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KhiaKarma's avatar

What should I look for when buying a gun?

Asked by KhiaKarma (4328points) October 6th, 2010

For use in the home only for self protection. I would definitely take a class because I am not comfortable around guns. Never thought I’d own one, but I don’t want to be unprotected…..stuff happens and I want to be as prepared as I can be. This hasn’t been an easy decision, and honestly, I don’t know if I could really ever buy or even use one. I am all for peace but I also have a responsibility to protect myself and those I love.

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43 Answers

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Go to a shooting club and spend the afternoon handling some 9mm pistols. They’ll guide you for hand comfort, sighting, stance, safety mechanisms, everything. 9mm ammo is easier to find and more affordable than bigger stuff and you can choose to keep a clip of hollow points loaded for home standby and then switch out to regular for target practice.

incendiary_dan's avatar

1.) The Price Tag:

You don’t need to spend a metric buttload on a good gun. There are some cheap options that are effective.

2.) Ease of use:

Ask around at the store and people you know who own a gun. Peruse gun forums, too. Maybe read reviews online about ones you know are available.

3.) Cost of ammo:

It would hardly be worth shopping around for a less expensive gun if the cost of ammo for occasional training bankrupts you.

4.) Penetration:

In a home, you probably don’t want something that will shoot through several walls with one shot. Consider that.

For home defense, I recommend a cheap pump action shotgun with at least a few rounds capacity in the magazine. I picked up a Mossberg Maverick 88 for cheap, and it’s the Mexican made knockoff of the shotgun used by the U.S. Marines. Sturdy design. A lot of people also recommend handguns for homes. If you use a handgun, the hollow points @Neizvestnaya mentioned are a good idea. More power per shot, and the rounds are less likely to go through walls.

TexasDude's avatar

Buy a Mossberg 590 or 500 (with a stock, don’t buy a pistol grip only shotgun) and load it with 00 buckshot.

Learn to use the ghost ring sights and get a Surefire fore-end if you can afford it.

Also, training, training, training, training. You should be prepared to shoot your shotgun from various positions, one handed, from behind cover, around corners, etc and you have to be comfortable with the fact that you may have to hurt or kill someone and ready to accept the legal clusterfuck that will arise if you have to do so. Know your local laws about self-defense as well. If your state has a castle law, you are good to go.

I recommend a shotgun over other weapons because handguns are very difficult to use without extensive training and rifles can be unwieldy in close quarters and can over-penetrate walls and injure others.

Learn the safety rules of gun handling and develop the proper mindset to use your gun if the need arises. Keep your gun clean, and out of the reach of children, but easily accessible if you have to get it.

Here is a link with more useful information.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

12 gauge shotgun.You can’t miss.
The sound of a 12 gauge being cycled in the dark is an unmistakable sound,understandable in any language.I like mine very much ;)

WestRiverrat's avatar

My suggestion would be a revolver, specifically a Taurus Judge if you can handle it. Double Action revolvers are easier to learn. A semiautomatic pistol is more complicated and clearing jams and misfires takes more practice. Not that most modern semiautomatics will misfire much, but when your life is on the line once is too much.

Call around and find a gun shop with a range that will let you test fire several guns. Test fire as many as you can and go with the one that is most comfortable for you.

TexasDude's avatar

@WestRiverrat, I wouldn’t recommend a Taurus Judge. They went out of their way to market it as the perfect self-defense weapon, but .410 has proven to be a consistently poor self-defense round.

TexasDude's avatar

Also, where do you live, OP? Do you live in an urban area, the suburbs, the country?

Your self defense needs may differ based on your environment. For instance, a rifle would probably be better if you live in the country, whereas a handgun (and plenty of training) would be more ideal for a close-quartered apartment where over-penetration would be a problem.

josie's avatar

I am with @lucillelucillelucille For home protection, nothing like a shotgun. Won’t send a round through the walls, makes an astonishing noise inside the confines of a building. In the unlikely event you need it, it is unlikely anybody will stay around to confont it.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Load it with .45 LC and the new Winchester PDX ammo, and it can be quite effective.

TexasDude's avatar

@josie is right. There is a culture of respect and fear within the thug and gangbanger community in regards to the pump action shotgun. Gangbangers almost mythologize the effectiveness of shotguns and are nearly universally terrified of them.

@WestRiverrat, you are right, and I definitely wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of either of those rounds, but in a self-defense situation, violence of action is key to your survival. I’d rather have more than enough gun than not enough, and I’d be more apt to trust the effectiveness of 00 buck to .410 defense rounds or .45 Long Colt. Just a personal preference and no disrespect meant to you.

