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When it comes to weapons selection, TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia doesn’t want someone telling them what they do or do not “need.” Laws that attempt to draw a line in the shifting sands of civilian gun ownership—regulations that limit magazine capacity, type of operating action, barrel length, whether or not there’s a shoulder thingie that goes up, etc.—are an arbitrary nonsense. They have no practical impact on society’s criminal class. What’s more, they’re a slippery slope to the pre-Heller D.C. deal (no handguns, no good-to-go long guns). Even so, as gun buyers, we have to make choices. How do you decide the difference between “need” and “want”? Looking at your inventory, what’s the split? And while we’re at it, how much ammo do you need? Cue: the Rolling Stones and h/t to thefirearmblog for the heads-up on the latest-must have pistol.

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  1. Simple distinction, in most cases.

    A “want” is something inexpensive that I just go out and buy.

    A “need” is what a more costly “want” becomes after I’ve put some careful thought into justifying the expense.

  2. A need serves a purpose, a want does not, in my eyes. For example, my most recent purchases. I needed the M&P because I needed a carry weapon, and it served best when I was trying guns out despite not being what I truly wanted (sorry, USP!). I wanted the mare’s leg because it was cool, but had no practical purpose that I needed it for.

    Of course, wanting just what you need and needing just what you want is a virtue, albeit a boring one.

  3. I tend to be very good at KISS when it comes to firearms.

    The tough decisions involve accessories, whether it be something “nice to have” but not essential for the range, or a time saver for the reloading bench. I find the reloading bench to be the toughest area to make decisions, because usually what you are paying premiums for is efficiency…things that work the first time every time. For example, there are days the wife and kid are away and I can put the radio on and listen to the game and trim a few hundred rifle cases in a $12 Lee Zip Trim. But then there are times when time is short and a couple hundred bucks for a power trimmer seems like a good investment.

    • Alot of the increased speed is illusory as well unless you are going to have a dedicated progressive press for every caliber. I can load a hundred rounds on a single stage by the time I get my progressive set up just so. Luckily, my cheap practice loads in 9mm,.38 Super, .38 Special and .357 are virtually identical and I can just swap out the die plates.

  4. This is typically the same question posed to ANYONE….purchasing ANY product….but for some reasons…..shooting enthusiast get a bad wrap for.. For example……..

    I collect because I enjoy shooting. I enjoy the aesthetics of a finely crafted pistol or rifle. Personally…my tastes lean toward the sci-fi look. But I still have a strong appreciation for classics; currently I am contemplating a nice lever action. I also enjoy marksmanship and tactical shooting.

    AND of course, I want guns I can use to protect the family in case of some type of apocalyptic scenario…..(QUE THE EYE ROLLING).

    You see, should a gun enthusiast mention the latter, as a reason behind their need or want for a Honey Badger, .50 CAL BMG, or anything fully automatic, to the general public…and the eye rolling begins.

    Right before the same public jumps into that 400HP, 7 mpg, 16 seater Monster truck, they deem necessary, for their daily ride through the rough terrain of their gated community, and the treacherous roads they travel when heading to StarBucks.

    Meh…I shouldn’t need to justify why I spend my hard earned money on anything. I wanted everything in my collection, because for one reason or another, I thought I might need it.

    And my answer to how much ammo I have…will always net you the same answer….”Not enough. Never enough.”

    • I rolled my eyes, just for you. (at the apocalyptic scenario bit, not the honey badger or the BMG). Thanks for the cue.

      • I thought I heard the sound of eyes rolling.

        Rolling Eyes sounds like someone fisting a commercial sized jar of mayonaise.

        Which, according to South Park, is also the way necropheliac activities sound .

  5. So far I haven’t needed any of the guns I own. I want them because I may need them, although I don’t ever want to need them.

    On the other hand, the desire to own guns for fun has a purpose. It fulfills a need to think and move proficiently in area where order meets disorder. I buy the fun gun and use it to direct the raw power of the gunpowder behind the bullet to the target. I do this and it helps prepare me mentally and physically for the day when I might need to use the power of the purely functional gun to fend off the disorder that threatens me and mine. It’s fun to shoot stuff, that gets you to the range and that, as Martha would say, is a good thing. So want and need can overlap.

    There is also something programmed into our nature to envision and craft the functional object in increasingly innovative and artful ways. We strive to do our work well and we admire those who elevate their work to the level of art. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Guns can be beautiful and functional at once (are you listening, Gaston?) and this often creates a desire for the instrument that goes beyond its primary purpose. When a design seamlessly combines form and function it’s almost magic. It’s not strictly necessary, but it is more fulfilling and it encourages us to achieve more because we instinctively respond in a positive way to excellence, and in that sense we seem to need it.

    I can’t back my opinion up with hard evidence, but in my twenty or so years as a craftsman I have seen this many times both in myself and in others. My two cents.

  6. The problem here is it’s very easy to disguise a “want” as a “need.” Let’s be real here — a subtext to the caliber wars, AK vs AR, etc., is to justify to ourselves the “need” for another toy.The gun industry exploits our natural envy and lust for new, shiny things the same as every other industry — or as we call it in the marketing business, “creating aspiration.” They got us all to buy pocket .380s — a very handy tool I might add — so now they have to gut us to buy pocket 9s. We all have DGIS ARs, now let’s convince everyone they need a piston system.

