January 12, 2006

We are thinking of buying a gun. We don't really want to spend a lot of money. We also know that we need to take safety classes and learn about gun safety, and we know it must always be kept locked away UNLOADED and separate from the ammunition so the kids can't get it (thanks for the safety advice, but we've got it already!)

So, my question is, what type of gun do we want?

We live rurally and border on national forest (elk, deer, bear, bobcats). The most LIKELY need for a gun would be:

-Shooting stray wild dogs that come harass our livestock

-Bears that come to our orchard

The less likely scenarios, but which we'd like to be prepared for, is:

In case of general societal upheaval, we'd like a weapon we could take hunting for, say, deer and rabbit, in the event of needing meat.

I go to the gun stores and can't even make heads or tails of what these folks are telling me. Anyone got a good Guns 101 lesson for me?


Comments (27)

  • newjerseybt

    I have a 12 gauge Moss shotgun with a short barrel that I keep hidden just in case of unexpected unwanted visitors but I still would hesitate to use it as the local savages have more rights than I do. I fear the lawyers cleaning me out more than the crooks.

    I used to have an AR-15 but the State of NJ declared it an assault rifle because it was made of black plastic so it was sold.

    If those wild dogs are a long distance away, I would think rifle with a scope. Remember, a stray shot can go for several miles. If you also have a bear problem, you also need to consider knock down power.

    I would talk to the local firearms dealer to get the best of both worlds at a reasonable price. Maybe a used rifle?

  • erinluchsinger

    You need to talk to Jamie. He moved over to the other forum after getting blasted here on too many times. You may want to venture that way. email me if you need the info.

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  • fancifowl

    if you do take a safety class the instructors should be able to determine your best weapon. I would recommend a pump shotgun(your choice of make and model). There are many different loads(types ammo) available for the gun. Slugs are very good for larger game, buckshot is excellent for home defense, feral dogs,derr, bear, et cetera, and then there are all the different shot sizes for taking small game. Unplugged they generally hold 5 rounds, plugged as required in many areas for hunting they wiill take 3. You aim doesn't have to be as perfect to still make target aquisition. They do have some recoil which is a personal thing as to what bothers the shooter. Gas operated(semi auto, fires each time trigger is pulled w/o need to eject or chamber a new round)have negligible recoil, are more expensive to buy and require a bit more maintanance. A decent 12 ga. should run from 4275 and up.

  • giventake

    A 12 guage auto and learn/pick the right shell to use,everything from bird shot-slugs, each have a applicaton would be your best deal. If buying used, know/or have someone advise you, to the condition. Be careful shooting bear, i've heard they get real nasty if just wounded. YOu might also consider a 22 magnum rifle, cheeper and easier to shoot but requires a steady aim etc. It will kill a deer, but forget the bear :)I just have to add no matter how much you trust your kids, don't give them a chance to add shells with gun...

  • narcnh

    You are asking a lot of a single gun, from killing rabbits to taking out a bear. There is a reason for the abundance of calibers and gun styles out there: different guns work best for different situations. For small game and varmints, like rabbits, wild dogs, etc., a basic .22 rifle will do the trick. For deer, I wouldn't go smaller than a .308 or a .30-30, which would work for a black bear, too. Just be sure you use a repeater (semi-auto or lever-action) for bear, since it might take several shots to bring it down. For a larger bear you would want something bigger, like a .338 or up. A shotgun is a great all-around gun, but it has a fair kick and can splatter something like a rabbit at close range, unless, as pointed out, you are careful with your loads. It is also a close-range weapon; you are not going to hunt deer and take 100-yard shots with a shotgun. You might possibly with a slug, instead of shot, but that takes a lot of practice, has a LOT of recoil and still has range issues (see below).

    Also, it depends a lot on the environment in which you are going to use the weapon. For example, here in New England for whitetail deer .308 and .30-30 are very popular. That is because most deer hunting is done in the woods and relatively thick cover, so the distances over which shots are taken are usually less than 100 yards, rarely over 200 yards. Out west, where it is more wide open, longer range shots for mule deer and the like are more common, and you would need a rifle with more power to carry the bullet farther with enough impact left to knock down the target. I will not even get into the grain size of the bullet, except to say that each caliber has a range of bullet weights with the heavier bullets doing more damage, but having correspondingly bigger recoil or 'kick.'

