Col. Jeff Cooper wasn’t the first person to say “Beware of the man with one gun – he may know how to use it.” But he certainly popularized the adage. The idea is simple enough: it’s better to be really good with one gun than to be meh with a few. Yeah, I’m not buying it.

My first gun guru Wayne Buettner taught me that I should be able to pick up any handgun and be a more-than-reasonable shot with it. I’m still down with that. Aside from external safeties, handguns all work the same way. Grip, stance, breathing. Aim and squeeze the trigger.

In the main, I carry a Wilson Combat EDC X9. I pocket carry the Ruger LCP II. Or a Kahr MK9. My BBQ gun is a Smith & Wesson 686 4″. And I take a range of guns to the range, just because I can.

I can shoot any of these guns well enough. Meaning I’m confident in my ability to defend my life, my family’s life and other innocent life with any of them. As for shooting a gun with “ultimate” accuracy, it’s the Wilson.

Yes but — do I need a gun with which I can make a headshot at 15 yards or center mass beyond that? God I hope not. And if I don’t have it with me, I’ll do what I can do, knowing what I can’t do. (Not to mention knowing what’s beyond my target.) And I think that’s the most important consideration.

To paraphrase Dirty Harry, a man’s got to know his limitations. Which varies according to the gun and the situation. Beware of the man with a gun, says I. As the blowhard O’Reilly used to ask, what say you?

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78 Responses to CapArms Question of the Day: Beware of the Man With One Gun?

  1. I agree entirely, and I’ve mentioned this in argument with friends who argue about increasing the licensing standards for CHL/LTC/CCW/etc carriers, in the name of “Well… shouldn’t you know how to shoot before you can carry your gun around?”

    No! It doesn’t matter how far you can shoot- you just need to KNOW how far you can take that shot.

      • And in Magum Force he was pretty good with the dirty cop’s .357 at the shooting competition. I don’t remember if that was a 686 or a Colt.

        • Considering that the 686 didn’t come out until seven years after Magnum Force…I’m going with a Python.
          +1 if you can name the cartridge that Det. Callahan tells the dirty cop that he loads in his M29 (Hint:
          it is not a .44Mag)

        • Just a note, but I believe John Milius has said the “light special” was mostly a confusing error they didn’t pick up until it was too late in magnum force. It was supposed to be essentially a “special light magnum load.” Or To insinuate that his target loads were different from his duty loads.

      • Also a Model 70 .458 Win Mag in a shootout scene with Scorpio at an apartment complex. Callahan wasn’t very adequate with it. As the Duke once said, “Too much gun”.

  2. I take multiple guns with different calibers to the range and fire 20 to 30 rounds each. All because I can afford it.
    If you have a hand gun, shotgun and a rifle that’s three different $$$ costs right there.

      • I plan to put 50-100 through each firearm I take to the range. It’s out of the way and I intend to, at the very least, maintain my skill level. No rapid fire (unless I brought more ammo 🙂 )

        • I understand shooting slowly to work on mechanics and to see how accurate one can be, but don’t underestimate the need to practice more realistic shooting scenarios: rapid fire bursts (3-4 rounds at a time), quick target acquisition with multiple rounds on target, and shooting multiple targets quickly. Do the same drills one handed as well. I’m not suggesting hundreds of rounds, but a box or so each time at the range should help.

      • Give me more money. I’ll shot more rounds. I just shot 200 rounds for my first Defensive Pistol I class, this past weekend.

    • You must be buying factory premium ammo….I reload and cast bullets…rifle or handgun cost me under .10 cents per round (a primer and 5-15 grains of powder. I get wheel-weights .25 cents/lb)

    • I very rarely fire less than 200 rds per rifle/handgun at the range. Typically more than that. My girlfriend goes through the same amount, moreso in the handguns cause she loves her 9mm 1911. I budget money for factory and handloads to accommodate this consumption. I view it as an investment.

      • Even my wife who knows guns but doesn’t shot that much wants me to try reloading. I’m thinking about it at least for outdoor shooting.
        In door ranges don’t like reloads.

