Letter Re: Firearms Questions from a Distaff Newbie

Mr. Rawles:
I have been reading your blog and enjoy it very much. I have been stocking up and working at independence, but I am sadly lacking in the area of protection. I have been taught my whole life that guns are bad, evil, dangerous. I can barely bring myself to touch one. I shot a boyfriend’s handgun once many, many years ago but I really could barely stand holding it. I’ve never even let my children have toy guns or pretend to shoot people.

My youngest son (8 years old) has been given a real rifle and a box of bullets. (We now live in Mississippi where, “Every man’s got to have a gun.”) It says on the rifle: “Marlin, Model 60W Microgroove, Cal 22 LR Only.” I’m terrified to have the thing in the house but glad I won’t have to buy one. The world is changing. I know I must learn to protect myself and my family. So how do I start? How does one learn about something when you don’t even know what questions to ask? I have read articles about ammunition and types of rifles and guns but they could be speaking Martian for all the sense it makes to me. Thanks for your time. – KB

JWR Replies: First, let me congratulate you for your common sense in realizing that you need to defend yourself and your home, and that firearms are the best method–and in fact only adequate method–to do so. Chemical sprays and electric stun guns are notoriously ineffective and both require you to be at close quarters with your opponents which is not advised for anyone, especially females who are are generally at a disadvantage in close-quarters fighting. It takes many months or even years to be come adept with martial arts and/or edged weapons. And again, body size is a factor. By comparison, rudimentary firearms training can be taught in just a few days. I suggest that you first take a basic firearms training course from your local NRA-affiliated club. They often offer courses especially for women. They will teach you all of the basics including safe firearms handling, shooting stances, sight alignment, trigger control, types of guns, firearms terminology, and so forth. (You are right that the terminology seems arcane to newbies.) Once you have the confidence of completing that course, I’d recommend that you take a local concealed carry course. Then if you can afford it move on to more advanced training at a top-notch training organization like Front Sight. You will leave there shooting more confidently and more competently than 80% of the “trained professional” members of your local police department. I’m not kidding, you will!

Your son’s Marlin .22 rimfire rifle is a great gun for learning the basics, and to keep long term for pest shooting. But it is woefully inadequate for self defense. My advice to newbies on selecting guns for home defense is to buy both a shotgun (at least a 20 gauge, or preferably a 12 gauge if you can handle the recoil), and a semi-auto handgun of at least .40 caliber, preferably a Glock. Don’t let anyone talk you into an under-powered “ladies’ gun” such as a .25 ACP, .32 ACP, or .380 ACP. My wife (“The Memsahib”) shoots a .45 ACP, and loves it. For some details on firearms selection, see my Survival Guns static web page. But let me reiterate, contact the NRA. They have many special gun education programs available at low cost.

Oh, and FWIW, regarding your comment about toy guns: We’ve never let our children have toy guns or pretend to shoot people, either. They’ve been taught from a very early age what firearms are capable of doing, so they respect them but don’t fear them.