    The following website has a nice listing of calibers, loads and game:

    With respect to shotgun 'slugs' (which I dont use, so do not pretend expertise about) the same website states the following:

    "The use of slugs is best confined to single barrel shotguns, either single shot or repeaters. Double guns tend to crossfire with slugs due to the regulation of the barrels.

    A smoothbore "slug gun" with rifle sights will usually shoot groups in the 3" (6 MOA) range at 50 yards/meters, making them satisfactory deer hunting weapons only at very short range. An occasional example will do better, and some do worse. Their effective deer hunting range is limited by their poor accuracy, but the slug itself is dangerous to other hunters at far greater distances, an important distinction to keep in mind.

    Compared to practically any big game rifle bullet, rifled slugs are still "penetration deficient," and not very accurate. They are a short range proposition at best..."

    So, I think if you really want to cover the range of applications you have listed, then you will need more than one gun. I would recommend a .22 long rifle for varmints, something in the 30-caliber range for deer and the like, and, possibly, a shotgun for birds and home defense.

    Personally, I have a number of weapons from .22 to shotgun, and I like them all for different reasons. My 'favorites' simply from the standpoint of pure shooting pleasure are my .44 magnum revolver (lots of kick, but really fun to shoot, and you can recite the monologue from "Dirty Harry" while aiming at a target), my .223 varmint rifle, which is the smoothest shooting weapon I own and extremely accurate, and my 12-gauge pump shotgun for shooting clays or whatever.

    Hope this helps.

  • fancifowl

    I have over 30 guns/rifles from .17 to .375 H&H, had a couple hundred more a few years ago. I could lay out some excellent reasoning for each caliber, style of weapon, etc., but the original poster seemed to be inquiring about the 1 most adaptable gun with low cost being a pre requisite. Of course it is unethical to use too small a caliber for some game as it is silly to use a .375 H&H for a white tail deer. The 12 ga. offers 23/4 inh to 31/2 inch shells with a multitude of loads sufficient for most of what anyone is gonna need. The most accurate rifle does no one any good if it isnt practiced with often developing the best load for that weapon. Obviously, a rifle has no place as a self defense weapon for a multitude of reasons.
    Sure a 12 ga. is suited for black bear, ask guides what they like in a tuff situation, I like the idea of 9 .32 cal balls coming out the end of that bbl. With a rifled and scoped barrel using sabots a 12 ga. is a good deer gun past 100 yards. A .22 long rifle is a very handy tool also, not much on game larger than a close range chuk or a rabbit or squirrel, but great for dispatching most yard varmints and a lot of fun to plink with. My el cheapo Savage is nearly as accurate as some of my Sako and other costly .22s with some brands of ammo. Guns are like friend, ya cant have too many !
    Purchase a used gun from a private individual, if bought at a dealer you will have to fill out some paperwork.

  • bruglover

    Be sure, whatever you buy, new or used, that you also purchase the appropriate cleaning kit. They are available for about 10 bucks or so at the local "WM."

    That same store also carries trigger locks. I don't know that I would recommend them as a means of locking up a gun that you may want to grab fairly quickly, to dispatch varmints, as they take a while to remove. You might be better off with a cable lock type arrangement, or a closet with a lock on the door.

    What I do is have mine unloaded and unlocked, when we're home, with the ammo inaccessible; lock 'em when my kids (young teens) have friends over and before we leave the house. If I had to grab and load fast - stray dog at the chickens, say - I'd keep some ammo in my pocket and the bulk of it locked up, but the gun unlocked. YMMV.

    IMO it can be worth going to a dealer to get help with information and advice, even though a purchase from a store takes time with the paperwork.

    Shop around. Some pawnshops carry plenty of guns, and some of those folks are very knowledgeable, but the prices aren't always much of a bargain. That's purely subjective, I guess.

  • lazy_gardens

    "So, my question is, what type of gun do we want?
    We live rurally and border on national forest (elk, deer, bear, bobcats). The most LIKELY need for a gun would be:
    -Shooting stray wild dogs that come harass our livestock
    -Bears that come to our orchard
    The less likely scenarios, but which we'd like to be prepared for, is:

    In case of general societal upheaval, we'd like a weapon we could take hunting for, say, deer and rabbit, in the event of needing meat."

    Don't want much, do you?

    My dad had several guns:
    30-06 rifle for deer hunting, and the occasional feral dog killing. If you are a good shot, these work for bears too.

    Shotgun for various bird hunting.