  3. Most of the “one gun” owners I know simply have a neglected shotgun, probably inherited, collecting dust in the back of their bedroom closet.

    Do good cooks only have one knife?

  4. Wasn’t Cooper was referencing the idea of the scout rifle? Which is ‘one gun if you could only have one,’ in which case being proficient with a second gun is out of the question since it’s not even available

    But always beware the man pointing one gun, a second gun is of no use to them

    Also stands to reason if you are remarkably good with your one primary gun you’ll be good enough with just about any other. But that’s true of practice with anything in life.

  5. Cooper was a buffoon and a moron most of the time and his articles were so outrageous the Liberals loved to read them for a good laugh and the Conservatives were too dumb to know how ignorant his articles often were.

    The real truth is that the “man with one gun” is either to cheap or to poor to own more than one. In either case he is not going to spend money on ammo to practice with and without practice he is not going to be very proficient with his weapon.

    People who have many guns have them because they can afford them and because they often like to shoot. True, you can have so many it may confuse you in a moment of crisis when you need to use them in a hurry i.e. does the gun have a safety, or is it double or single action etc. etc. But once you get them to fire the fact that you do shoot and you shoot a lot the chances of your connecting with the target are far greater than “the man with only one gun” who seldom if ever fires it.

    All this reminds me of the most “common man” that has only one gun, “the cop”. They also seldom use them and when they do a whole group of them have often unleashed simultaneously a deluge of mass firepower that would dwarf a WWI battle scene in a movie and the result is out of 100 shots fired (I am quoting from actual events) only one or two shots connecting with the target.

    No, do not beware of the man with one gun, he probably has not a clue on how to hit anything with it. He probably even forgot to chamber a round in it.

    • Yes screw the low income families they aren’t real gun owners and we don’t need or want them as part of our exclusive club

      Some of us, who couldn’t afford multiple high dollar firearms bought cheap milsurp stuff that shot cheap milsurp ammo. You can absolutely be proficient with a single gun without spending huge sums of money on the best most expensive ammo and the latest cutting edge equipment.

      • I’m pretty sure you are drawing the wrong conclusion from cisco, who is known for liking that sort of thing.
        Can single gun owners be quite proficient? Yes!
        Do passionate gun owners tend have more than one? Also yes.
        The two statements aren’t mutually exclusive, but I would consent that MOST people who are passionate about guns tend to have more than one.

        • I’m always happy to be wrong, usually means I learn something new, but Cisco clearly said a man with one gun is either too cheap or poor to practice enough. While that may be true for some people I know plenty of proficient shooters who love shooting and hunting but can’t afford much in the way of high quality equipment

          You don’t have to spend tons of money to love shooting and practice a lot

        • Yes, he did. He is also a troll, or at least an exhibitionist. He finds half-truths and inflates them to absurdity, with a healthy dose of conflating issues.

    • Or he could be a Vietnam veteran who was the best marksman in his Basic Training class and can still outshoot most of his descendants, even though he’s old and shaky now and they regularly practice and he never does.

      Whatever you do, don’t make him decide it’s time to get that old bolt-action .22 from the mudroom and take it out of its dusty canvas sleeve.

    • Nice trollin’. Never mind the generations of families that ate because they had one gun and could put food on their table because they were VERY proficient with it.

    • That’s why I don’t have any guns. I’ll just bitch slap you and take yours. I have lots of practice.

  6. Well, the buffoon Cooper may be gone, but we have cisco kid to give us pearls of wisdom, if not proper grammar.

  7. I don’t see how the number of guns a person owns would have any bearing on how well they can shoot.

    It’s a nice quotable phrase, though. Agree or disagree with Cooper’s philosophies, he was a hell of a writer and showman.

    • You cannot see that if a shooter has only one gun, then he might understand the quirks and trajectory of that one gun/cartridge combo better than if he has a closet full, but only shoots each one occasionally? Hmmmm…….

  8. I have one gun. With a young family and recent house purchase, buying more is not an option right now. I spend those limited resources maintaining proficiency with my one gun.

