Best gun for the homestead
I come from a small and somewhat isolated town in the Pacific North West. My graduating class had 13 people. I am currently a ranch hand on a somewhat large horse ranch (between 30-40 high end horses). The main industry in our town is logging, cattle, and dairy, along with some tourism since we boarder a national forest.
Our small independently owned and operated hardware store only stocks a few boxes of the most popular ammunition. They are: .22 lr, .22 magnum, .223, 38 auto, 38 Special, 9mm, .357, .40, .44, .45, 12 gage buck/bird shot, 410 buckshot, .308, 30-06, 270. Those are the most popular cartridges for hunters, farmers, and cattlemen in my area. They have one box of 50 cal, but it has been sitting there gathering dust for years.
People around here own firearms for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to: home defense, predators (bears, mountain lions), hunting (turkey, geese, deer, elk, bear, cougar), as well as putting down livestock (pig, cattle, whatever can fill the smoke house).
Let’s assume that you don’t know anything about firearms. From the list above the popular handgun cartridges for country folk are: .22 lr, 38 auto, 38 Special, 9mm, .357, .40, .44, and 45. Of these 8 options, I would say that .22 lr, 38 Special, and 9mm have the greatest turnover. There are revolvers out there that are chambered in .22 magnum, but it’s mostly used as a rifle cartridge.
The most popular rifle cartridges (in my area) are .22 lr, .22 magnum, .223, 12 gage buck/bird shot, .308, and 30-06. The turnover for these cartridges varies depending on the time of year. Since we are in hunting season (deer/elk) the 30-06 has been flying off the shelves. However, .22lr and .223 are in the highest demand throughout the year with .308, 12 gage, 270, and 30-06 being primarily seasonal cartridges (hunting season).
Philosophy of use for a homestead firearm:
I once had a friend who doesn’t know anything about firearms ask me why there are so many different calibers and types of firearms. The short answer is that a gun is a tool that has a variety of uses. The same person would be tempted to ask why one person would need so many guns. The answer for me at least is the same reason that I own so many different screw drivers.
Arguably the most versatile gun is the 12 gage shot gun. When it came to the original pioneers/homesteaders their number one choice was the shotgun. In regards to personal protection it has a lot of stopping power. When it comes to hunting it will work for both deer and birds such as geese and turkey. They are also relatively inexpensive (you can pick up a new one for less than $200). They are also simple to use/clean and can last for multiple generations if properly cared for.
Motivation behind purchasing a gun:
I was a marketing major in college and learned a great deal about motivates people to buy a certain product. Another thing I learned was that people are generally easily manipulated. I once heard a great quote that “stupid people are sure of their beliefs and smart people aren’t.”
I think that in some cases this is true, and others it’s not. However, I think there is a lot of truth to this when it comes to the firearm community. There are many people who are either “brand loyal” or “cartridge loyal.” That is to say, that these people either think that one particular brand or cartridge is the only way to go.
In a way I pity these people because their close mindedness is blinding them to other philosophies and functionalities of various firearms. In another sense I admire them because they are perfectly content with what they have. I think that it’s best to be both happy with what you have, and open to other options.
There are several motivations that people have when it comes to making a purchase. At the risk of being overly simplistic these are: functionality, fear, approval, group identification, validation (statues).
In my opinion, when it comes to purchasing a firearm, the only criteria that one should be concerned with is functionality. That is to say, how reliable the firearm is, how well it works in regards to its intended purpose, and how well it suits you as an individual.
In terms of functionality there are two main things to consider. The two main criteria for most people are cost, and ability to fulfill its intended purpose.
Cost: Cost comes in two forms: The cost of the actual firearm, and the cost of the ammunition. For example, .45 ACP ammo costs almost twice as much as 9mm ammo. Part of functionality is how proficient you are at firing that particular firearm. And the only way to truly become proficient at firing a gun is through practice. If you are well off, the cost of shooting more expensive caliber firearms may not be as prohibitive as it is for people with a more limited income. As such, just because a .45 caliber gun is better for you, doesn’t mean that it will be better for someone else.
Stopping Power: Believe it or not, but there is such a thing as to much stopping power. For example, you wouldn’t go squirrel hunting with a 30-06 (there wouldn’t be much squirrel left). In terms of stopping power for people, real world ballistics shows that it doesn’t matter what you carry, as long as you carry (source below). For example, the average number of shots until incapacitation for a 9mm is 2.45. The average number of shots until incapacitation for a .45 ACP is 2.08 (surprisingly .22 lr beats both at just 1.38). However, 9mm handguns hold significantly more ammunition (as it relates to size of firearm) than firearms chambered in .45 ACP.
Intended use: How well the firearm works for its intended use is obviously one of the most important factors. Intended use can mean different things for different people. Obviously the intended use for a collector will be different than the intended use for a hunter.
Personally I put great emphasis on the longevity of a firearm. I like firearms full metal framed handguns that will last generations if properly cared for, but that’s just me. Others put more emphasis on weight and concealability. I live in the country and work on a horse ranch. As such, conealability is not as important to me as it would be for someone living in a more urban environment.
Hunting: One of the main intended functions for firearms is hunting. One thing that grinds my gears are people who argue about firearms and cartridges over the internet. The reason being that both people could be right that their cartridge or firearm is “the best.” It just so happens that it’s “the best” for their particular geographic location. For example, I come from a heavily wooded area. As such, hunting rifles out here don’t have to reach as far as hunting rifles on wide open prairies.
Personal protection: When it comes to personal protection there are a lot of different options. Fear is a big factor when it comes to selecting a firearm for personal protection. If you are interested in home defense your firearm options are a lot broader than if you are more interested in conceal carry. In either case you are best suited with a hand gun due to its versatility in short distances It’s easier for an assailant to grab ahold of a long barreled rifle than a handgun.
My Homestead gun: What’s best for me may not be best for you. My two main firearms are a Winchester Model 70 chambered in 30-06. The Model 70 is incredibly popular with hunters and outdoorsman. So popular in fact that millions have been produced and sold. They saw some military service as a sniper rifle during the Vietnam war.
My second main firearm is a Smith&Wesson model 14 chambered in 38 Special. It’s a revolver, as such it’s dependable. It has a 6 inch barrel with means it’s easier to aim. The 38 Special cartridge has a long history of military and police use. It’s also a widely available and can be found anyplace that sells ammunition. The owner of the horse ranch I work on used a 38 Special to kill a mountain lion that wandered onto the ranch.
My motivation for buying these two firearms was almost purely financial. The Model 70 costs around $700. I paid $200. I got the “good old boy price” and it was one I wasn’t going to pass up. When I bought my model 14 I was actually looking for a handgun chambered in 9mm. However, the model 14 is an $800 gun and the guy was selling it for $280.