In the comments section of Sunday’s range report post, GunDiva made a comment about the difference between a shooter being someone who knows what they want in a gun versus just someone who shoots other people’s guns or guns given to them by other people that got me to thinking. Then, I came across a couple of recent posts by Tam and Caleb and also Caleb that got me thinking about the subject of what I really want in guns even more.
Rather than rehash Shepherd K’s ever evolving Gun Wish List (remember, the Bible is quite specific about the subject of killin’, but it’s a little fuzzier on the subject of knee caps), what’s on it, what’s not on it or what’s been taken off it and why, I thought I’d take a few minutes to post about what I want in a gun, what I really like, what I don’t like, etc. Hopefully, it will be food for thought for others as well ‘cause, if you are like me, you can’t afford to buy them all.
Let’s start off with something truly personal: aesthetics. Everyone has their own ideas of what looks good or not so good. For instance, let’s face it, the Glock is a gun only its designer (or Jubal Early…if you don’t know who that is…go watch Firefly and come back…I’ll wait) could love. There is nothing pretty about it. It looks like a brick. It comes in one finish; and, if you don’t like it, you’re out of luck. I admit that I’m a bit on the multiple personality disorder side when it comes to aesthetics. On the one hand, I really admire simplicity of design. On the other hand, I do enjoy a graceful line here or there. Evil black guns? I like those. Polished stainless steel with high gloss wood furniture? That’s nice too. Blue steel that’s so deeply polished that it looks like stainless chrome in the right light? Ooohhh, that’s nice. Laminated wood, synthetic stocks, rails, no rails….I like it all….when it’s put together in an overall package that makes sense. Engraving and gold inlay on a Glock does not make sense. Engraving and gold inlay on a double barrel, over/under shotgun makes perfect sense.
As you can tell, aesthetics boils down to a case by case basis for me as I’m sure it does for most people. In general, for me, revolvers should be 6 shot, stainless steel with a 6 inch, fully underlugged barrel and contoured wood grips (although contoured Hogue rubber is acceptable too). Semi auto pistols fall into two categories for me: 1911s and everything else. For 1911s, I really like two tone finishes especially the finish on the Para Ordnance 1911 Limited which is mostly stainless with the slide serrations blacked out; however, a deeply blued 1911 with engraved “ivory” grips is hard to beat. 1911s are kind of a combination in design aesthetic to my eyes. It’s a combat pistol that has a simple grace and elegance to it. The lines are like nothing else on the market in my opinion. For other semi auto pistols, it all just depends. I try not to measure them against the 1911 or the Glocks, but it’s hard not to sometimes. I am not a fan of H&K or FN when it comes to their aesthetics. Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Taurus are hit and miss for me. The Ruger MKIIIs and full sized SR pistols look quite nice. The P and LC series…not so much. Smith & Wesson as done a nice job with the M&P line of pistols while I think they (or at least me for sure) would rather forget the Sigma line of pistols. Taurus…it all depends on which clone we are discussing. Beretta’s have a certain allure as do their Taurus clones. Sigs are appealing in their own Teutonic, subtly complex way as are their Taurus clones.
Shotguns? There must be wood involved. Preferably highly polished wood (unless it’s a home defense gun in which case synthetic is marginally acceptable). Over/under shotguns are the only guns on the planet, in my opinion, which should be adorned with engraving or inlay. Rifles? No. Handguns? Definitely not.
Rifles are another area where I’m dealing with that split personality thing again. On the one hand, I really like the evil, black rifle. Heck, I’m building one from parts. Even there, though, clean and simple is better for me. My first EBR will not have a railed hand guard, forward grip, swing in this or fold out that. I really like bolt action guns too. A Remington 700 with a stainless, fluted, heavy barrel in a wood laminate, thumbhole stock is a thing of beauty to me.
Anyway, moving on from looks, let’s chat about feel. Ergonomics are important. Here again, what’s good for one person won’t necessarily be good for another. If a gun don’t fit or feel right, you ain’t going to shoot it right. Take the Glock again. It feels like a plastic 2 x 4. Until recently, there was no way to fit it to different hand sizes. Some people really dig the grip angle. Others hate it. When you go looking for that first gun, try to find the gun that FITS you first before you find the gun that you think looks pretty. When my mother went to buy her first gun, we looked for hours and handled just about every available option at the gun show before she settled on the Ruger 10/22. I happen to like the Ruger 10/22 and will eventually have one of my own; however, the carbine version she purchased does not fit me the same way my Marlin Model 60 fits me.