    I know this as well as anyone else. I went through a year buying all kinds of guns to fit certain “niches” — 5.56 for light SHTF urban warfare, 7.62×39 for really bad SHTF urban warfare, .308 for SHTF run for the hills scenario, ad infinitum. Well the S did HTF — on my credit card! I had to sell off a lot of my guns once I came to my senses. In the end, if you’re a toy buyer leveraging yourself for a “necessary” gun, you’re no different than a liberal government or an OWSer up to his eyeballs in school loans. (If you don’t go into debt buying .50 BMGs, well I guess you’re the 1%!)

    And let’s *really* be honest — if the situation ever arises where having a 6.8 instead of a 5.56 makes the difference, my goose is cooked anyhow. For most of us civilians, any gun past your third one is probably a toy or objets d’art.

  7. Rudyard Kipling: “A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition”.

  8. Everything I currently own has a specific purpose, though some get far more use than others. I’ve got my deer rifle (7-08), my upland shotgun(16g), my house gun (9mm), my carry gun (.38), a .22 pistol for plinking/practice/camp gun, and a .22 rifle for squirrel, rabbit, and the like. Next on my list is an AR-15 (the least useful of the lot when I get it, but a lot of fun) and another shotgun for trap. I wouldn’t buy a gun I couldn’t shoot, and I wouldn’t spend much money on a gun I couldn’t shoot a lot.

  9. After my fifth handgun stuff got a little “I know its a stretch but I really like it going bang!” A pistol for the house, car, carry, pocket carry, range plinking (.357 SIG costs too much to plink with). After that it started branching off into those questions that didn’t “need” an answer. I wanted to own a 1911, wanted a showpiece, and have bought and sold enough weapons to get my gun nut qualification.

    My next weapon I am buying because its a good deal and I considered it before the deal came up. It’s not a cheap caliber to shoot (.45 ACP), its not carry friendly as it could be so its not replacing my G23, and its not a gift for anyone else. It’s just going to be around and I will shoot and carry it for fun.

    Ammo, every pistol caliber has 300-800 stockpiled that I don’t mess with (not counting the ammo I keep in easy reach) and replenish if I dip in it for a range trip. My .308 has 600 for SHTF day. My shotgun…its like 200 evenly mixed between bird shot, slugs and magnum 00 and 000 Buckshot, 12 gauge. If I need more than that its time to scavenge because there ain’t no way I can lug it all outside of loading down my car.

  10. I usually answer that question by asking “what makes that any of your frickin’ business?”

    But for those of inquiring minds with 60s hippie roots, I will quote the esteemed moral philosopher Bob Dylan:

    “And then Ruthie says come see her, in her honkytonk saloon,
    where I can watch her waltz for free, ‘neath the Panamanian moon.

    And I say, oh come on now, you know you know about my debutante;
    And she says your debutante just knows what you need, but I know what you WANT.”

    The question of whether I need a gun is irrelevant. Do I want it? Can I afford it? Why is that anyone else’s business, since it’s my money and my decision?

    • Gun site here buddy, no need to get all defensive. I swear, it’s like Post Clinton Traumatic Stress Syndrome. We’re all gun nuts here, else we wouldn’t be commenting on this site. I’ll be first in line to defend all of our rights to whatever crazy firearm we want to play with, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a more sober approach to personal purchases, and there’s nothing wrong with discussing it here.

  11. One rifle and two handguns for every shooting-age member of the family with as much ammunition as you can afford for each.

  12. I am with Tarrou. In my own mind everything I own has a purpose. My go to gun is my Springfield Milspec. Earlier this year I bought a SIG 1911-22 for low cost practice with a gun that the same sight picture and feel of my primary defensive weapon. I few months ago I bought an XDm Compact 9 for carrying in polite company. My wife has an M-9 that due to her work location she only uses for home defense.

    I just have four long guns. Two Remington 700s in 270 and 308 for hunting. Two 22lr, a bolt action Savage for coon hunting and a Model 64 as a self defense carbine for the house.I need them because they have a “purpose” although objectively the “purpose” is self generated. Now if I go out an buy a new bolt action 243, an AR or an M-1A that is a want. They have minimal utility or are redundant because I satisfied the requirement with another firearm.

  13. I really want to never need any of my 20+ guns. I have and keep each one because I know that I dont always get what I want.

    I keep 500 rounds of match grade ammo in six calibers (including .338 Lapua). I have more than 20,000 rounds of military grade 5.56 and 7.62×51. I buy more just about every month. Crazy thing is, I don’t think I’m the least bit paranoid or over zealous.

  14. My family used to have 3 farms and I had many of the guns I now own for pest control and hunting. Some of the guns could also be used for self defense.
    I view pump 12 or 20 gauge shotguns and .22 rifles as more or less a necessity. Having a .22 kit type handgun is a necessity. A good defensive pistol is probably a necessity. I view my .243 788 rifle as a necessity for pest and predator control.

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