Help with a letter...


October 25, 2003, 06:28 AM
My kid brother asked me for advice, he's moving into his first apartment on his own soon and since I'm the gun nut in the family he wanted to know what he should get for home defense. The following book is my reply. If I have any of my facts wrong or if you can think of a better way of saying it please let me know.

Hey kid
You asked about buying a gun when you move out, here are my (many) thoughts about that.

1) Becoming an armed citizen is a great responsibility. By possessing a firearm you make yourself legally, and more importantly, morally responsible for every action that is taken with it. That's why you must make sure that you know how and when to use it and secure it from uses that you do not approve. If some kid (read Andrew) finds it and discharges it you are responsible for where that piece of lead end up. If your house is broken into and your gun stolen you are the one who will have to look in the mirror and ask whether you had done everything reasonable to prevent its being used by a felon. If you drop the hammer on someone who has broken into your home you must be SURE that you are making the right choice, that you know not only what you are shooting at, but what is beyond your target, as even the best of us miss and at close range even a .22 can over penetrate and come out the other side of whatever you shot.
I'm not trying to scare you out of buying a firearm, I just want to make sure you cognizant of what you're getting into. On the plus side, once you take on that responsibility of ensuring your own safety you start to do the same for other things, and I personally think that is the point where you become an adult.

2) Heavy philosophy aside, if you decide to buy a gun you should definitely take a NRA approved basic firearm course, make sure it's one where the instructor goes into the legalities of when to shoot and when not to, and what happens if ever do have to draw on someone or (god forbid) drop the hammer on them. Once you learn the right way to shoot, practice. At LEAST every month or two you should get to the range and knock the rust out of your barrel. Who knows, you might even enjoy it. Getting proper instruction and regular practice are more important than the make or model of the gun you buy. I can't emphasize that point enough. Don't buy a gun unless you are willing to dedicate the time and effort to learning how to use it.

3) Okay, on to the fun stuff. My first pick for home defense would be a shotgun, in nearly any situation a long gun is preferable to a pistol, not only for stopping power (an ounce of lead makes for a lot of stopping) but for ease of use, shotguns tend to "point" pretty naturally. With a shotgun you can also use it for sport pretty easily just by switching out it's barrel. If you ask uncle Jim I'm sure he'd be happy to take you trap or skeet shooting some time, Lydia and I are going this weekend to shoot some clay birds. This ties in to #2, the more you take your gun out to shoot the more likely you'll be to hit the bad guy when he kicks down your door. You can buy a Remington 870 (what uncle Jim and I have) for less than $300, and it doesn't matter as much if it's new or used as they're practically indestructible. Load it with some #4 shot and keep it under the bed, if they don't wet themselves and run when you rack the pump, the ounce of lead you just discharged will be very convincing.

4) I know you asked about a pistol, so I might as well talk about that for a bit. The advantage of a pistol is that it is small, relatively concealable, and you can have a hand free for such important tasks as manipulating doors, holding a flashlight, and scratching your nuts. The disadvantage is that it takes a little more practice to get good with and with the larger calibers you're more likely to over penetrate. As for the difference between revolvers and automatics, unless you're going to spend the time get to know your gun quite well (shooting once or MORE each month) I'd recommend a revolver. Revolvers don't require as much care as automatics (if you forget to clean it it's unlikely to jam on you, but your big brother might whoop your ???), aren't as finicky about what brand of ammo you put through them (many automatics don't do real well with hollow points unless you have a gunsmith work on them), and the user interface is easier as there are fewer buttons and levers to manipulate (as one bumper sticker said: Smith and Wesson... The original point and click interface). The major disadvantage of a revolver is that you only have 5 or 6 shots, but since statistically in most defensive shootings only one or two rounds are discharged I wouldn't worry about it. Besides, if you dump 6 round of .357 into someone and they're still a threat 12 wouldn't have been much better, you were screwed from the start. As for caliber, any major handgun caliber will do, from .38 (like dads) up to .454 Casul or .50AE (these last two only if you want a broken wrist), but I suppose the two I would recommend would be the .357 and .45. If I recall correctly (and double check me before you do this) you can use .38 ammo as practice in a .357, which is a selling point for practicing (cheaper and doesn't kick as much). Personally, from the numbers I've read, I'd go with the .45 (my next pistol will be), but .45 can be difficult to find in a revolver as it is a rimless round (advantage there being that it can accept half moon clips which speeds tactical reloads). You can find a .38/.357 for $200-$400, and a .45 for a bit more if you know where to look.

