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I recently had a visit from relatives from back East, and had the opportunity to take them shooting.  For the wife, and two of the young daughters—the third was too young and small—it was a revelation.  Wife kept exclaiming in delight:  “that was fun!”  Two daughters wanted to shoot more and more rounds, which desire I was glad to accommodate.  They were right: shooting is fun.

As I’m sure you’re aware, gentle readers, during the Obama years, firearms and ammunition were in short supply.  Why?  Because Americans aren’t stupid; they knew Obama and his minions wanted to disarm the law abiding even as they supported criminals.  With the advent of the Harris/Biden/Whoever Administration—Joe Biden, Temporary President—the desire of Democrats/Socialists/Communists to disarm the law abiding—and to nurture and help criminals–has never been so obvious and strident, and Americans have rationally responded, thus making guns, and particularly ammunition, scarce pretty much everywhere.

Ammunition manufacturers have responded by ramping up production as much as possible, but local supplies of ammunition at pre-Biden prices are still lacking, again, pretty much everywhere.  I don’t expect that state of affairs to improve significantly until another Republican becomes president.  Should Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022, that may help to some degree, but it’s going to take years for supplies to once again become plentiful and prices to return to reasonable, pre-Biden levels.

The purpose of this article is to provide basic information for the first time gun buyer.  Let us consider these parameters:

*The new shooter has a family and wants them to become proficient too.

*The new shooter’s firearm experience is limited.

*The new shooter’s general firearm knowledge is limited.

*They’re not sure exactly what they want or need.

*They’re not sure whom to ask about this kind of information.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll provide articles on the essential safety and handling issues—the manual of arms, if you will—for semiautomatic pistols and semiautomatic rifles.  This article will be focused on choosing one’s first pistol and rifle.

PISTOL CHOICES:

Before we begin, it might be a good idea to visit my annually revised “guns and liberty” series, which is a rationale for gun ownership.  Merely enter “guns and liberty, 2021” in the SMM homepage search bar to find the 14-part series.  There is a great deal of useful information, not only on firearms, but history, philosophy, theology and law, to be found in those articles.

For the first time buyer, I recommend the ubiquitous .22LR cartridge.  The .22LR is a rimfire cartridge, which means guns that chamber it have firing pins that strike the rim of the cartridge.  Within that rim is primer compound, which when struck, produces a spark, which in turn ignites the powder in the brass cartridge case.  The expansion of gas produced is what propels the bullet down the barrel.  Firearms terminology is generally descriptive.  “LR” means “long rifle,” which distinguishes the cartridge from the several other rimfire cartridges in .22 caliber.  The “.22” designation means the bullet is 22/100 of an inch in diameter.  The bullets for .22LR ammunition normally weigh in the range of 30 to 40 grains.

While all prices are higher these days, the .22LR remains among the least expensive cartridges available, which is a good thing.  The new shooter needs to shoot frequently, not only to build familiarity with their new gun, but to gain skills.  A gun one can afford to frequently shoot is a good thing; shooting accurately is a perishable skill.  Also, the .22LR produces very mild report, muzzle blast and recoil, which is a great thing for everyone in the family.

L to R: .22LR, 9mm, .223

Examine the three cartridges in the photo above.  They are, left to right, the .22LR, the 9mm and the .223 Remington.  All cartridges have the same components: the case—normally made of brass, though some are of aluminum or steel (the 9mm here has an aluminum case)–the primer, powder, and the bullet.  Notice the 9mm and .223 cartridges have circular primers in the center of the bottom of their cases, which is why they are known as “centerfire” cartridges.  That’s where the firing pin strikes.  Rimfire cartridges have their primer compounds arrayed internally around the rims of the cartridge.  The .22LR is both a rifle and pistol cartridge, and while the 9mm is primarily a pistol cartridge, many rifles are also chambered for it.  The .223, also known as the 5.56 NATO, is the primary cartridge of the AR-15 family.  While it is primarily a rifle cartridge, some hybrid “pistols” are chambered in that caliber.

Why a semiautomatic pistol rather than a revolver?  Revolvers are generally much more difficult to shoot accurately.  To discover why, visit my most recent revolver primer.  Semiautos, particularly in 9mm, are generally a better choice, and to discover why, visit my most recent semiauto primer.  For the first time gun buyer, semiautos have triggers substantially easier to manipulate.  Another useful article—by all means, take all the links in this article–is this one on proper semiauto slide manipulation.  

Glock 44

Every manufacturer makes a variety of very good .22LR pistols, but for our purposes, I recommend the Glock 44 (my article on that gun is here).  The “44” has nothing to do with the gun’s characteristics; it’s simply Glock’s 44th patent.  Glock’s first handgun design was the Glock 17.

Glock 43, bottom with Crimson Trace LL 803 Laserguard Pro light/laser

Anyone becoming part of the firearm world quickly discovers shooters often have strong—sometimes irrationally so—opinions about various guns.  I do not suggest Glocks are the only useful handguns.  I own handguns made by a variety of manufacturers and enjoy them all.  However, my daily carry gun is a Glock 43.  

Glock 19 (top) and Glock 44 (bottom)

I recommend the Glock 44 as a starting gun because the Glock manual of arms—the method of safely manipulating and firing a specific firearm–is essentially identical from model to model.  All have the same triggers—about 5.5 pounds–essentially identical magazines, sights, slides and takedown and reassembly features.  All are very easy to properly clean, come with a nice plastic case, one spare magazine and an excellent printed manual.  Extra magazines are readily available and generally inexpensive.  Glock’s website may be found here.

Glock 44 disassembled

If you know how to manipulate one Glock, you know them all; the manual of arms for one is the manual of arms for all.  Anyone competent with the Glock 44 will have no difficulty at all moving to a larger caliber, the Glock 19, for example, as depicted above.  You can take these links to my articles on the Glock 19 and the Glock 17. 

