Before I mention anything else, I'd like to cover safety.
You'll see a lot of 'codified' gun safety rules that claim they collate everything you need to know. Some are three items long, some are four, and some are ten- the longer lists tend to grow more and more redundant. The longer lists also find themselves drifting into guidelines, on top of the rules. The general
, iron-clad set of gun safety rules you'll encounter (if only for their wide dissemination) are:
keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances.
An important consideration in deciding a 'safe direction' (and a consideration that often garners a fourth rule on such lists) is awareness of both your target and what exists beyond it.
A common phrasing of this rule is 'don't point your gun at anything you're not willing to destroy'.
keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.
Something else that bears mentioning is to avoid any obstruction at all in the trigger guard.
Whether you are simply bringing the weapon to bear, or if you are carrying it on your person, keep in mind that the only thing you want in that guard is your trigger finger- and even that is only when you are prepared to fire imminently.
At all other times your trigger finger should be splayed alongside the frame or receiver of the weapon, outside the trigger guard.
(ignoring the gorilla fingers)
keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does.
Most external, active safeties are easy to spot and intuitive to operate. Some selective fire weapons integrate the mechanism to select whether the safety is engaged and also in what mode the weapon is fireable. The operation on either type of mechanism is similar. Unloading a pistol or most modern closed bolt rifles- or most anything you're likely to handle except a revolver- is similar in spirit if not in execution. You need to do two things: drop the magazine, and then clear the chamber. I've made a video to describe the general principle:
Most modern, single-chamber weapons have an easily identifiable magazine catch and mechanism for actuating the entry/exit of a round into/from the chamber.
Revolvers aren't much harder- once you get your hands on one, there is a typically simple and evident method of making available the cylinders for loading.
Now, down to business.
In modern parlance, a gun is a projectile weapon using a hollow, tubular barrel with a closed end—the breech—as the means of directing the projectile (as well as other purposes, for example stabilizing the projectile's trajectory, aiming, as an expansion chamber for propellant, etc), and firing in a generally flat trajectory
Most guns that you and I can own could be broken down into the following categories: handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
A handgun is generally defined as a firearm that is designed with consideration for easy one handed use. This does not preclude two handed use (which will yield better results in terms of accuracy and repeated fire), but is still an important distinction in separating handguns from other lightweight firearms. Handguns have a long history, but by far the two most dominant iterations still in vogue today are revolvers and pistols.
A revolver is a handgun that feeds rounds into the barrel via a cylinder composed of multiple chambers. The majority of revolvers possess either five or six chambers in their stock cylinders. While not possessing the magazine capacity of most modern pistols, revolvers do offer distinct advantages. The construction of a revolver lends itself to reliability. Its design is very effective and proven. Not only does the system lend itself to fewer opportunities for malfunctions (for example, revolvers do not experience failures to eject spent cartridges, as expended rounds are not discharged from revolvers in the same way as they are from semi-automatic pistol platforms) but when flaws do manifest in a revolver they can typically be diagnosed much easier than in a pistol. While not always the case, repeated failures to fire or chamber properly in a revolver are often symptomatic of a major defect that requires manufacturer or third party repair. This is not the case with pistols, where many elements may creep into failure (like user error, low quality ammunition, et cetera). Another advantage to revolvers is their ability to be simply (and sparsely) cleaned. With their relatively few user modulated parts, fewer surfaces become exposed to contaminants that require cleaning- which minimizes the difficulty of cleaning and the necessary frequency of the above. There is also a matter of ammunition interoperability, which is far more prevalent on revolvers than on pistols. Certain revolver models allow for the application of multiple types of ammunition without the switching of parts. This is a less common perk on semi-auto pistols.
A semi-automatic pistol is a handgun that possesses only one chamber and only one barrel. Rather than rotating chambers or multiple barrels to permit lineup, semi-automatic pistols maintain a straight and uninterrupted path between the loading chamber and the barrel. Instead of preloading multiple chambers, ammunition is fed into a spring-loaded magazine which, with the help of varying applications, feeds rounds into the chamber. Modern centerfire pistols complete this cycling by harnessing the forces of one discharge to load the next round from the magazine and return the gun to battery. Pistols have the marked advantage of carrying a great deal of ammunition; some full sized pistols can hold up to 20 rounds of a full sized caliber. The form factor of a spare magazine, versus a speed loader, means that carrying even more ammo is relatively convenient. Some also argue that the lack of a bulging cylinder makes for a more comfortable and concealable weapon for carry.
A rifle is a shoulder-fired weapon with a rifled barrel. A rifled barrel is a barrel possessing deliberately applied grooves along its length, meant to impart a particular spin upon the round. Rifling works to maintain accuracy over distance. Rifles are quite diffuse and enjoy a wide range of applications, including recreation, hunting, varmint disposal, competition, etc.
