In response to the gentleman who wants to own just one gun: Obviously, his mindset is biased against gun ownership. Nothing wrong with that, to each his own. But, I would suggest that he really needs to get his mind squared away before even considering buying anything. Once the bias is corrected, and he has made the decision that he really needs a firearm…..then have him go to his local gun store where they have a range, rent a 38 revolver, a box of shells, some ear plugs and muffs and have at it. I wouldn’t recommend starting with anything smaller. He would need to feel the power of the instrument to resolve his indecision. Most gun store owners will be glad to give him an introduction to the rented piece and show him how to point it downrange and pull the trigger!
Gun ownership is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. He should know this. He also should know that wanting a weapon “just because I think I should have one” is not a viable reason to assume responsibility for a piece of gear that can be used at the discretion of the owner in both a positive and a negative way.
From the sound of his letter, and not being derogatory, [I am making an assumption here]; he lives in a large city, has never hunted in his life, and doesn’t know the first thing about firearms. In that case, my recommendation for a “first ” firearm would be the Ruger GP-100 357 revolver. No bells and whistles, American quality, won’t blow up in your hand like some of this cheap imported cr*p will (I’ve been there), and when push comes to shove (life and death), there are no thoughts of releasing a safety , magazines or other buttons to push. Ammo is cheap, the ladies like shooting it with .38 [S&W cartridges] s chambered. Some even like it loaded with .357 [Magnum cartridges]. It is also very accurate. I recommend that he purchase the weapon legally at the local gun store, just in case he ever has to use it. Any time there is a weapon used in self-defense, the finger of blame is pointed at the shooter first and the shooter needs to be blameless in all aspects of the engagement. This is another topic in itself. [JWR Adds: That advice only applies in localities where there is mandatory registration for handguns. If it is legal to buy a gun from a private party without registration, then by all means avoid the paper trail!]
The most important thing he has to remember is once the trigger is pulled, you can’t ” take it back” . Ain’t no ‘do-overs’ when the primer gets slapped by the firing pin. Once he buys his weapon of choice, then he assumes responsibility for the use of the weapon.
Now, for the good stuff: If you have never used a firearm; take a course! [JWR Adds: I highly recommend Front Sight. I have witnessed how exceedingly patient and gentle they are with newbies. They turn even total incompetents into safe, well-trained, efficient shooters.] It is like driving a car. You just didn’t jump in one day and start driving down the expressway at the age of 16, or , if you did, you soon paid for the lack of training. Get trained to use the piece of gear. A firearm is simply another piece of gear that performs a specific task. – Bob in South Georgia.