KhiaKarma's avatar

OMG looking at that site really intimidates me! I live in New Orleans. Keep it coming, great answers!

TexasDude's avatar

@KhiaKarma, do you live in an urban area, suburban, or rural area of New Orleans? Also, if you don’t mind my asking, what is intimidating about that article? If you want to purchase a gun, and take proper responsibility for your own defense (as you clearly want to) you will have to cast aside your fears and inhibitions and recognize that it is an inanimate tool that you determine the nature and effect of. I don’t mean to sound mean, or accusatory in any way, I just want to be sure that you have the appropriate mindset to be comfortable with the idea of owning a gun as a self defense tool.

KhiaKarma's avatar

“I just want to be sure that you have the appropriate mindset to be comfortable with the idea of owning a gun as a self defense tool” I don’t yet, which is why I am doing my research.

“what is intimidating about that article?” Just noticing my reaction to the weapons. I have no experience viewing or handeling weapons. I am definiitely not ready yet.

I am not impulsive and can think things out quite reasonably. I have had a change of culture since moving here. I grew up in small town Texas and now I live in an urban area plaqued by crime and I have been affected by the things I have heard and seen in my work. I am adapting to my environment and now feel the need to stand up and protect myself and family.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@KhiaKarma, @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard makes a good point. If you are not totally comfortable using a gun for self defence, it probably would be in your best interests to find an alternative tool to use.

I think your best course right now would be to find an instructor you are comfortable with, learn how to shoot at a range, and only then decide if you are comfortable enough with a gun to choose it as a self defence weapon.

TexasDude's avatar

@KhiaKarma, okay, you are off to a good start. Most people in your shoes would take one look at some of those guns and go “zomg, those are icky, I don’t want one” and then shut down about the idea completely. You recognize the fact that you don’t have the appropriate mindset yet, but you are getting there. That’s a good thing.

@WestRiverrat raises a good point. You may want to start small before investing in a self defense gun. I don’t recommend using anything other than a gun to defend yourself, because you are statistically more likely to be safer using a gun against an attacker than any other weapon. (I’ll bring up the citation if anyone requests it) You want to be sure you are comfortable with guns first and the best way to do that is find a good instructor (alot of them are crap and there are a lot of space shuttle door gunner wannabee armchair commandos out there masquerading as instructors) and learn to shoot, starting with a small caliber (.22) to overcome any fears you may have. Once you learn to shoot the small stuff and break your own fears, you can move on to the larger stuff and be prepared to buy your own personal weapon that will be sufficient enough to keep you alive, if need be.

Just remember: fear of weapons is irrational. They are inanimate, amoral, mechanical objects that can be used for good or ill depending on the will of the operator. Once you see them as a tool and decondition yourself from seeing them as a threat or a thing to be feard (and respected, instead), then you will have the proper mindset to begin your self-defense training.

Also, don’t let anyone tell you that you are “paranoid” or anything like that for wanting to defend yourself. It is your right, and your responsibility, it is possible to be attacked by a violent attacker, and you clearly recognize this, so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

KhiaKarma's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard & @WestRiverrat, you both said that you each had a point! and I agree Yeah, I want to find somewhere to try it out. I have no idea where I would go to practice (yet). I used to be like zomg :) but that was long ago.

KhiaKarma's avatar

@WestRiverrat what other kind of tool?

Randy's avatar

As it’s already been mentioned several times, a shotgun is the way to go for home defense. With a shotgun, you have plenty of power and your aim just has to be in the area if your using birdshot or buckshot.

A lot of those guns on that page are “extreme”. Most guns that people normally come across look something like this:
shotguns pump action on top; mid-break on bottom
lever action riffles
modern handgun

To get over your intimidation, I suggest going to pawn/gun shops and just holding them. Hold everything in the store. Obviously, they’ll be unloaded and you can get a “feel” for them. Pun totally intended.
Plus, that along with talking to shop owners will help you figure out what gun you’re going to be most comfortable with. From there, all the hard work is done… All the hard work besides shooting for the first time. BUT… If you’re like most people (that I know), you’ll find it to be quite a rush and a lot of fun.

@lucillelucillelucille, Did you have something to do with this picture?

WestRiverrat's avatar

Baseball bat, Samurai sword, Mace, Flamethrower whatever you are comfortable with.

Nullo's avatar

There are home-defense firearms courses that you could take, once you’ve selected a gun.

