Selecting Your Optimal Armory

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For those who’ve decided to own a gun I have some observations to save time in deciding which are optimal for your Armory.

The world of guns can be confusing and inaccessible. If you’re an optimizer like me it’ll leave you spinning in a hundred different directions down a thousand separate paths. Whether you want to cut to the chase, immediately, or enjoy going down those thousand paths (as I do) this article will provide perspective on what is Your Optimal Armory.

Purchase the least number you need. If Gun #1 is enough then stop there. That keeps your cost and maintenance down while focusing your skills on what you have.

Gun #1, Personal Defense & Utility (85%)

If you’ll only have one gun then purchase The Best Gun in The World, a 5-shot .357 magnum revolver or a Glock 23 .40 S&W depending on your skill level. You’ll need to be a bit more comfortable with a sidearm to feel comfortable with the Glock 23. For that comfort you’ll get 8 more rounds at your disposal.

This revolver or semi-auto will do almost everything you’ll need at close range and is small enough to be carried with you everywhere. That makes it most likely to be there when you need it. It’s your tool for rabid animals, snakes, bad guys, dog attacks, home invasions, varmints and may even put protein in your belly in a survival situation. Its not the best tool for every job. But, it’s the tool you’ll most likely have with you when the job needs to get done.

Get training, store it in a bedroom safe and practice enough to feel totally comfortable using it at all times & situations. Use .38 rounds in the revolver for cost-effective practice before you’re ready for the .357 magnum round.

That’s it. Perhaps 85% of what you’ll ever need a gun for is now covered. How’s that for a timesavings?

Gun #2, Home Defense & Utility (95%)

If your optimal armory will have two guns then I recommend adding a 12-guage pump-action shotgun.

The 12-guage is the most diverse and powerful long gun there is. Depending on what kind of shells you load it with the same gun will shoot birdshot, buckshot, slugs, darts (flchette rounds), explosive fragments, bean bags, pepper gas, tear gas, rock salt, rubber slugs/buckshot, pyrotechnic whistles, bolo’s and even flares.

What do all these shells do? Almost everything except provide long-range precision. That’s where a rifle comes into play.

NOTE: Most people will have accomplished 95% of what they’ll ever need a gun for with only these two guns! Because these two guns do so much I recommend getting them first and foremost before considering a third gun. I make that recommendation even if you’re interested in the remaining 5% utility (as I certainly am) not covered by the first two. You’re better off practicing and experimenting with the different types of ammunition for each before deciding to add a third gun to your armory.

Gun #3/4, Long-Range Precision (99.9%)

If you need long-range precision then you’ll need a third gun: A long-range rifle. This is where things can get complicated. So complicated, that I’ll need to reveal the key to how I decided on the recommendations for the first two guns in the optimal armory: Ammunition.

The best way to sum it up and keep this article from getting out of control is to say that shooting is rocket science! You’re better off deciding on the rocket before building the launching pad. Likewise, choose the bullet first and the gun that shoots it second. The coolest rifle is just extra weight if the ammo doesn’t do the job, costs so much you won’t practice or isn’t available. Consider these aspects of ammunition:

  • Stopping power
  • Specific use most likely
  • Range & accuracy
  • Types of same caliber available
  • Overall utility (in addition to most like use)
  • Availability
  • Number of suppliers
  • Price
  • Ability to make your own reloads
  • Weight (limits # you can carry?)
  • Various gun models available that shoot same ammo

For these reasons I recommend one of the following rifles for Gun #3:

  1. A lever gun that uses the .357 magnum rounds you already use in Gun #1.
  2. A .308 hunting rifle.

Lever Rifle

The lever gun rifle is the rifle equivalent of a revolver: It’s simple, easy to use, easy to maintain, will fire even when dirty and is more likely to be available when you need it. This option economizes on existing ammunition and keeps things simple for your armory. It provides increased range, power and precision in an easy-to-maintain package.

.308 Hunting Rifle

If you need more range, power and precision than a .357 rifle can provide then go with a .308 hunting rifle. It is arguably the most accurate long-range cartridge in existence. In exchange for that accuracy you give up little power over other competing long-range rounds. There are more powerful cartridges available. However, why have a more powerful round that doesn’t hit the target?

Consider Getting Both

If you’re trying to minimize the number of guns you need to maintain then just choose one of these long-range rifles. However, if your choice is the .308 there’s little cost to adding the .357 lever gun, as well. It shoots the same rounds you’re keeping for your revolver and is easy to maintain. For times when a high-powered .308 is too much you’ve got the lever gun like a hammer in your toolkit.

Gun #5, Practice for Less

A .22 caliber Long Rifle will enable cost-effective target practice without breaking the bank on .308 rounds. $1 apiece for .308 rounds is not too bad when you consider all that the round can accomplish. But, you can shoot the .22 LR’s all day for practice until you’re ready for the .308.

The .22 LR is also a great varmint gun extending your reach (but not necessarily power) out to 100 yards. These come in lever or semi-automatic so can mirror your Gun #3/4 choices for practice.

Gun #6, Liberty Comes From the Barrel

Anything a .308 rifle can’t handle is an emergency or you ran out of bullets.

In fact, I chose the .308 cartridge for those two reasons: If you need to handle an emergency or are running out of bullets then you’re escalating to a semi-automatic battle rifle. Working backward from the ammunition the military has standardized on the .308 calling it by its metric name: The 7.62x51mm NATO rifle cartridge.

What this means is that your .308 hunting rifle may use the same ammunition as two of the best battle rifles: The M1A and the FN-FAL. This could make your armory more efficient by keeping only one round for both.

In practice, the two cartridges are not identical. Any .308 can shoot any 7.62mm round, but, not the other way around. You may have to make a tradeoff in performance on each gun but you could, theoretically, settle on one .308 round for both guns in your armory. You would get very familiar with the characteristics of the round and might even be making them, at that point.

NOTE: Some hunters have gone right to a .308 semi-automatic rifle in effect combining Gun #3 and Gun #6. To make that tradeoff you’ll have to be willing to carry a much heavier gun while you’re hunting. For perspective, some troops considered the 9.5lb M1A to be heavy in WWII. A .308 semi might be somewhere around 9–15 lbs not including a scope or ammunition.

More Than One Shooter?

The optimal armory, so far, assumes one shooter. If there’s more than one shooter then Gun #7 starts at the beginning arming the 2nd shooter with The Best Gun in the World. The second shooter can be trained on the .22 LR prior to being issued their .357 revolver.

With two shooters in the home its time to create home defense procedures. People have to be aware of lines of fire, well-known positions to take in the event of a situation, what are the rules of engagement for the house, etc. That starting to sound like a different article, isn’t it?

Terence Gillespie [send him mail] has worked at IBM, played jazz piano on cruise ships, is an instrument-rated pilot, songwriter, and is attempting to optimize every aspect of life one article at a time on his blog at

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