My local supermarket has quite a magazine selection. Every category of interest has numerous titles, and the section on guns must have twenty different monthly periodicals, each thicker than Time, Newsweek, or US News and World Report.
There are obviously a lot of different opinions about guns.
To me, the main gun in one’s battery is a semi-automatic pistol, preferably with a fairly large magazine, in a common caliber and here’s why:
- Even if state-inspired order breaks down, the state will remain. Unless I wear a uniform and work for the residual state, being visibly armed will be an invitation to trouble with what "law" lingers. Walking down the street with a rifle will not be an option for "civilians" and will still upset the neighbors. If limited to one gun, only the pistol can serve both at home and away.
- Whether pursued while driving or accosted by three or more assailants, reloading is a two-handed, manual-dexterity luxury I might not enjoy. Starting out with more ammunition increases the chances that I reach the end of the fray without calling "time out" to reload.
A 9mm pistol like a Glock 19 is simple to use, reliable, launches a projectile that is arguably effective (hence all the argument about it), and can be kept in various states of employability based on safety considerations.
While I believe it is essential to teach young children about gun safety, I would still never leave a gun with a loaded magazine and loaded chamber sitting around in reach of anyone. A semi-auto pistol can be kept several ways:
- With a loaded chamber and a loaded magazine in place. (I’m not fond of this unless the gun is physically on my person with its trigger covered by a rigid part of a rigid holster). If a revolver is chosen and kept with cartridges in its cylinder, this is the condition that it maintains all the time; press the trigger, the weapon goes "bang." Given the ubiquity of television "instruction," everyone above the age of 12 months is potentially prone to picking up a gun and pulling the trigger without thinking. Thanks, but no thanks.
- Loaded magazine in the pistol, chamber empty. In this condition the slide must be retracted and released before the gun can go "bang." This seems like a relatively safe way to maintain a gun that is not accessible to anyone else, and is a good way to store a home defense gun since even if I wake up in the middle of the night, I must reach an awake-enough state to chamber a cartridge before I can discern a threat and act appropriately. An added bonus is that very small children generally lack the physical strength to rack the slide to chamber a round, and so it yields another layer of safety in case barriers to access break down.
- Loaded magazine physically separate from the pistol, chamber empty. This is the safest way to store a firearm, presupposing that the weapon itself is kept in a fast-access lockbox like a Gunvault (something I highly recommend, try Amazon or eBay). This also requires the most coordination to employ the pistol, so I consider it to be less than ideal unless curious children (or irresponsible adults) who resist gun safety training are unavoidably present. The equivalent condition with a revolver would be to separately store a loaded speedloader which holds the cartridges in the same geometry as the revolver’s cylinder, but this requires even more coordination than stuffing a magazine into a semi-auto.
The main trade-off is that irresponsible people who fail to observe basic safety rules are more prone to negligent discharges with semi-autos, mostly because they remove the magazine and forget that the chamber may still be loaded…and press the trigger.
The weapon is not unloaded until the magazine is removed, the slide retracted, the chamber visually inspected to verify no cartridge is present, the slide is locked open (if possible) and even then at no time should the muzzle of the gun ever, like a flashlight beam, "sweep" across any person or part of a person including you. There are no gun accidents, only mistakes. Gun mistakes, like car mistakes, are potentially catastrophic. Just ask Plaxico Burress.
There are over a dozen semi-auto pistol makers today producing both classic designs like the 1911 and products unique to their line, including Beretta, Colt, Glock, Kimber, Para-Ordnance, Sig, Kahr, Kel-Tec, Browning, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Springfield, Taurus, and CZ, to name but a few. We are truly blessed to have such a cornucopia of genius from which to choose, and no one model is ideal for every person.
Each is a compromise of one sort or another. To me, the ubiquitous Glock 19 9mm Luger pistol is light, durable, reliable, easy to disassemble, can accept high capacity magazines (yielding from 15 to as many as 33 shots without a reload), and its trigger requires a very definite press to make it fire, helpful in avoiding mistaken discharges but harder for me to shoot with accuracy.
A typical 1911-style pistol is chambered in 45 ACP caliber, holds fewer rounds in a magazine and is much heavier, but points much more naturally; if I grab one and point, the sights almost perfectly line up on target. The standard single-action 1911’s light, short trigger greatly aids my accuracy but makes it even more essential to keep my finger outside the trigger guard, away from the trigger until the need to fire is immediate.
The polymer-framed high-capacity pistol typified by the Glock is light but fat, the typical 1911 heavy but skinny and easier to grip. [For more on properly gripping a pistol, an excellent video is here.]
It’s just my opinion, though. I think that any quality semi-auto would serve me well. The rest is just personal preference.
The confusion of conflicting opinions about guns constitutes a jargon-filled obstacle course, but like learning the piano, getting through the scales is unavoidable if you want to play.