Most importantly, Glocks are safe, simple to operate, accurate, and most importantly, utterly reliable.  I’ve owned many over the years, and have never had one fail to function completely reliably right out of the box.  Still, I would not carry one concealed without firing at least 100 rounds through it to ensure reliability and mostly, to be sure I’m familiar with the weapon.  Frankly, with Glocks, that’s really not required, but it’s an old habit born in the pre-Glock days when semiautos were not so reliable.

Again, take the link to the Glock 44 article where you’ll find a comprehensive description of the gun, which is purposely sized to be essentially identical to Glock’s mid-sized offering, the Glock 19, though the G44 is much lighter.

Can the .22LR be used as a personal defense cartridge?  It’s certainly on the small and weak side of that equation, but manufacturers are now making a number of specific .22LR offerings for self-defense that are more effective than ever before.  They just might be a bit hard to find these days.  An accurate hit with a .22LR is far more effective than a miss with a larger caliber, but for self-defense purposes, a .380 or 9mm is certainly more effective in general.  Again, if one learns on a G44, any of Glock’s larger chamberings will feel virtually identical.

The .22LR is an inexpensive cartridge.  The 9mm, because it is so common, is also relatively inexpensive—not so much these days—but much more expensive than the .22LR. Interestingly enough, the .380, because it’s not produced in the numbers of the 9mm, is more expensive than the 9mm, and all specific rifle cartridges, like the .223 are more expensive that any of these three.

Two good general sources for everything firearm related are Midway USA and Natchez Shooter’s Supply.  I’ve purchased everything from spare magazines to sights to all manner of other accessories from both.  Their inventory is normally comprehensive and their customer service is outstanding.

Those taking the links will discover I’ve equipped my Glocks with Crimson Trace lasers, which I’ve found to be universally excellent in design and manufacture as well as customer service.  One certainly doesn’t need a laser sight for their handgun, but they’re useful and effective, particularly for those of us with aging eyes.

RIFLE CHOICES:

One of the nice things about the .22LR cartridge is hundreds of rifles of all configurations are chambered for it.  I’ll make three recommendations.  Each has a simple manual of arms.  Each is easy to take down, clean and reassemble.  Take this link to my most recent, general, rifle primer.  

Ruger 10-22 Carbine

This is the ubiquitous Ruger 10-22.  It uses an excellent and rugged 10-round rotary magazine, is light weight, has a good trigger and is very accurate.  It is also easily taken down and reassembled for cleaning.  I’ve depicted the least expensive, most basic carbine.  One of the nice things about the 10-22 is there is a huge aftermarket in accessories of all kinds.  I’d recommend finding one with a polymer stock, if possible.  They’re a bit more durable than wood, and tend to be unaffected by weather.  Wood stocks responding to weather changes can affect accuracy.  Polymer stocks are also a bit lighter.  All of Ruger’s 10-22 models may be found here.  

Savage A22 FV-SR

Savage also makes a number of rifles with equally good rotary magazines.  All of their rimfire offerings are here.  The rifle depicted is the A22 FV-SR, which is a rifle with more standard features than the basic 10-22.  I own this rifle because it comes with a standard picatinny rail—for attaching all manner of red dot or optical sights—a polymer stock, and a heavier barrel, which provides still better accuracy.  I also like the design which allows cleaning from the breach—where the bullet enters the chamber—rather than the muzzle—where the bullet leaves the barrel.  Savage makes a number of rotary magazine .22LR rifles in their A22 series, as a visit to the link above will demonstrate.

S&W M&P 15-22

For anyone contemplating one day owning an AR-15, a good first rifle choice is the Smith & Wesson, M&P (Military and Police) 15-22.  It’s essentially a slightly scaled down AR-15.  The controls and trigger are essentially identical to the AR-15 family, and its manual of arms and general function are essentially identical as well.  Anyone familiar with the 15-22 will have no trouble stepping up to an AR-15.  The primary difference is in weight and balance.  The AR-15 also has an enormous number of accessories available on the aftermarket, and many of them will fit the 15-22.

The 15-22 “breaks down” for cleaning virtually identically to the AR-15 family, which is known for its ease of cleaning compared to “civilian” designs.  The bolt groups are, of course, different, but anyone familiar with either weapon family will find the other very easy to use.

The 15-22 comes with accessory rails that make mounting optics of any kind very easy.  It also comes with magazines of either 10 or 25 round capacity.  Why 25 round magazines?  It cuts down on reloading time on the range.  They’re simply more convenient.

Tasco Red Dot Sight

Optical sights, such as red dot sights and telescopic sights, are readily available.  Tasco makes a great, inexpensive red dot sight appropriate for .22 rifles for about $40.00, and other manufacturers, like Vortex, make a variety of more expensive, though excellent sights.

Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight

Am I suggesting one should not buy a Glock 17 or 19 in 9mm, or an AR-15 in .223 for their first handgun and rifle?  No.  Any would be a good choice, and again, many other manufacturers make fine firearms.  I’m just suggesting a method of learning with reliable and inexpensive to shoot firearms.  Besides, any shooter needs a good .22 pistol and rifle.  It has been scientifically proved there is no such thing as too many guns or too much ammunition.

One final world on purchasing a gun for the first time.  Many stores are very helpful, particularly for the new buyer.  However, they are running businesses, and will often tend to recommend what might not be selling so well.  The guns I’ve recommended here are industry standards.  They’re all proven, reliable and durable designs and if properly maintained will last a lifetime.

Don’t be tempted to go for cheap.  If necessary, save a bit and get a quality gun.  Those who go cheap initially always end up buying a better gun when they learn enough to appreciate quality.

Next Week: a basic handgun handling primer