By Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
You know who you are. You're a "philosophical libertarian" or "philosophical anarchist." You might think of yourself as a bit bookish or intellectual. You tend to express yourself through words rather than action.
You have a philosophical agreement, perhaps including some discomfort, with the right to bear arms. You either don't own a gun, or the only one you have is an old .22 rifle you inherited from your grandfather which you shot once 15 years ago; it is now sitting forlorn, rusting in the closet.
You are not a full-blown pacifist (all such may check out at this point). You have run certain scenarios through your head and they have all come out badly, when you are honest about it.
Your problem is that you are not dangerous. This article is intended to help you remedy that. I know, this sounds ambitious; but bear with me.
OK, why be dangerous? Isn't non-violence always better?
I am not arguing for violence on your part, but for the capacity for violence, when such is called for. There is some difference there. To bring up an example, think of the stereotypical peaceful kung-fu master from TV or the movies, walking around spreading good and kindness. He avoids or deflects any dispute he can, but finally there is no way to get out of the climactic fight, usually to protect a weaker or smaller person.
After all, what are you going to do if someone breaks into your house (remember those scenarios that turned out badly)? What is a man for, if not for defending his family? I would go so far as to say that is his primary function for his family.
Strange though it may seem, one does not give up being peaceful by becoming dangerous. In fact, the reverse is usually true. When I started carrying a gun, I noticed that slights, perceived or real, that formerly would have gotten me into a threatening stance if not outright fighting, no longer bothered me--it was like water off a duck's back. I no longer had anything to prove; I knew I could take care of myself and my family. And this is no rare effect--I've seen it remarked upon frequently when people have told about taking up concealed carry of a firearm. It is the natural result of becoming dangerous.
Even Gandhi, the individual most cited by peaceful people, wrote, "Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest." His genius of course, was taking these lemons the British handed him, and turning them into lemonade. Nonviolence worked so well there because Indians were basically rendered incapable of responding violently to British provocations (which might have short-circuited any gains made nonviolently). However, Americans will not be disarmed. This is not the British Raj.
Another reason to become dangerous: we may be thought by the ruling class to be their farm animals , but they will treat us better if we are dangerous, than if we are not. As Machiavelli put it, "Among other evils caused by being disarmed, it renders you contemptible." It's definitely not good to be thought contemptible. Being thought dangerous usually forestalls the worst outrages. Imagine some significant percentage of the population heavily armed, not willing to put up with the state any longer. Now imagine the same population disarmed. Quite a difference.
But let's finish with the philosophical arguments and get on with it. I'm assuming you will at least entertain the notion of becoming dangerous, but have not a clue where to start. This former high-school science nerd will give you a hand, by cutting through the massive amounts of bullshit and controversy in the world of gun-nuttery, and giving you just what you need to get started. I hope so, anyway.
Oh, and we are talking guns, after all. "Be not afraid of any man, No matter what his size. When danger threatens, call on me And I will equalize." This 1880's-vintage Colt advertising slogan suggests a freedom technology, personal firearms, every bit as significant as Gutenberg's printing press or the Internet. It's time you got up to speed on it. Some statist women's groups reject firearms as "tools of the master," but I wonder if they also reject computers and automobiles? Such notions are silly.
Woops, there I go, getting philosophical again.
What are we "shooting" for? Basic competence in handgun and rifle. This is not very difficult. We are not talking anywhere near the commitment needed to get a black belt in karate. That is why this technology is so revolutionary--the smallest woman or the weakest old fart can no longer be intimidated by the largest, meanest thug. Firearms competitions are almost the only kind of sport where women can compete directly against men . That's saying something.
On gun forums you will see interminable arguments about what works best, but I suggest you bypass this unless you find you enjoy being drawn into gun-nuttery, as has been known to happen. Instead, buy these three tools:
1) Any semi-auto .22LR rifle
2) Any quality 9mm handgun, your choice (no Ravens, etc.)
3) AR-15 rifle
Before you go shopping however, burn into your memory, forwards and backwards, Cooper's Four Rules  of safety. Go buy yourself Cooper's The Art of the Rifle .