    Small rifle (22?) for varmints like rabbits

    .45 caliber pistol for self-defense when fishing (against moose, elk, etc. that occasionally became aggressive)

  • fancifowl

    " .45 pistol when fishing"; would clarify that to read " .45 colt(long)revolver(prefered in Ruger to withstand a more rigourous load)in defense of rogoue animals. A .45ACP in a pistol(auto loading) is near worthless for many at over a few feet.!!

  • turnkey4099

    Sorta facetious here but the 45 acp pistol load would be effective as a moose deterrent but only if you used it to shoot yourself before the moose got to you.

    Harry K

  • fancifowl

    I like that Harry ! Tho there is good enuff reason to have several about the gun room ! Where would we be with no 1911s and all of their spin-offs? Its nearly an industry in itself.

  • giventake

    I posted above about a 22 mag. and a 12 guage, then read your profile. i will retract my suggestion and advise you to move back to civilazation, your biting off a big chunk.....gonna be hard to get down.....I wish you luck, if you persist, contac NRA National rifle Assocation, they may have a member in the area that could fix you up with some firearms, suitable for your needs....

  • erinluchsinger

    Getting a little nasty here wouldn't you say.... please re-read my first post (2nd one from the top).... I see we'll be losing more posters. Too bad. Been here for many years, good resource, but people have the tendency to jump down others throats and be over all.. nasty. Toodles.

  • fancifowl

    Boy, I just read the total thread, a couple times, and couldn't find a hint of nasty?? Please point the offensive post(s) out. thankyou.

  • giventake

    erinluchsinger What's the point in your post? to drive people to a jamie site? he kind of bored me.. different strokes for different folks...

  • lazy_gardens

    fancifowl and turnkey;
    The M1911 Colt .45 Pistol was responsible for the demise of at least one bear, two moose, and an elk. The bear was delicious, regrettably the other critters were cranky OLD bulls that were too tough to even stew.

    When you are treed, as he was by the bulls, it's easy to get a good head shot at close range. The bear was also a short-range shot ... it was ambling along a stream-side path, headed for an apple orchard right at the start of bear season. My dad and I were fishing on the other side, maybe 30 feet away.

  • Maggie_J

    Too bad that gun threads tend to take controversial turns. It bothered me that giventake would "advise you to move back to civilazation, your (sic) biting off a big chunk.....gonna be hard to get down....." Kristen, we all know you have a challenging situation and that things do not always go smoothly, but my feeling is that you are handling things just fine.

    As far as firearms go, you need to be quite confident before taking on a bear and you need to have a lot of stopping power. A .22 magnum will take care of smaller varmints and is easy to use and not too heavy. A shotgun is useful for gamebirds or varmints at close range. Some people use them for deer with a slug instead of shot, but I don't recommend it. No one wants to just wound an animal and have it suffer.

    My suggestion is to purchase a .22 and get comfortable with it before purchasing anything bigger. Just remember that even a bullet from a .22 can travel up to a mile...but you assure us you have the safety angle covered, so I won't say more about that.

    Lazygardens, nice to see you back. Like you, I come from a hunting family, and I thought your recommendations were right on -- as usual. However, I really do think Kristen would be well advised to become proficient with a .22 before taking on anything heavier.

  • giventake

    Maggie your right i should never post what i think or feel....and the part about your comment on it's ok to kill a predator,, but don't wound priceless i've found that when you need to use a weapon for devensive measures, you could care less. and lots of other things like that i've found.

  • Maggie_J

    Giventake, I don't understand where you're coming from. Naturally when one is in danger from a predator, one thinks of one's own safety and well-being first. The example I gave of causing unneccesary suffering to an animal, CLEARLY related to using an underpowered weapon to hunt DEER.

    It is perfectly proper to express thoughts and feelings on this forum when it is done in a helpful and respectful manner. When done judgmentally, however, it can be hurtful and counterproductive. I find it a good practice to think before I type.

  • superhank

    Maggie J--Of all the responses yours is the best. Kristenmarie asked a very reasonable question and I believe you evaluated her circumstances very well. A 12 guage would clearly be too much to start with and a .22 is a gun that can handle much of her present needs and introduce her to firearms. I believe that if she feels confident after trying the .22, a shotgun (I recommend a 20 guage for a smaller person, shoots birds very well and a 20 guage slug is very nearly the same balistically as a .12 slug) then she should try to add a larger gun to meet the bear/deer/home defense scenario.