    • Looks like some form of military mauser. Looks like a large ring 98 mauser. No idea where. Could be German, Czech, Turkish, Columbian, Mexican, Brazilian, spanish. He has his hand over the back portion of the receiver so it could be a split rear ring (like a carcano design) and could be a Portuguese mauser also.

    • An M24/47 (Or potentially an M48) Yugo Mauser would be this one’s guess. Cabelas were getting them in awhile back. Is it no coincidence that he appears to be standing in front of a large sporting goods store?

      • Could be. But most yugo mausers are in good shape and I believe made of lighter color beech (stocks). This one that Robert has looks like a walnut stock stored in used motor oil for 80 years after digging it out of the ground and bead blasting the blood and rust off without rebluing.

        • Fair point. However, it appears as though both Esoteric Inanity and Anonymous were both half right. Cheers.

  9. There are specialists. A man that can run a shotgun and load and switch shells on the fly is a thing of beauty.
    And there are trap shooters out there that never…miss. they didn’t get that good practicing pistol or carbine drills.
    If your nickname is “Shotgun”, and you are holding a shotgun, I’m not fucking with you no matter what I’m packing.

  10. Be really aware of two. The one can fte, ftf, jam, break, accidentally dropped, sights fall off, etc. Now my bug would come into action very, very fast, no time outs. Suggest same make of gun model of gun and same ammo and interchangeable mags…..Be safe out there, hopefully never need them. Mine are glock 19 and Glock 26,

  11. i’m confident that most of us could pick up damn near anything and not “miss.”
    that which an individual is most familiar with is likely that with which he will perform best. exceptions include equipment that is inherently better that may improve individual performance, once adjustments are made.still the point is taken, albeit quaint.
    i’ve seen the local kids with home brewed equipment run circles around the newbies with the expensive new stuff.
    i don’t want to use your darts, pool cue or dirt bike. they’re almost certainly better than what i have but i’m more confidant running what i brung.
    i will try your rifle though.

  12. I agree to an extent. Buy one of each of the standard staples (bolt gun, 22, handgun, shotgun, AR/AK/whatever) and master those. Then it becomes “Beware the man with one handgun, one shotgun, and one rifle.” or something.

    • Beware the man with one eye. For he is king of the blind, and a bunch of blind men with guns could be a truly fearsome sight to behold. That is, provided that one can see to behold such a thing.

      • I likely would live to regret it. But if I saw a bunch of blind dudes with guns I’d drop a string of firecrackers and watch the hilarity ensue.

        • Now that, just made this one grin from ear to ear and lol. Thank you, it was exceptionally witty.

  13. Ya know, when SHTF comes, I don’t think we’ll be carrying our entire collection. I hate to bring it up, but the last person I can recall that tried (Chris Dorner) ended up dumping a bunch of them.

  14. “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” -Bruce Lee

    Guns are simple enough that I don’t think this line of thinking is applicable. A modicum of practice with a few different guns should be enough for you to competently use most guns you might come across. Of course, you could run into problems with one that just doesn’t fit your hand or is a piece of junk (the first generation LCP comes to mind for me) but generally speaking for a DGU you and the gun should still be good enough.

    That’s kind of the point of a gun. It’s an equalizer for the small, weak, infirm, elderly or the outnumbered. It wouldn’t be effective in that role if it was hard to figure out/use.

  15. Beware the little man who is subconcious; beware the big man who’s been asked to many times to be the “bigger” man just because he is. Beware driving slow in the left lane, then causing the people trying to pass to do 85 to get around you.

    Beware the liberal, progressive, socialist, communist, globalist POS (D) and assorted rinos.

    Beware anything that clouds the notion to “seek first the Kingdom of GOD”.

  16. I look at it like America’s Western-reaches settlers must have.

    “Be Handy”, at the very least, it’ll help you, next best, it’ll make you more acceptable to others. One day, when the LORD allows us to go out into the universe, you’ll want to be handy with a lot more than just guns, and you won’t get to pick what’ll be handy at the time.

    It might not be ‘your bag’ to know of the operations or use of certain firearms, but it still might serve you to at least ‘knock the mystery’ off their operations/function and use.

