If there was ever a standard question every gun enthusiast will get, it is, “What type of gun should I get for hunting, target shooting or self-protection?” This is a great question to start a good conversation about firearms with a new shooter. An individual who asks you such an important question looks up to you as a knowledgeable authority on the subject.
Due to my profession, I often get asked my opinion about firearms. I work for a state wildlife agency as the Assistant Hunter Education Coordinator as well as the state’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Coordinator. On the weekends and time off, I am an NRA Firearms Training Counselor. The questions I get range from hunting, self-protection, and just because the individual asking my advice has a constitutional right to own one.
Giving advice on such an important subject must be taken seriously. In essence, the person seeking your advice is relying on it for their safety, success and even personal protection. It is your responsibility to make sure that any advice you give is accurate and useful in helping to them in choosing the right gun for their intended purpose. If you do not think that you can give an informed or proper answer, there is nothing wrong with telling the individual that you do not feel comfortable giving such advice. For example, if you are an avid target shooter and knowledgeable about self-defense firearms but do not hunt, you should direct an individual to the proper source and resources who know about firearms used while hunting.
If you decide to give advice on a gun recommendation for a given activity, there are three factors that apply to everyone, including yourself or the individual to whom you are giving advice. These factors include the intended use of the firearm, firearm characteristics, and the firearm manufacturer.
Intended Use of Firearm
The first thing that you need to know before advising an individual on a particular gun is to ask about the intended use of the firearm. Some activities include hunting, personal defense, and target shooting, just to name a few. Of course, any suggestion must match an individual’s skill level. Hunting scenarios are the most diverse when it comes to firearm selection. You need to know what type of game animal will be hunted, such as small or large game; the topography in which the individual will be hunting; and the distances he or she will be shooting.
When it comes to personal protection firearms, you need to know an individual’s daily routine. Do they do a lot of driving, walking around a shopping mall, or walking downtown after dark into a parking garage to reach their vehicle? You also must determine if the individual carries his or her firearm concealed or open. There are many different types of handguns from small and large revolvers to subcompact, compact or standard length semi-automatic pistols from which to choose. There are also a multitude of calibers and ammunition from which to choose.
Individuals tend to give advice regarding “the best” firearm based on their own experiences and preferences without asking any pertinent questions. For example, if you are in the hunting community, I am sure that you have heard the question, “What is the best deer rifle?” This question seems to always be directed toward other hunters, with a quick recommendation given without first asking questions. I know this to be true just from the number of 70-lb. whitetail does taken in the Texas Hill Country using a .300 Winchester Magnum!
Firearm characteristics are other important factors to take into consideration when advising an individual on the right firearm. I have found that many individuals who come to me for shooting lessons, regardless of rifle, pistol, or shotgun, are using guns that do not “fit” them. For rifles and shotguns, the problem is usually a stock length that is too long, and for handguns, it is usually the thickness or angle of the grip.
Another consideration when suggesting a firearm should be the individual’s skill level. In other words, how easy is the firearm to operate and ultimately tear down for cleaning? Moreover, the weight of the gun and the strength of the shooter to hold it needs to be considered. For example, a large frame revolver may be easy to operate but too heavy for some individuals. Likewise, a 1911 pistol may not be the best choice for a new shooter because of the multiple steps needed to perform a tear down for cleaning.
It is also important to suggest a caliber that the individual can manage. Recoil is a major problem for many individuals, even experienced shooters. Firearms with low recoil seem to be the most popular options in today’s market. The .380 Auto cartridge is making a resurgence because of its ease of operation and low recoil. Recoil can even be tamed in the larger calibers by choosing the right ammunition. Many ammunition manufacturers now make reduced pressure rounds for those who are sensitive to recoil.
When advising another individual on the right gun according to its intended use, you should always take into consideration the reputation of the manufacturer. A gun manufacturer that has been around a long time will have a track record that is either good or bad. You should always advise someone on the best gun for the given activity. This means that if the best gun for that activity is more costly than the individual budgeted for, it may be wise to recommend they save up a little longer before making the purchase and opting for that quality and reliability. This is especially true if the firearm the individual is purchasing is for self-defense or defense of their family.
Not only do you need to invest in a brand that has a good reputation, you also need to purchase your firearm from a reputable dealer. The dealer from whom you purchase is your first stop if there is an issue with your firearm. Many times, a reputable dealer can fix the problem at the store, saving you the time and money of sending it back to the manufacturer.
There are several other things you need to advise the person who is seeking your advice on the perfect firearm. Always tell them it is a good idea to consult other knowledgeable shooters, especially in the areas in which you are not an expert. It is also a good idea to suggest they do their own independent research and, if possible, try out different guns at the range. Nowadays, there are many ranges that rent firearms so the shooter can try different makes and models to see what works best for them.
Remember that it is an honor when someone asks your advice on the purchase of a gun. This means that you have earned their respect, and they see you as an authority on the subject. Stay away from the canned answers and give them real options, both pros and cons. When advising someone on the perfect gun, be unbiased and thorough in your answer. Afterall, your reputation as a trainer, hunter, self-defense coach or a target shooter is why someone comes to you seeking advice.