Become Dangerous (Part 2)


Column by Paul Bonneau.

Exclusive to STR

I thought I’d update the previous article I wrote on this subject. This was prompted by, among other things, an article about “Shooting on a Shoestring" also posted at
The author likes the SKS for a defense carbine. They certainly qualify for shooting on a shoestring, and there is an undeniable utility in a semi-auto for this application. I’d like to add a few caveats, though.
I have never had one so can’t report from personal experience. I have read several mixed reviews of them; they are crudely made. If you buy one from a shop, try to get some kind of guarantee to fix any problem you run into with it. Anyway, the fact that it is cheap means no great loss if it doesn’t work well. Just sell it and move on...
Another potential problem is that the 7.62 x 39 (AKA “7.62 Soviet”) cartridge, while now common in this country, is not our military cartridge and is almost completely imported, I believe. Imported things, especially firearm things, are prone to having supplies cut off. So be sure to stock up. It may be hard to find this cartridge with anything other than FMJ (“full metal jacket”, i.e. non-expanding) bullets. These are poor for deer hunting, often even illegal, reducing the utility of the gun.
My final problem with this gun (and the AK-47 as well, which uses the same cartridge) is an aesthetic one. Now, humans are the tool-using animal, and the tools they like best are the finely crafted ones. It’s preferred that you like your gun, because you will take better care of it and practice more, which is a Good Thing--although some here may find the notion of liking a gun a bit strange. Well, the SKS and AK are difficult guns to like. They are as tough as nails, and about as appealing.
On the plus side, you can often find an SKS with a bayonet, heh.
In my earlier article I recommended a scoped bolt gun instead. This is slower-shooting than an SKS and too powerful (really) for inside home defense. But keep in mind that for many conceivable end-of-empire scenarios, ammo is likely to become very scarce and expensive, so having a gun that enforces more shooting discipline is not necessarily a bad thing. Make each shot count--don’t “spray and pray" like the cops do. Compared to having an SKS, a bolt gun does make you depend more on your handgun for in-home defense, no doubt about it. I suppose that is a drawback.
For bolt guns, I like the Savages (with “Accutrigger”), and many people like the Tikkas these days although I’ve never had one. But they all usually work pretty well, so it almost boils down to which gun you think is prettiest. Keep your scope in the 1x4 or 1.5x5 range; don’t let the salesman sell you a 4x12, for heaven’s sake.
The author spends some time discussing shotguns. I’m not into shotguns myself, but I know a lot of people are. My only (not particularly informed) advice is, forget the 12 guage and go with a 20 guage. That way your wife (if you have one) won’t be too scared to shoot it. No point in abusing yourself, either. I’m pretty sure a 20-guage stops an attack just fine, and you will probably be more accurate with it, which is all to the good. You just can’t use it for hunting geese, I suppose.
Not mentioned by that author nor by me, previously, is the possibility of a lever gun. One should consider it. You have a choice of pistol caliber (stick with .357 Mag or .44 Mag) in the Model 92 clones (of the Winchester 1892), or 1894 Marlins; or the rifle caliber (stick with .30-30) in the Model 94 Winchesters or 336 Marlins. No less an authority than Col. Jeff Cooper touted these guns for home defense, and with good reason. They are extremely handy, look nice and traditional, and are great for deer at short range. They also don’t scare the neighbors as much. Ammo is cheap. They can be found for quite reasonable prices on the used market. They are better either with a receiver (AKA “peep”) sight or a small red-dot sight; the standard barrel rear sight is “sub-optimal.” I prefer the Marlins. The Winchesters, particularly in the later years after the lawyers got into the action, operate too roughly for my taste (YMMV). See the Wikipedia article on pistol caliber carbines, which also mentions semi-auto types.
The more I think of it, the less sure I am to have steered you toward an AR-15 for your first centerfire (as opposed to rimfire or .22LR) rifle. It’s a bit much, really. It might be better to go through an intermediate step first, like a bolt gun or pistol caliber carbine. For longer range defense (say over 100 yards up to a max of 800 yards or so), or where deer is on the menu, or where precision target shooting is wanted, go with the bolt gun. For under 100 yards, where low cost and substantially better inside home defense usage is wanted, go with a pistol caliber carbine or a .30-30 lever gun. With some shopping on the used gun market, one might pick up both for the cost of a new AR-15, and the two together cover more bases than the AR-15 does.
The cost of a gun might strike you as higher than you like; but think about it. Buy a laptop, and it will be in the dumpster in 5 or 10 years. Buy a gun for the same price, and you will be handing it to one of your grandchildren, who will hand it to one of his, in time. And it might even save your life or theirs, which a laptop can’t do. It’s about the cheapest insurance you will ever find. Oh, and they make great trade goods when the dollar crashes.
By all means, do practice with your .22LR rifle before you take on the muzzle blast and recoil of a .308 Win bolt gun; otherwise you will develop a habit of flinching and jerking the trigger, and won’t be able to hit the broad side of a barn. Shooting is a “mind over matter” kind of sport. Also, see this article regarding training with a handgun. Note that it is possible to find people who practice handloading (I do it myself). If you do, you might work out a deal for low-cost ammo, and also have access to half-power loads, which have lower recoil and blast, and so are a lot of fun to shoot; not to mention being better for home defense due to reduced penetration. Never shoot without eye and hearing protection, except for real self-defense situations.
The author of that article mentions some disadvantages of buying through a shop, compared to private sales. It is in fact a “sorta” backdoor registration, and that is worrisome. I personally never let that stop me buying from a shop. The way I look at it is, if they ever use that information to come around and round up all the guns, then we are at war and the whole thing becomes moot. The guns will be delivered to the authorities, “bullets first,” as the saying goes. But it does bring up a point. If you are the type to hand your guns in when the government says so, either don’t buy any in the first place, or sell them on the private market before the government thugs show up on your doorstep. Don’t let them be melted down or turned into a U.N. sculpture!
Last point, go find yourself a mentor--even if you are not sure you want to get into guns at all. The easiest way is either to strike up a conversation at a gun shop, or talk to an olde farte neighbor (the one with the Bush bumper sticker still on his car). Just say, “Do you know anything about guns?” It’s a rare gun owner who will not be inviting you to the range or out to the boonies to try out his guns within the next 15 minutes. At least, I think so. This works particularly well if you are female, heh.
He will likely be full of bullshit ideas about which guns make sense and which ones don’t, but don’t worry about that. Just try out his guns and get your feet wet. You may find shooting fun and strangely addicting, as many former “hoplophobes” have reported. Soon you’ll be singing that old Beatles tune, “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” minus the sarcasm.
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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 106


Stratispho's picture

Paul, the only thing I would add is that the 12 gauge is a little more common if ammo becomes scarce, and with the knoxx recoil reduction stocks it's not an issue and the Mrs. can shoot a 12 gauge just fine. These stocks can be found for roughly $120 FRN's and are a simple install for anyone with a screwdriver.

Another good article, keep em coming.