  17. How ever many guns you have, you need to be so familiar with the one you’re going to use to defend you life that you can operate it in the dark, during an adrenaline dump, two seconds after being woke up.

    I decided that my home defense shotgun would be an autoloader. Not that there’s anything wrong with pump guns, but because I’m used to semi-auto pistols, shotguns and rifles. That’s my own personal muscle memory. I don’t want to die because I forgot to pump another round in.

    Regardless how many guns you have, practice with your defensive firearms enough that you can safely and reliably operate them on instinct alone.

    • And there are many cases where folks like that survived their encounters with the bad guys. Many times the bad guys did not.

      Many of those folk are 75+ years old.

  18. I think it could go either way.

    Some people have a single firearm “just in case” and it sits in a drawer, closet, case, etc. until the person dies or has a home invasion, whichever comes first. In other words, they never practice with it or even handle it. Their proficiency is probably limited to engagements at 15 feet. (And they would not know how to deal with a firearm malfunction.)

    Other people have a single firearm and are very good with it. They know how it shoots. They know how different types of ammunition shoot. And they know how they shoot. Those are the people that you should definitely leave alone.

    Still other people are pretty darned proficient with multiple firearms. They have a combination of natural talent and lots of hours of practice.

  19. Oh, I like those religious disputes! All those ancient quotes credited to people who, should the be alive, would have been mightily amused by scale of discussion.

    (Y’know, Deuteronomy 22 prescribes cruel and unusual punishment (i.e. stoning) for a woman who was raped within city borders, because she apparently failed to wringle out enough decibels of loudness to attain help. It is fucking sacred text or something, not forum post. and how relevant it is!)

    Not ot mention we have just survived productive and rational external safety debate.

  20. I disagree. The man with one gun is typically not a shooter, and has a 5 shot snubby that just sits in his dresser drawer.

  21. Beware the man with one gun. He probably knows how to use it.

    Beware also the man with many guns because he probably knows how to use all of them.

  22. I tend to agree. I have more than one gun but recently I downsized my collection to simplify my ammo needs, lower my overhead and maximize my training time. I previously had a 1911, Walther PPQ and two .357s. After taking some training classes with my 686 and found it was impossible to maintain muscle memory for three different platforms. So, now I have a duty sized .357, a snubnose .38, shotgun, rifle, carbine, and a pistol caliber carbine.

    The things you own end up owning you.

  23. I’ve never quite agreed with the “man with one gun” cliche.

    A true marksman can pick up any given firearm and perform with it. Can’t count how many times I’ve seen forum posts about always shooting their 1911 great but sucking when they buy a Glock or a DA/SA SIG. Well, yeah, the 1911 trigger is very forgiving. Start with the long DA or gritty striker and see how much better you are with a 1911.

    I’m no bullseye shot or anything, but I am the guy my buddies hand their new pistol to when they think it’s not shooting right. Only one was found to be the pistol, a Walther PPK that the original owner must’ve drifted the rear sight to compensate for their lack of fundamentals.

    Know how to shoot any firearm well. Have a favorite by all means, but don’t use one particular one as a crutch.

  24. There was a time when guns were priced in such a way many was an extravagant luxury but owning one was an expensive necessity. The men in the latter category tended to be the ones who knew how to use them.

    That’s not really the case anymore. The quote isn’t worthless, though: someone who trains with one gun will probably be better off in most situations than someone who trains that same amount spread out over many guns, assuming you pick the right ‘one gun.’

  25. I think a lot of the commenters have a misconception of the message that Cooper was trying to convey. I believe that what Cooper was trying to express was a shooter that was highly proficient with his rifle. Most likely this only really comes into play when extended ranges are involved. Yes most shooting enthusiasts can pick up a variety of rifles and make hits at average distances no problem. Once you extend the ranges to the limits of the rifles capabilities things change. If you know your rifle and you know the trajectory of the projectile you’re using and you know how to adjust your particular scope for that trajectory and windage it says a lot about the skill the rifleman has.

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