars are also necessary accessories.  Cleaning equipment is a necessity as well.  I do not buy patches or rags for cleaning my guns; I use old t-shirts and skivvies and just keep a sharp pair of scissors with my cleaning gear.  If you shoot military surplus ammo you will need military grade cleaning solvent; particularly if you shoot some corrosively primed ammo.  Most commercial cleaning solvents will not fully clean the corrosive residue left from this ammo. Also, never use any solvent that contains ammonia as a final cleaning solution.  Ammonia based solvents will corrode steel quickly.  If you do choose to use these solvents then use another solvent afterwards such as Hoppe’s #9; this will remove all of the ammonia. Then after cleaning, apply oil to the bore; I like Marvel Mystery Oil (it is distinctly red in color and inexpensive).

​Some other good accessories to have are a gun screw-driver set, a non-marring hammer such as a dead-blow hammer, a pin-punch set, and books detailing dis-assembly/ assembly of firearms.  A gun screw-driver set with ¼” interchangeable bits is the way to go. Gun screw-drivers are ground differently from standard screw-drivers to preclude damage to the screws.  Several of the reloading suppliers sell these sets as well as Brownells which is the place to shop for spare parts as well as anything else “gunsmithing” related. A dead-blow hammer or hammer with a plastic face is available at any hardware store.  Pin-punch sets are available in either steel or brass.  I recommend having a set of each.  The steel punches are best for solid pins, the brass ones are best for roll-pins.

​One of my favorite NCIS rules is rule #9: never go anywhere without a knife.  Therefore I would like to offer this about knives: it is best to have several of different sizes.  I religiously carry what is referred to as a one-handed folder.  The brands of knives that I like are Cold Steel, CRKT, and Bali-song.  The CRKT model M-16 is excellent because it has a double locking mechanism and opens very quickly.  I do not like serrated knives because they are very difficult to sharpen.  For field dressing deer-sized game and larger I have found that a knife with an 8” blade that is about 1” wide yet stout works very well.  A blade of this configuration is great for getting into those “hard to reach” places when gutting critters.  For cleaning small game and birds a typical pocket knife works well; like a 4” stockman knife.

​Most military rifles have been designed to be used with bayonets.  I was trained in the use of a bayonet in the Marine Corps.  I have often said that if the situation arises where you would have to use a bayonet, you are in a world of shit.  The same goes if you have to use a knife to defend yourself.  Considering this, a good fighting knife should have about a 9” to 10” very heavy blade.  I base this opinion on what frontiersman carried in the 19th century.  Another thing they also carried was a hatchet.  I also like machetes.  In WWI, one of the favorite weapons used in the trenches was the issued shovel.  These shovels were only about 14” in length with a correspondingly sized head.  All of these tools can be employed as formidable weapons as well if the need arises and I think are better than a bayonet.

​In conclusion, a person’s arsenal is only limited by their budget and imagination.  Life is a never ending series of choices.  I hope what I have written here will help you to make more informed choices.  -T.


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