I happen to have a fairly average sized hand with longish fingers. That sometimes makes trigger control a challenge for me as my trigger finger tends to stick out a tad more than it does for “normal” folks on most guns. A longer trigger reach is helpful; however, unfortunately, longer trigger reaches are usually associated with fatter/wider frames which my average sized palms don’t wrap around as easily. That’s one thing that’s frustrated me about the Sig for a long time. The trigger is in the right place for me, but the frame and grip width doesn’t allow to get a good handle on the gun. Yet another reason I am such a fan of the single stack 1911s. And contoured grips. They just feel right.
I think it’s time to really through a hand grenade into the mix and talk about caliber preferences. Setting aside the always fun and venerable .22LR round for a moment, I really don’t like nor do I have a need for anything smaller than a 9mm…and I really don’t like the 9mm either. For revolvers, I think the .38 Special/.357 Magnum chambering is perfect. It’s a good mix of low recoil, easy shooting, mild loads up to full power, excavate body cavities magnum rounds. I’ve shot my share of .44 Magnum rounds, and I have no need or desire for that kind of power. If you live in bear country, your experience may vary. For pistols, I like both the .40S&W and .45 ACP rounds. The .45 is hard to argue with in terms of making big freaking holes in soft targets while the .40 has certain advantages in magazine capacity and using velocity to balance the scales in the terminal ballistics department. For a dedicated carry pistol, I would choose the .40S&W every time. For rifles, I like the .223 for a small to medium sized, short to intermediate range round. A lot of people have commented on its supremacy as a varmint round, and it’s starting to get some attention as a home defense round. For anything bigger than a coyote or farther away than the end of the block, I’d have to go with the .308 as my rifle round of choice. I might choose the .30-06 as my second choice, but I really don’t think it gives me much, if any, advantage over the .308. For shotguns, there is no other load other than the 12 gauge as far as I am concerned.
What about other considerations like trigger pull, barrel length, etc.? As mentioned earlier, I think a revolver should have a 6 inch barrel. A pistol should have either 4 ¼ or 5 inches. Anything more than 6 inches just isn’t practical for anything but hunting in my opinion, and I’d rather use a rifle for that purpose. Anything shorter than 4 ¼ inches is going to be hard to make an accurate shot with outside of 7 yards. On a shotgun, I think 18 ½ inches on a house cleaner and 26 inches on a piece of field artillery are about right (although my 870 has a 28 inch barrel which I have found to be very useful). On a rifle, 20 inches is a minimum and 24 inches is a maximum. I’ve never been able to find anything to suggest that more or less than that it useful for accuracy which is the whole point in using a rifle to my way of thinking. Trigger pull should be no more than 5 pounds for me and 3 to 3 ½ would be preferable.
Safeties are an area that gets a lot of attention these days too. People want to say that too many safeties affect reliability by giving yet another point of potential failure. Others, including me, talk about guns getting “lawyered up” with safeties. Personally, I think safeties create a false sense of security which is an invitation for disaster. A gun is an inherently dangerous object just like a cordless drill, circular saw or other power tool. Freak accidents are going to happen just like they do with kids running through the halls with scissors. If you don’t learn how to handle the object safely in the first place, no amount of safety switches or other contraptions is going to prevent someone from getting hurt. I do believe that a gun should be designed that so that it is highly unlikely to go off “by itself” when dropped on the ground from a reasonable height (no more than 6 feet). The only other safety that is necessary is the one between the shooters’ ears. Obey the Four Rules of safe gun handling, and no one will get hurt.
This principle applies to magazine disconnect safeties as well. A gun should go bang when a booger hook pulls the trigger. It’s as simple as that. Especially in a “duty” or “carry” weapon. Anything that prevents the booker hook from making the boom stick go boom is useless. Like my grandfather said, there is nothing quite so useless as an empty gun. Except perhaps one that isn’t empty but won’t fire.
Ditto for integral key locks. Who thought those were a good idea?
It occurs to me that I haven’t discussed sights yet. Sight preference depends greatly on the intended purpose of the gun. A bead sight is more than adequate on a shotgun but near useless on a pistol. For a rifle other than a .22 plinker, a serious scope is a must (I’ll put a scope on a .22 for giggles, but it’s not a requirement). If I can’t see the target, I can’t hit the target. The better I can see the target; the better my chances of hitting the target. If they are close enough that I can see them clearly without a scope, they are close enough for me to use a handgun. For pistols, I am partial to the Novak adjustable three dot set up although I am getting to the point where a fiber optic front sight is a must. On revolvers, fully adjustable target sights are the only way to go.
So, what do you want in a gun?