You can slot guns into several categories. Some guns may fit in more than one category, but no gun covers them all. Here are the categories as I see them:
Practice Guns: This pretty much describes any gun that can shoot a .22lr round. The basic rule for this category: a gun must be cheap to fire. You buy a gun from this category so you can go out on a Saturday and throw 200 or more rounds down range without spending the entirety of the previous day’s paycheck. Why do you need one of these? Everyone needs to practice, if you never practice you won’t be ready for when you need to shoot. But you don’t always want to practice with a “real” gun that fires ammo that can cost as much as $15 a round or more . . .
Hunting Guns: This category contains any gun legal for hunting in or around your neck of the woods. Obviously, the best guns for this category are hunting rifles. But a Mosin is a legal hunting rifle in most parts of the U.S. (actually well suited and used to hunt polar bears). Equally obvious: the point of one of these guns is to kill Bambi’s mom, or some other animal you intend to eat. Special note on this category: there are lots of different subcategories here (e.g. varmint guns, big game guns, elephant guns, etc.). But for this article I’m just lumping them all together.
Why do you need one of these? Well, to hunt of course. You may say “but I am not a hunter Andy, so I don’t need one.” Well neither am I—until my family finds themselves starving. Then it’s sorry Bambi but the kids gotta eat and your mom looks scrumptious. So I own two hunting guns that never get used for actual hunting. Just in case.
Handguns: The primary purpose for a handgun: it can be carried easily and therefore used in an emergency to help buy you enough time to get to a rifle.
Why do you need one of these? For the smallness of it! Handguns can be placed on the hip or even in a pocket; they are easy to carry without getting in the way. They can even be concealed. And since always having a rifle is not practical, the handgun lets us carry something in those situations where we can’t have a rifle or just didn’t have one.
Shotguns: These are guns that don’t require much aim, but have a limited range and penetration. Often also used in hunting. They are the ideal weapon for home defense.
Why do you need one of these? Well, nothing says get the hell out of my house like the sound of actioning a pump shotgun. And if they don’t leave, the shotgun lets you take them out without killing the kid in the next room.
Assault rifle: These are your shorter range smaller caliber rifles like the AK or AR. They often can use large magazines and are usually fairly light and maneuverable.
Why do you need one of these? Because they are maneuverable and have larger magazines, they are great for taking out the bad guy on the front lawn. Way better at it than the shotgun or handgun unless you have a really small front yard. The tradeoff: they are less than ideal for cleaning up any that make it into the house.
Battle Rifle: These are your larger caliber less maneuverable rifles. Their main benefit is their range.
Why do you need one of these? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want badguys in my front yard, that is already too close for my liking. This lets me take out the badguys when they first turn down my street.
Sniper Rifle: These are the big boys that are designed to really reach out and touch someone. The tradeoff is they are pretty much useless at close ranges, and better used when wielded like a club for home defense.
Why do you need one of these? You probably don’t. But they are fun, and if you live by a river, lake or on the side of a valley or anywhere else where you have extremely long view ranges then they can come in handy.
Now, I would say you should get one of each of these categories before buying multiples in a category, except for maybe the sniper rifle. You need to prioritize your acquisition order the way that makes the most sense to you. I started with a handgun. Then I got the rest in this order: shotgun, practice gun, battle rifle, sniper rifle, hunting rifle, and finally assault rifle.
I love sniper rifles, so the battle rifle was a Dragunov which is almost a sniper, but still technically a battle rifle. My first sniper was a .338 lapua, and when I bought it I knew I should be getting an assault rifle first, but my love for snipers overtook me.
My first hunting rifle was a K98 and only reason I got it before the assault is it was like $150 and in great condition (plus I was planning to scope it and make it a sniper rifle as well). Now, guns come and go, but I always keep at least one of every category and lots of the snipers (they almost never go, only come).
Most people get an assault rifle first or near the beginning.
Why do I think you need one of each? Well, it is for worst case scenario. In other words, the zombie apocalypse. I want to be able to hit zombies getting in a boat across the river; for that I would use the sniper rifles. When they turn down my street I would use a battle rifle to pick them off. If they get to my front yard then the assault rifle. If any manage to get in my house, that’s what the shotgun is for.
The practice gun is for keeping my skills up without breaking the bank. The hunting rifle is for keeping meat on the table. And the handgun is for getting to the others when the Zombies first arrive on scene.
They are all guns, many fall into the “black” category, but they are all different tools meant for different things. Assault rifles suck for taking them out across the river, but snipers suck at take them out in the front yard, though both are considered “black guns.”