I have said repeatedly that it is a fundamental necessity that the American people keep and bear arms. And to “bear arms” means carrying a firearm with you wherever you go. America’s most recent mass shootings serve as additional exclamation points behind that statement.
As an author, columnist, radio talk show host and pastor who is outspoken in my support of the Second Amendment, I often receive inquiries from people asking for my personal preferences regarding firearms. This column is devoted to answering some of those inquiries.
I’m sure this column will not provide anything new for the firearms aficionados out there. However, we are living in a violence-prone society, and more and more people (especially ladies) who never paid much attention to guns before are sensing the need to arm themselves but often don’t know where to start. I hope this column helps these folks.
First, let me emphasize that I am not a firearms expert. And I strongly urge you to receive as much instruction and training from a firearms professional as possible. Second, when it comes to a discussion of which firearms are preferable, the suggestions are as varied as the people who proffer them.
Most people who are armed nowadays are carrying concealed. Disgustingly, some states do not allow people to legally carry openly. Fortunately, that is not true here in Montana where I live, and I often carry open - as do many people in this great State. However, most of the time, I am carrying concealed, as I think it better that the bad guy does not know who among his intended victims is able to shoot back. If you are planning to carry a concealed firearm, you will need to carefully consider the kind of clothing you are wearing and how the firearm will fit in with your attire. For most people, concealed carry requires firearms that are - to one degree or another - somewhat diminutive.
My personal preference for a self-defense handgun is a Glock pistol. Glock pistols are almost as simple as revolvers to operate, reliable, and practically indestructible. Plus, they provide increased magazine capacity and are safe. They are also very easy to disassemble and clean. And most importantly, they go "bang" when you pull the trigger. Some ladies might find the Glock grips to be a little bulky for their hands - except for the Glock 42 and 43, which most ladies should find quite comfortable. But most women should be able to safely and confidently shoot the majority of Glock 9mm pistols.
Popular options in Glock pistols include the Glock 42 in .380 ACP; Glock 17, 19, 19X, 26, 43, and 43X in 9mm Luger (also called 9mm Parabellum or 9x19); the Glock 22, 23, and 27 in .40 Smith & Wesson; the Glock 21, 30, 30S, 36 and 41 in .45 ACP; and the Glock 20 and 29 in 10mm Auto.
When I am carrying concealed, I’m usually carrying the Glock 43X. (The older I’ve gotten the lighter my sidearms have gotten. Ha. Ha.) But I also sometimes carry the Glock 19 or the Glock 30S. In my younger days, I carried the Colt Combat Commander in .45 ACP, and I still carry one (or a Kimber) when the mood strikes me. (Springfield Armory also makes good 1911s.) Who doesn’t love a 1911? However, I don’t recommend 1911 pistols for beginners.
My wife prefers to carry a Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver in the snub-nose, J-frame configuration. This is primarily due to the reduced weight and size of these weapons for carry purposes. Plus, she just prefers a revolver over a semi-auto. And, yes, I sometimes carry a snub-nose as well.
Snub-nose revolvers generally have a poor reputation for accuracy due to their very short barrels. And the reduced 5-shot capacity turns off some people. However, 70% of self-defense fights take place at a distance of 2 yards. As such, a snub-nose is very adequate for the task. In addition, most self-defense fights are settled with 3 shots being fired, so, statistically speaking, 5 shots are normally enough to defend oneself.
I sometimes carry a Glock 42 in .380 ACP (6 shots) as a backup. When I do carry a snub-nose revolver, it is usually a Smith & Wesson 340 M&P or a Ruger LCR, which are built for the .357 Magnum and .38 Special cartridges. And when carrying the snub-nose, I’m usually loaded with .38s. The .38 Special and 9mm Luger are comparable in power.
