Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Guns: How to start shooting (long post)

Overview



More so than most pastimes, getting into shooting can be expensive if you don't have any information. Unlike other activities like tennis, where even a fancy, expensive racket can be used by a novice, with guns, if you get the "wrong" firearms, your initial experience will be unpleasant and perhaps even negative.

If all someone reads are the gun rags at the book store, he or she will be convinced that the only way to properly defend yourself is a high-dollar custom 1911, or a new-fangled scandium revolver, or a tricked-out AR-15. He or she might also be under the impression that the best way to hunt is with a beautiful magnum rifle in a caliber no one's ever heard of, or that the best way to shoot skeet is with a $1000 "entry-level" over-under.

In truth, I recommend the course of action proposed by John Ross, author of the historically accurate if corny and super-illogical Unintended Consequences (I'll get around to doing a book review later). The first gun anyone should buy or receive is a .22 LR firearm in good condition and from a reputable company (handgun or rifle, it doesn't matter), the second thing that person should get is a good set of eye and ear protection, and the third thing is about a half-dozen or so boxes of bulk .22 ammo (all different kinds, preferably, but my guns seem to like the Federal stuff).



Picking That First .22



There's a number of .22 firearms out there. Here's some of my value picks:



Romanian .22 trainer
These used to be plentiful - not so much now, I guess. I actually picked up two of these suckers - it's a good idea, as the magazines can often be loopy and the extraction in most examples is hit and miss. The upside of these rifles? They are (or at least were) inexpensive, they're definitely accurate enough to have some serious range time, and they have a nice feel to them IMHO.


Marlin 795SS

This was the first gun I ever bought, and the first gun I ever shot. I'll do a separate post on it one of these days, but suffice it to say that the Marlin Model 60 and its derivatives are about as accurate, reliable, and fun to shoot as any .22 out there. The Ruger 10/22 might get all the gaudy Butler Creek extended mags, but in my experience, the Marlin is more reliable.


.22 conversion kit


Various companies (Ciener, Marvel, etc.) make conversion slides for popular pistol models like 1911s and GLOCKs. These are excellent purchases - you can get time with your carry gun's trigger and ergonomics while shooting for literally pennies a shot. I have a CZ Kadet that has run flawlessly - great fun.



The Importance of Eyes & Ears

From my own experiences with teaching new shooters, the number one thing that causes flinching is the report of the firearm, followed by the recoil, and then the blast (unless the recoil is fairly high, as with .44 Mag and up or .30-06 and up). My theory is that the human ear was not meant to listen to loud noises - nothing as loud as a firearm is commonly encountered in nature, and even with full ear protection (plugs and muffs), it's not a good idea to be exposed to gunfire for extended periods of time, especially on an indoor range.

Eye protection is also a good idea for a number of reasons. The bulk .22 ammo, first of all, is quite dirty by modern standards, and the resulting smoke and debris that might potentially fly into someone's face would do little to improve their shooting. More importantly, having a physical barrier between the eyes and the pressure/blast issuing from the muzzle definitely helps calm the hands of a nervous first-timer.
Final Thoughts
I urge most shooters to think of a .22 as an investment. Much like a 20 gauge shotgun, a .22 is sometimes viewed as a beginner's pick - sort of like a kid's show you're supposed to outgrow. But a well-made .22 will be something you can shoot for a lifetime, and that you can teach your kids to shoot - as long as they don't ban it. :P

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