A shotgun is another typically shoulder-fired weapon. Its profile differs from a rifle in several ways. First, shotguns typically fire a particular mode of ammunition- either a solid slug or a number of pellets called shot. Secondly, shotguns are usually smoothbore firearms, lacking the rifling of other common small arms. Lastly, shotgun 'caliber' is defined by a particular bore metric called gauge. This measures the weight of a piece of lead with the same diameter as the inside of the barrel.
So, what do you fire from these guns? Except for the specific loads I mentioned, you typically fire a cartridge.
These cartridges have a pretty universal composition: a projectile (usually a bullet), a primer, a gunpowder, and the enveloping shell. How, exactly, does this work? Well, Wikipedia provides a pretty succinct explanation:
The cartridge case seals a firing chamber in all directions except down the bore. A firing pin strikes the primer, igniting it. The spark from the primer ignites the powder. Gases from the burning powder expand the case to seal against the chamber wall. The projectile is then pushed in the direction that releases this pressure, down the barrel. After the projectile leaves the barrel the pressure is released, allowing the cartridge case to be removed from the chamber.
While cartridges are often referred to as bullets, that is technically incorrect. The bullet is the projectile itself- the object that is impelled to forward velocity by the expansion of gases caused by the ignited primer. What do you need to know about the ammunition you shoot from a handgun or rifle? Well, a few things.
^-- a centerfire cartridge
Is it rimfire or centerfire?
This describes the method by which the primer ignites and activates the powder. In rimfire ammunition, the firing pin strikes the weak perimeter of the case's rear, agitating the primer and lighting the powder in the body of the cartridge. This is the predominant priming method for .22lr ammunition, and some other small-game cartridges in popular use. Maybe it's centerfire. If it's for any caliber larger than .22lr, this is probably the case. In centerfire ammunition, the primer rests in the rear of the middle of the cartridge. The pin strikes, and the same process as above occurs. In handgun and rifle ammunition, the primer ignition and powder combustion propels the bullet; in shot, it propels the wad that contains the pellets.
When it's a bullet, what is its weight? We measure this weight by grains. 100 grains is about 6.5 grams. This is crucial in determining a few things- necessary amounts of powder, expected velocity, expected trajectory over distance, etc. How are the components packed in the shell? How much jacketing? For the most part, the two terms you'll hear are full metal jacket, and jacketed hollow point. I won't go into too much detail here, assuming that no one here except me reloads ammunition- but the long and short of it is that FMJ rounds have fully encased cores (usually in brass) and hollow points have a pitted and exposed portion of the bullet that will deform, expand, and slow- retarding penetration.
So, what do you want to shoot at?
I can advise a few things, here.
For pure paper, print your own targets.
There are a myriad of websites to do this. Unless you're looking for reactive neon targets, you can print lots of designs for free. For steel, you can improvise. Make sure the material is safe. You can also order these online.
Here you generally use shotguns (though there are some skilled trick shooters out there). Along with bird hunting, trapshooting is one of the most popular recreational uses for shotguns. A thrower- usually a machne- tosses a clay (or clays) in a given direction. Pretty simple, right?
Well, not on a windy day when they're going in any direction and you've fired a few hundred rounds already. Try it.
I don't know a great deal about hunting. It's not my thing- others are welcome to kick in their knowledge and I'll fold it into the OP if they wish.
And last but not least...
I've saved this for last. There is a whole lot going on here.
Making the decision to purchase a weapon for self-defense can be very intimidating. Is it something of which I'm capable? Can I conceive shooting an animal or, God forbid, a person, if it comes to that? Can I be responsible in storing my weapon? Am I willing to be cautious and safe? Do I have the time and resources to become comfortable and competent? Will I be in compliance with the law?
Self-defense with a firearm is generally broken down into two categories: home defense, and on-person defense, or 'carry'. Carrying a firearm is having it on your person. Whether you are willing or capable to do either or both relies heavily on some of the questions I offered above. Answer honestly.
Assuming it is legal for you to own a firearm at all (and I admit that this thread is very slanted towards American customs and laws), you need to learn how to handle your weapon safely. I covered this briefly in the beginning of the thread, but it is especially
important if you're giving serious thought to the possibility that your gun might be used to defend yourself or a loved one. All the inherent dangers of handling a deadly weapon are magnified by the threats presented in a self-defense situation. There are lots of things that you can do to mitigate those dangers:
(1) Fire your weapon, a lot. The most effective route, over time, to familiarize yourself with the awesome power of your weapon is to exercise that power.
(2) Seek professional training. Learn how to store your firearm safely. Learn how to load and and unload and clean and shoot your firearm until you're absolutely conversant with its use.
(3) Get in good shape! I am a long distance runner. I am prepared to use a gun in self-defense because there are bigger, meaner, and tougher people out there. My primary tool for staying safe is my 5:45 mile. With any luck, you will never encounter a criminal who means you harm. With a little less luck you will, but you will escape his or her intentions. With no luck at all you'll have to resort to defending yourself, and being in good shape and having a strong body will not hurt.
Those are general tips that can benefit either home-defense gun owners, or concealed carriers. Here I will get more specific.