Should you go with a shotgun, and happen to live in a somewhat cramped area, you might like Safety Harbor’s ridiculously short-barreled pump-action.

Also warranting attention is the PMR 30. It’s chambered in .22 magnum, but the magazine holds no fewer than 30 rounds. As a bonus, your target has a reasonably good chance of not dying, which goes a long way in supporting the self-defense angle.Another potential bonus is that even a .22 magnum won’t travel very far through walls.

I’ve heard it said that even better for home defense than a hollowpoint is a wholly unjacketed bullet in a nickel casing. Maybe they were talking about that new Winchester round, I dunno.

@WestRiverrat Oven cleaner. People tend to be distracted by their face melting away.

TexasDude's avatar

@Randy gives good advice as well about just holding guns to get used to them. He is incorrect on one point though. You do have to aim a shotgun, contrary to popular belief. Typical household ranges are too short for the shot to actually start spreading and it is very possible to miss entirely, especially under stress.

@Nullo, that shotgun is considered an NFA item and can only be purchased after paying a $200 tax stamp to the ATF (I think it may be considered an AOW, which requires a $5 tax stamp and the same several month long background check)

KhiaKarma's avatar

@Randy I’ve actually shot guns before, probably no more than 5 times, though. It was so loud and jolted me, but not as bad as I had made up in my mind. I think I can handle it. It’s the thought of what if I have to use it that scares the shit out of me.

TexasDude's avatar

@KhiaKarma, again, go shoot again and start with a .22. If you were jolted, some guy who probably doesn’t know much about guns probably gave you something that is way too powerful for a first timer.

Your fear about what you might have to do is a valid one. You have to accept your own judgment of situations and be prepared to make a decision on your feet. When someone breaks into your home, the time for debates over morality and such go out the window and you have to become a creature of action and awareness. Be aware that you may not ever have to use your gun, but you should be prepared to do so, should the need arise. Also, you should realize that the goal of self-defense isn’t necessarily to obliterate or kill your attacker, but to stop them. If a shot to the kneecaps stops them, then you are just as successful (if not moreso) than if you had to shoot them in the face.

And remember. It may come down to you or them. You want to choose you.

KhiaKarma's avatar

@Nullo Oven Cleaner? It would definitely be best to not kill…I will look at the info, thanks.

TexasDude's avatar

Spraying an attacker with oven cleaner is likely to get you killed. There’s no guarantee that you will hit them, and there is no guarantee that it will effectively stop them. Also, facemasks…

KhiaKarma's avatar

I didn’t mean I was going to use the oven cleaner if it wasn’t clear, I meant the PRM 30….

Nullo's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Wouldn’t it be at least as accurate/deadly as pepper spray?

TexasDude's avatar

@Nullo, maybe, but it’s not worth the risk. Like I said before, I’d rather have a surefire means of stopping the attacker, as opposed to something like a spray that is affected by many variables and may not be as effective as a fistful of lead.

@KhiaKarma, oh, you were clear. I was just saying that using oven cleaner as a weapon is not the best idea.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I have a 38 special. I have a riot type shotgun too that is scary as hell, but I have this little 38 next to my bed that’s what I would grab first

WestRiverrat's avatar

Oven cleaner is not a good alternative. It will scar for life without the chance of killing the miscreant. And with the way juries work these days, you may end up owing your attacker for the rest of his life.

Randy's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Most shotgun shots start to spread within 5–10 feet. (Source) That’s less than the length of most rooms. As long as the bead on the end of that gun is close to pointing at the assailant, then they should get hit. The bottom of this page shows the spread of an 18in barrel of a 12ga from 10 feet. I’d say that’s pretty good for close quarters.

@KhiaKarma My best advice when coming down to the “have to use it” scenario is to remember to stay calm and that it’s you or them. That’s where practicing comes in heady. Just remember to keep your wits and keep survival on your mind and you’ll do fine. People can push themselves pretty far if need be.

@Nullo Sprays in my opinion aren’t very effective when the assailant has a gun. If I were assaulting someone and they sprayed me in the face, I’d shoot blindly in my pain/rage in hopes of just hitting them. And yes, I have had pepper spay in the eyes. I dated a girl who kept it on her keychain for long time so one day me and a few friends from work decided to give it go. It’s crazy painful but I’m certain I could empty a handgun clip while in the pain. I’d be shooting blind, but shooting none the less.

Nullo's avatar

Alright, alright, so oven cleaner isn’t a good idea. A man needs be corrected but once per failure.