  • giventake

    Maggie -j typed >>>I find it a good practice to think before I type
    I noticed, thats why i responded to your thinking, KInd of scarey what some people think, don't you think ? Evidentently you know Kristenmarie's situation first hand, why not just a email between the two of you to figure out the deal, instead of wasteing a ligimat question ? please feel free to correct any thinking typo's, or anything else that you would

  • Maggie_J

    Superhank - Thanks for the vote of confidence. I appreciated it, especially right now.

    Giventake - I don't play ping-pong.

  • fancifowl

    I think the original poster has the info needed to make a decision; but for the sake of argument: After a bit of re-thinking, the 20 ga. may well be best for most new to fire arms. Some advantages of the 12 have been somewgat negared by the advancement of load technology, sabots, and expanded product lines on ammunition. Less recoil could certainly be advantageous in follow up shots.
    I had several customers who wanted the over/under combo types like the Savage 24s. I never felt they were the most practical, having personally owned a few of them. Nice concept but just not handy.
    There is always a place for the .22 rimfire(LR), it has so many uses and just fun to plink at cans and paper targets. Every one has a personal favorite gun/caliber and all certainly have their best use. When I sold my total collection(well over 300) I chose to keep my 3 screw Ruger Blackhawk .41, a .22 Ruger Single Six, and an old beat up .22 LR single shot. Would feel more complete w. a 12 ga S/A or pump.

  • water_daddy

    I'd consider a 12 gauge pump or semi-auto for a do it all gun with a short range limitation. Shoot doves to bears with proper loads and a shotgun is great for home defense. That said also check out some of the military surplus rifles. You can get a Mauser, Mosin Nagant, SKS, Lee-Enfield etc. possibly for less than $100 and ammo is affordable. If you want to cover all the niches you'll end up buying several firearms.

  • giventake

    I kind of skipped over it :( but narcnh did a supurb job summing up a 101 lesson on firearms, I THINK the poster was asking ? I have lurked here for awhile and found that most of the original posters never even respond....

  • fsaforo

    Hey folks,

    Speaking of guns, my dear sweet, very protective mother took me to a local gun shop when I was 19 to get me a gun before moving to Washington, DC, which by the way is illegal. My gun of choice, Dirty Harry's (Clint Eastwood's) gun of choice; no wonder the shop owner's son giggled when he told his dad what I wanted.

    He brings out this beautiful box with this gun that looks like a small cannon and just can't wait to see hold it. Well of course I nearly feel to my knees just trying to hold the gun up, needless to say, I didn't get the gun, especially after the guy tells me by the time I am able to hold it up right, aim it and then shoot it, I'd be the one hurt/dead by whatever I was aiming at.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    As some others have said I think you're talking about different guns for different purposes. Do you want to kill a bear or scare it away with a lot of noise? Or do you really want to get involved at all with a bear? If I was going to deal with bears I would have at least two guns handy.

    My father had a 250/3000 rifle that brought down moose in one shot, so that is probably the smallest thing you could deal with. It's a small caliber but with all that powder behind it, once it hits something fleshy it starts spinning and really tears things up.

    As a back up to the rifle I would carry a .45 semiauto pistol (like a 1911) with all the ammo you can carry and an extra clip or two, loaded. However, before shooting the .45 I would learn what a pistol feels like on a smaller bore. I would even start with a .22 and move to a .38 for practice. Some people get so used to shooting a .38 that the transition to a .45 is never really made. A .45 will kick so just don't get scared of the kick. One of my ex girlfriends shot a .38 for years since high school and never was real happy with it. The first time she shot my .45 1911 she shot a pattern smaller than she had ever shot with her gun. Talk about a happy girl! Yes she was a 19 year old "girl" at the time. At the same time I've seen grown men cry when shooting the same .45 simply because they were afraid of the kick. The point is to learn to hold and shoot a bigger pistol because even a .38 won't take down anything once it's angry.

    With a pistol you can also get snake shot, cartridges loaded with tiny lead shot for shooting snakes. It takes out the snake at about 10 feet and does little collateral damage - you can even shoot them indoors. So that's another consideration.

    And as someone else said, if you are really going to use these weapons because you need to, the time to start practicing is not when the bear is running in your direction. You need to shoot often enough to get comfortable with them and confident that you will hit what you aim at. The very last thing you want is to forget how to release the safety when the emergency hits.

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