(1) Sensible precautions! Have good, high rated locks on your door. Invest in an alarm system. Have an escape or shelter plan for your family; just like for a house fire, you and your loved ones ought to have a basic plan in case of a home invader. The particulars will depend very much on your home life, and whether you have any children or other people living outside of your bedroom.
(2) Keep a phone near your bed! The absolute first thing you should do (particularly because it can be done while doing any number of things- like gathering your family in a safe room, or leaving the home, or retrieving a weapon) once you determine the presence of a threat is call 911. Don't be a cowboy. 911. 911. 911. The objective is defense. Texans- ignore your genetic urges.
(3) Know how to store your firearm. This will depend on your living situation. Everyone is different, and your solution for a defense gun (heavily fortified safe, lockbox, unlocked drawer, etc.) will depend on a number of factors- the age of those in your home, the number of floors, whether you keep doors locked within your home, and so on.
Carrying a firearm
(1) Know the law. Even in America, the laws on carrying a firearm are usually restrictive, versus possessing a gun inside your home or workplace. Read all applicable laws very
Give this site a look and determine whether you are allowed to carry at all, whether you need a license, whether the license is shall-issue or may-issue, whether you must remain strictly concealed, whether you can carry in certain establishments, when you are legally permitted to draw your firearm, and so on.
(2) Be aware of your surroundings. This is useful for everything- even picking up chicks, you nerds. Don't be paranoid, and don't turn into a total nutjob, but keep your eyes open and that will solve a great deal of your problems, re: tripping over your own foot, walking into people, missing someone's flirting, running unawares into a criminal action, et cetera.
(3) Please, for the love of God, look into some retention training. You're talking about carrying a deadly weapon- one that you do not intend to have used against you. Knowing how to throw a punch won't hurt you and can even keep you in good shape.
(4) Make use of the proper equipment. Carrying a gun (even concealed) can be very comfortable and easy, if you spend a little bit of money and find something that works for you. Examples:
Inside the waistband holsters are popular for their ability to comfortably conceal a relatively large firearm.
Outside the waistband holsters are popular for in the winter when they are easier to conceal, for big people whose fat precludes comfortable carry inside the waistband, and for open carriers. Whether you plan on carrying inside or outside the waistband, a strong, double reinforced leather belt is a big help. In my opinion, it's essential.
Shoulder holsters are popular in large part for their special, niche advantages. For one, they don't require a belt. Secondly, you don't need to navigate them when using the restroom. Third, they are easly accessible when seated. If you wear a suit daily, it can be a decent choice.
I don't like ankle holsters. Some people think they are convenient and out of the way, but in my experience they are bothersome if you plan on moving much, and the draw is hideously slow.
Pocket holsters are very popular for small handguns. When your weapon is small enough to fit comfortably in a pocket, the allure of having it off your belt is very attractive.
Overall, I'd recommend selecting a holster that fits your needs. And absolutely get a holster that has some sort of coverage over the trigger guard.
(5) I highly recommend putting several hundred rounds of your defense ammunition
- the ammo you'll have in your carry weapon every day- through the specific weapon. Even quality makers (of firearms and ammunition) can have interoperability problems, with poor throating or low powder loads or any other number of issues that could cost you your life.
(6) Select a weapon chambered in the caliber that is right for you.
There is no definite answer. As I'll be mentioning in the rules, no caliber shitting. Anything is better than nothing. Generally speaking,
handgun calibers are considered 'self-defense grade' at .380 auto and above- including 9mm luger, .40 smith and wesson, .357 magnum, .357 sig, .45 acp, and 10mm auto. I stress, preference is crucial. Use the largest, most energetic caliber that you can a) afford, b) comfortably control, and c) shoot accurately. If you can handle .44 magnum, well... enjoy. Mutant. Also, generally speaking
you will be seeking a hollow point round for self-defense, given its tendency to expand and not penetrate too far.
(1) If you're legitimately interested in ballistics, or caliber profiles, fine. We can talk numbers. Do. not. be. a. jerk. Caliber wars will not be tolerated.
(2) Feel free to share your thoughts on self-defense with firearms, and discuss your safes and lockboxes and how you store your guns and etc. Keep in mind, though, that home invasions when you are home, and you wake up, and you grab your firearm, and you find the intruder, and you engage... are incredibly uncommon. Please don't be obnoxious about this. No cowboy fantasies. Talk home security, fine, but calm down, killer. We don't want to hear any ranting about how you
keep a 12-gauge under your mattress and a 9mm and 45 under either pillow loaded with alternating HPs and FMJs in case they're wearing body armor. Down, boy. Don't.
(3) This thread is not for debate about gun control. You're welcome to mention certain going-ons- gun rights court cases, for example. I also invite you to discuss encounters you've had with other people and their feelings. But don't be a douchebag. Don't be pugnacious. Chill out. If you have genuine, good-faith questions about firearms and why people like them, you're welcome to ask. But seriously chill. I got the mods in my pocket,
son, and I'll be on you so fast.