TexasDude's avatar

@WestRiverrat, that’s a very good point. You have to be aware that a jury will be examining you, even after a legal shoot. A jury will probably frown on burning a dude’s face moreso than they would punching holes in him, ironically enough.

@Randy, check this out. That looks like a good pattern, but you have to take into account the size of your target. A 6’ 0” man in a hallway with a 40” chest still leaves a lot of room to miss, even with spread, and you would want as many of your pellets as possible to hit your target (since you are accountable for where every single pellet goes). That’s why you must aim a shotgun and can’t rely on point shooting (Unless you are the reincarnation of Jeff Cooper, or you work for Magpul).

@Nullo, you are forgiven.

KhiaKarma's avatar

@Randy Why would you do that to yourself I was sprayed on accident when the police were trying to clear a crowd. It was very, very unpleasant! ...but I guess you didn’t know till you tried….

john65pennington's avatar

Safety comes first! safety for your family and safety for yourself.

I have never been a believer in revolvers for several reasons. first, they are too hard to load, if you need it in a hurry. second, keeping the ammunition in another location away from the revolver, is not advisable, if you need your weapon at 3 am in the morning and asleep.

My suggestion is a Glock 40. take the safety courses first. you can separate the magazine from the weapon for safety. but, when its needed, slap the magazine in and pull the hammer back and its ready to go. the Glock 40 is really an accurate weapon. when i retired, my police department gave me a brand new one and its really nice.

Randy's avatar

@KhiaKarma I was 17… We were teenage boys… Basically we were dumb. I knew it would hurt but what caught me off guard was how it affected my breathing. That was more painful than the burning eyes to me. I haven’t and won’t willingly do it again, trust me!

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Don’t get me wrong, aiming is the way to hit a target. BUT, in the case of close quarter gunfire, I’d rather have something I can stick out of cover while I’m in it and blast off a few shots while still being somewhat accurate. A few pellets breaking skin would be enough to give most attackers a wake up call and have them headed for the door because shit gets real when you start bleeding. Maybe my wording is all wrong… My point is that you can be more forgiving with your aiming when it comes to a shotgun compared to a handgun or rifle.

TexasDude's avatar

@Randy, that’s a valid point, thank you.

ucme's avatar

Viable targets!

Cruiser's avatar

I second @john65pennington on the Glock. It is a very reliable pistol with awesome stopping power. It holds a ton of ammo and it will make almost as much noise when you operate the slide as chambering a round in a pump shotgun. I have this beauty on my X-mas list.

rooeytoo's avatar

Forgive me, this response would have been a hijack, I will ask my own question. In the meantime I am reading the answers with interest.

rts486's avatar

The first thing you should do is look in the mirror and ask yourself if you can kill another person. If there is any doubt, don’t buy a gun.

If you know you can, you have plenty of good advice above. I only recommend don’t buy a cheap weapon. If this is a tool your life will depend on, you don’t want something that will malfunction because you went the cheap route. Also if you go with a hand gun, buy a caliber that starts with a 4. 9mm are cheap and easy to shoot, but they lack knock down power. Especially if the person you’re shooting is on PCP or some type of intravenously injected adrenaline. When I was in Iraq, we shot some insurgents and had a hard time putting them down with our 5.56 and 9mm. They kept going. Later we found out they were injecting themselves with adrenaline.

And practice, practice, practice. Practice until holding and using your weapon is second nature; something you can do without really thinking about. Practice until drawing your weapon, aiming and shooting is all done by muscle memory.

My personal favorite is a .45 1911.. Old reliable.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I keep cans of wasp spray handy: in my office, car and bedroom. There are several nice things about wasp spray:

1. I won’t hesitate to use it if threatened, because I won’t kill anyone or even cripple them for life. I don’t have to think too long or too hard about liability. There’s no finality with this defensive weapon.

2. Since I won’t kill anyone, there’s no danger of collateral damage. I’m not going to miss my target, shoot through a wall or open air and kill a neighbor or someone in the next room that I’m trying to protect.

3. Since it’s non-lethal, I can have it nearly anywhere. No one has said a word about the can on my desk at work, and a few people have even been informed about why it’s there. Everyone who knows thinks it’s a great idea.

4. If it’s taken away and used against me instead, it’s not going to kill me. I like that thought.

5. Since it sprays up to 27’ (about 9 meters) I can hold the button down and get my own ‘tracer’ and track the stream to where I want it—right in someone’s face. Unless they’re wearing goggles and a respirator, they’re going down and temporarily disabled… and I can follow that stream right to the face.

rooeytoo's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – good thinking! goes along with your name as well!

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