The purpose of the .22 is to get you familiar with shooting and gun handling of a semi-auto. Even a $60 Marlin will do. The .22 is also the most insanely useful cartridge on the planet, despite its ancient lineage. Also it's way cheap.
The AR-15 has become almost a commodity by now; just pick any reputable manufacturer. Most gun shops will not sell you schlock, if they want your repeat business (and they do). Stick with a lightweight 20 inch barrel and make it a "flat-top" (no carry handle). The point of a flattop is to put modern optics on the gun; iron sights are silly these days--it's time to move out of the 19th Century! You don't have to go overboard with the optics. Some people sneer at anything less than $150 for rings and $1,000 for the scope, but that is more gun nuttery (a $200, maybe $150 scope should do). You won't be throwing your rifle on the road and driving over it, will you? The scope should be in the 1x4 range (that is, a variable with a low of around 1 power and a high around 4 power). You need the low 1 power for city work, which covers 90% of the population, and for in-house defense. Always leave the scope set at 1x, and only dial it up for the odd long-range shot. A lighted scope reticle is nice if you ever need to shoot in the dark. For the gun, I don't like barrels shorter than 20 inches, despite the small disadvantage for in-house use, because shooting inside a house (e.g., self defense) even with a 20 inch barrel will damage your hearing, and the 16 inchers are pure evil for muzzle blast. But hey, it's your hearing (do use hearing and sight protection for all practice sessions, of course).
For the pistol, ignore the .40 and .45 caliber snobs. The 9mm (9x19 AKA "Parabellum" AKA "Luger," not "Makarov" or "Largo") is the world standard, and substantially cheaper to shoot. For self defense (unlike practice), stick with quality hollowpoints, and shoot enough of them to be sure they feed properly in your gun. Many recommend Glock, great if you plan on driving a truck over it. They have light, sucky triggers. Light is for experts in my opinion, sucky is for lawsuit avoidance. I use a CZ. Just go into the shop and find one that fits your hand well and has a heavier but smooth trigger (a Kahr, maybe?). Don't get too wrapped around this choice; if you don't like it, you can swap it for something else without too huge a loss. It's a tool, that's all.
Practice a reasonable amount with the pistol, using cheap "ball" ammo (and for Heaven's sake, learn the difference between "bullet" and "cartridge," otherwise you will be immediately marked as the tyro). The gun nuts insist on your taking multiple classes from nationally recognized trainers before you can be considered competent, completely missing the point of this technology, which is that you can avoid black-belt level expertise but still get the job done. Any criminal you encounter won't care about your training because he will be running away the instant you haul out a gun.
With the AR-15, you won't be hunting deer with this cartridge (the .223 Remington AKA 5.56 NATO--it's too small a cartridge) but just imagine you are. The kill zone in a deer is roughly a 12 inch circle, so make paper targets like that. Could you reliably kill a deer at 300 yards using field positions? Keep at it until you can; by then you will be ahead of half the military (or more). It is reasonable competence.
Don't have the cash for this? Out of a job? One can find old "police turn in" .38 Special Colt or Smith & Wesson revolvers, used to be $200 but like everything the price has gone up. Try haunting estate sales, as you might get lucky. For rifles, some call the SKS the "poor man's battle carbine," but if you are going to make compromises, I'd rather point you in the direction of a used, scoped bolt action deer rifle. The Wehrmacht did pretty well in WWII using a bolt gun without a scope, so they are not to be sneered at. For caliber, the .308 Winchester is preferred (as it is also a common military caliber); avoid at all costs any kind of Magnum caliber. Anyway, do what you can with what you have.
To be honest, a scoped .308 Win bolt gun might be substituted for the AR-15 even if you are not poor, although gun nuts would be scandalized to hear it (and the government won't think of you as so dangerous--silly them). It's just not an inside-the-house defense gun; far too much penetration (not nice for the neighbors) and not enough speed in reloading. But penetration can be an advantage if you are trying to shoot through cover. The .308 striking power is much greater than the .223, and it is a better long-range gun.
I hope this helps.
"Personal weapons are what raised mankind out of the mud, and the rifle is the queen of personal weapons." ~ Jeff Cooper