5) More important than any advice I have about models or calibers is how the gun feels to you. If it's uncomfortable or kicks too hard you won't practice. If you don't practice you won't hit your target. If you miss your target you're hosed, and that bullet you just discharged will go somewhere determined by where the barrel was pointing when the hammer fell and Newton's laws of physics. What I would recommend is going to that indoor range Andrew and I went to, down near Tecalote Canyon park, dad might remember exactly where it was. They rent guns there, I'd go down on a weekday morning (if you have one off school) tell the guy behind the counter that you are looking for a pistol for home defense (he'll be more than happy to help you, he wants to be the dealer you buy from later) and ask him which of his rentals he would recommend. Shoot at least 100 rounds through each, at different distances, both one and two handed. Let me know which one you liked the best. If the guys there were polite and helpful consider buying from them even if it costs a few bucks more, selling guns in California is a hard business these days and you want to keep the good ones around.

6) Here are a few web sites worth checking out:
This is THE place to find cheap guns, kinda like eBay with gunpowder
This is a forum with some very good people, they usually answer my stupid questions pretty well, if you see USAFA that's me
Another good one about firearms in general
This one deals more with concealed carry, but good for general questions as well

7) If you do buy a gun you should also seriously consider joining one of the organizations like the NRA, GOA, or California Rifle & Pistol Association. I'm not going to ask you to take this next statement on faith, do your own research and make your own conclusion, but: once you become an armed citizen you become the target of a great many organizations out there who feel that they can run your life better than you can, some of which would surprise you. If you purchase a firearm for self defense you have set yourself in moral opposition to these people who feel that you have no right to do so. I encourage you to get involved and fight them at every opportunity, because they WILL be working tirelessly to take that right away from you.

Anyways, kid, read the book I just wrote you and let me know what you think. I expect you to write me back with questions.
Take it easy.

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October 25, 2003, 08:35 AM
Looks good to me, you've covered the bases. Especially like the way you stress training; both in marksmanship and leagalities.
You do recall correctly; 38 special can be used in a .357.

October 25, 2003, 08:37 AM
The kid lives in California (I keep trying to get him to go to school in the U.S. but he doesn't want to leave home just yet). Can anyone point me to a site that has the California gun laws in plain english?

Standing Wolf
October 25, 2003, 09:19 PM
On the plus side, once you take on that responsibility of ensuring your own safety you start to do the same for other things, and I personally think that is the point where you become an adult.

Well said.

October 26, 2003, 09:11 PM
Truly, I expected more of you to sound off on this one with everyone talking about adopting a shooter and getting new folks to the range.:confused:

I really am curious to know what y'all would improve in this letter.

October 27, 2003, 01:05 PM
Maybe that's because many agree with Sisco's opinion and see little value in "me too" replies.

CA gun laws in plan english? Good luck, but CRPA ( is a good place to start.

October 27, 2003, 01:09 PM
"Laws and "plain English" are mutually exclusive. If we were actually able to understand laws, in other words, if they were simple and made sense,(much less common sense), then a lot of bottom-feeding lawyers would be out of a job, and God forbid they would actually have to work for a living,and, perish the thought, possibly consider making that living honest as well. We could harangue ad nauseum about how nice it would be to have "simple laws in plain English". How idealistic and naive of us to think that might happen any time soon.

Andrew Rothman
October 27, 2003, 01:35 PM
If there is a kid in the house, I don't think a shotgun under the bed is a good idea.

Responsibility dictates that no gun be purchased before a suitable safe storage space has been set up.

For pistols or long guns, has some nice, fast-access products.

Number 6
October 27, 2003, 02:33 PM

There are a lot of good links on this website and the people on the message boards are really helpful as well.

October 29, 2003, 10:20 PM
Number 6 and larryw, thanks for the links, they look like they'll be really helpful. I had considdered just buying my kid brother a pistol and giving it to him as a gift, now I'm not so sure, it'll take some research to see if that'll be legal.

Thanks again for the replies.


October 29, 2003, 10:54 PM

Good letter! May I suggest sending it with a copy of Massad Ayoob's "In The Gravest Extreme"?

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