But, honestly, the best snub-nose revolver on the market these days might be the Kimber K6s. The trigger is sweet (like Smith & Wesson triggers used to be), and it holds 6 rounds instead of 5. The K6s is an all-steel revolver and is, therefore, a little heavier than most snub-nosed handguns (23 ounces empty). But the extra weight of the K6s makes shooting the .357 magnum round more comfortable than the lighter weight versions. And shooting the .38 round in the K6s is downright pleasant.
And, yes, for some people, a revolver might still be the preferred handgun. It has no external magazine to worry about losing; it is very dependable and reliable; it is easy to clean, and it is simple to operate. NYPD expert Frank McGee says the typical police gunfight conforms to a “rule of three” - 3 rounds, 3 yards, and 3 seconds. So in most real-life situations, the increased firepower of a high-capacity magazine doesn't even come into play.
Of course, if confronted with multiple attackers or a heavily armed would-be mass shooter, those extended magazines in Glock and similar pistols would be much appreciated.
The most important factor in choosing a self-defense handgun is finding the one that you carry and shoot well. I shoot Glock pistols very well; and I find them comfortable to carry, which is why I usually carry them. Find the handgun that YOU shoot well. The caliber is not nearly as important as your ability to put the bullet where you want it to go.
Since I live in dangerous game territory, I will mention the need to defend oneself against a brown bear. In dangerous game territory, you will need the power of a 10mm Auto, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .45 Long Colt, or even a .454 Casull. These calibers are not for the limp-wristed, but when one is facing a brown bear, it is what one will need to survive. (Bear spray is a joke.) Plus, when your life's on the line, you’ll never feel the recoil. When I’m in the woods hiking or hunting, I’m usually carrying a Glock 20 in 10mm or a Smith & Wesson 629 in .44 Magnum with a 3” barrel and the Kimber K6s in .357 Magnum as a backup.
But, truthfully, I would hate to face a brown bear (which includes the Grizzly and Kodiak) with a handgun of any caliber. These creatures are the fiercest and most formidable animals on the North American Continent (along with the Polar Bear, of course). Against a brown bear, I would hope I had a .45-70 Government rifle or a 12-gauge shotgun handy.
But I spoke with a man recently who, sadly, has had to kill several Grizzlies in his line of work, and he swears by the .357 Magnum. So there you go.
But, folks, make no mistake about this: Except against brown bears, semi-automatic rifles are the most essential tool for self-defense, which is why totalitarians in government want to ban them.
For a semiautomatic rifle, I suggest an AR-15 or Ruger Mini-14 in 5.56 NATO (they also fire the .223 Remington cartridge) or a Springfield M1A or AR-10 in .308 Winchester. My personal choice here is the AR-15. Daniel Defense makes some of the best AR rifles in the world, but they are quite pricey. Other good AR brands include Armalite, Bushmaster, Colt, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Windham Weaponry, and several others. Most ladies will find that the low recoil of an AR-15 or Mini-14 will make the rifle very pleasant to shoot. No home should be without one of these rifles.
I repeat: NO HOME SHOULD BE WITHOUT ONE - OR MORE - OF THESE RIFLES.
Of course, a 12-gauge shotgun is the premier close-range weapon. Nothing equals it. In a pump shotgun, I prefer a Winchester Model 1300, which is not made anymore. So, you’ll probably have to choose between Mossberg and Remington. In the semi-auto configuration, I prefer Mossberg shotguns. And don’t discount 20-gauge shotguns. The 20-gauge has less recoil than a 12-gauge, and at “bad breath” range (where a shotgun shines anyway), the 20-gauge is just as lethal as a 12-gauge. And for home defense, don’t overlook the double-barrel shotgun. And while I often use a .410 gauge shotgun for hunting small game, I do not recommend it for self-defense.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: A very good book to read concerning self-defense with a gun is by Massad F. Ayoob, called IN THE GRAVEST EXTREME. Everyone should read it, concerning self-defense and firearms. Life is serious business, and protecting oneself is as basic a "right" as any we have inherent in our God-given rights. Protecting yourself, your family, and your country is the story of the history of man in many ways.]