As some of you may have noticed, I am not any sort of expert on guns. In the late 1970s, I shot a rifle, probably a .22, for about an hour at a strictly-monitored scout range. My brothers were scouts and webelos, and my Dad was a scoutmaster, so they brought me along as a guest. Some kid shot out of turn, and probably lost his merit badge, but I put most of my rounds into the paper circles, and was rated a marksman. That was it. That was my only shooting experience. The slogan of the time was, “Get the guns off the streets,” and people I hung out with spent money on other things than guns.
Around 2005, my interest in New Urbanism led me to various Peak Oil websites, which if you haven’t been, are home away from home to many doomer & survivalist personalities. To those folk, you have no future unless you carry guns – the bigger and badder, the better. I recall one of them writing, “After TSHTF, I will not hesitate to shoot you and your pregnant wife if you show up at my door looking for food.”
After the debacles of first, Hurricane Katrina and then, the $147/bbl oil spike, and now, the Great Recession, it certainly seemed that the energy depletion crowd was on to something, and I began to mull the idea that owning a weapon might be a necessary precaution. Along with concerns about energy and conservation, I have been slowly educating myself on the subject of firearms, and trying to decide what (if anything) makes sense for me in the arms race that is gun ownership in the USA.
TTAG’s Brad Kozak has been helpful on the subject, but some of his other articles worry me. Costs are rising and there may even be shortages, so I don’t want to settle on some gun requiring finicky, expensive, or hard to find cartridges. A lot of review sites assume a certain familiarity with ammunition, but it is a bit of a minefield for me, so I’m looking for feedback.
If all I wanted was cheap target practice, .22 LR rimfire ammo would seem to be the obvious choice. I gather that I can buy inexpensive boxes that will fit a variety of rifles and pistols. I might do that first, but I’m also looking down the road.
There are plenty of .25 ACP caliber pistols out there, but I still remember some detective novel in which the hardboiled private dick called it, “a Ladies Gun.” Bond’s Beretta 418 notwithstanding, my impression is that a lot of .25 ACP caliber semi-autos come to market as cheap, easily-concealed, almost throwaway guns. But I could be wrong.
Well-made .32 ACP Walthers, KelTecs, SIGs and Berettas seem to be popular as concealed-carry handguns. I work in the wrong city to even try for a concealed carry license but I also read a lot of caveats about inadvertent firing, and jamming in some of these slim handguns.
In today’s weapon literature, .38 and 9mm seem to be the consensus low-end caliber for a serious defensive weapon. Ladies Guns are now the formidable LadySmiths by Smith & Wesson, in .38 Special, .357 Magnum and 9mm. While some suggest that a criminal will probably run away after the first shot, more promote the idea that you have to be able to incapacitate a determined assailant with the first shot. Take that, Dick Dastardly.
Stopping power is a grim subject, but interesting for involving ogive meplats. Ogive is a term I know from pointed-arch windows in Gothic architecture, but also refers to pointed-nose bullets – which move through the body instead of expanding, thus having poor stopping power. Assuming that you aren’t the one sticking a gun in someone’s back or face, you are supposed to want stopping power from a decent range. However, larger calibers like .45 ACP & .44 Magnum seem so powerful as to threaten people far beyond, or even through, your target.
Having taken a few math courses, I assumed that .380 was just a more precise expression of .38. But since I’ve been looking into weapons of different calibers, I have found that numbers only get you to the neighborhood where a given cartridge resides. After that you have to know someone:
.38 ACP (.38 Auto)
.380 ACP (9x17mm Browning Short)
.38 Super Auto (higher pressure .38 ACP)
.38-40 Winchester (.38 WCF)
A local gun shop site (local to our second home), East Coast Gun Sales, only carries .38 Special and .380 Auto, which I gather is the same as .380 ACP, but is not the same as .38 ACP or .38 Auto. William Montgomery mentioned that .38 Special was more robust than .380 ACP. So I could see getting a .38 Special revolver, feeling comfortable I could get ammo for quite a while.
There are a lot of 9mm lengths, but I have noticed that a lot of name brand semi-automatic pistols are available as 9x19mm Parabellum. East Coast only sells 9mm Luger and 9mm +P. The high pressure +P cartridges are two or three times as expensive, and I wonder if their production relies on a robust economy and if the high pressure leads to more maintenance. Ordinary 9mm Luger seems like a pretty safe bet, though.
Of course, for defense, you can’t ignore shotguns, but I’ll wait for the book.