• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Before you buy a gun | Here are some things to think about

The Ridge Runner paracord sling fits well on my 7 mm Magnum Remington 700. The sling is interchangeable with many of firearms. (Pantenburg photos)
600 151 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Few actions require more fore-thought than purchasing a firearm. But more important than the style, caliber, action and size is the reason for buying  one in the first place. Why do you want a firearm? Do you really need it?  Would you be better off without a gun? You might be surprised.

by Leon Pantenburg

For me, owning firearms was never a consideration. I come from a long line of hunters and shooters, and some of our firearms have been passed down for generations. I grew up on an Iowa farm, and all my peers hunted. Some of my first memories include my dad teaching me gun safety and how to shoot. The first item I saved up to buy was a Ruger 10/22 rifle.

These three long guns are good, reliable choices for the beginner with no experience.

The Ruger 10/22 (top), Remington 870 pump action shotgun and Remington 700 bolt action rifle are good choices for the beginner. (Leon Pantenburg photo)

In my Dad’s locked gun cabinet were firearms of many configurations, ranging from pistols to shotguns. Dad, a World War II infantryman, had an M1 Carbine, and a couple loaded magazines. That was the weapon he reached for when things went bump in the night on the farm. It never occurred to me to use that M1 “assault rifle” with the extended magazines (sometimes referred to as clips) to do harm to anyone.

But suppose you have no firearms background whatsoever, and are considering buying one. Let’s say you are concerned about self defense, and want to be able to protect yourself and your family during a potential disaster or emergency. As a side benefit, you may want to eventually get into hunting, or think it might be a good idea to learn how to shoot accurately.

Buying a firearm is not something to take lightly. Here are some of my opinions, based on experience, that will hopefully impact your decision process.

  • I support the National Rifle Association and believe in the Second Amendment right to bear arms. But I don’t think everyone should own a firearm! Anyone unwilling to invest the necessary time to become proficient with a firearm, could become a danger to himself or others. If you are mentally unstable, a convicted felon or otherwise impaired from the responsible use of a firearm, you should not have one.
  • Before you buy any firearm, take a gun and/or hunter safety course or a concealed weapons class, even if you don’t intend to carry concealed. There are many educational opportunities available, and contacting the sheriff or local Fish and Game Department is a good way to locate a class. Have a safe, secure place to store the firearm and ammunition before you go shopping.
  • Why are you buying a gun? Self defense? Hunting? Recreation? Target shooting? Learn the differences between firearms – a .38 caliber snubbie for self defense will not work very well for deer hunting. And that scoped, bolt action hunting rifle might not be the best choice to repel intruders inside your apartment. Decide whether you want to invest in steel targets (which can last for a while session) or use something else.

Here are some things to think about as part of the gun-buying decision process:

Where will you secure the gun? Owning a gun that can’t be stored safely is irresponsible, and in my mind, is a good reason NOT to have one.

A firearm is neither good nor evil. It is an unthinking machine until someone picks it up and decides how it will be used. Possessing a gun won’t keep you safe. Like anything, you must develop the skills to use the weapon. Shot placement is everything.

A few years ago, I interviewed U. S. Marine Kyle Thompson of La Pine, OR. Thompson had just come back from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he had served on Recon teams. The Marines, all of whom were sniper school graduates, were frequently dropped in Taliban territory to track down terrorist bands and help defend isolated villages.

With any weapon at their disposal, Thompson said the Marines frequently relied on the bolt action, .308-caliber M-24 scoped sniper rifle. The Taliban were armed with

My Remington 700 in 7 mm magnum caliber is my choice as an elk hunting rifle, but it is not the best choice for an overall self defense weapon.

My bolt action Remington 700 in 7 mm magnum caliber is my favorite elk hunting rifle. It is not the best choice for an overall self defense weapon.

fully-automatic AK-47s. A common ambush situation, Thompson said, was that a Taliban terrorist would open up on a patrol and empty a 30-round magazine in a continuous burst. The Marines could stay out of AK range and respond with a M-24. Results were predictable.

Probably the most important self-defense question is this: Are you willing to kill someone to keep yourself or loved ones safe? This question needs to be answered honestly before you go any further on the self-defense firearms purchasing path.

In his book On Killing Lt. Col. Dave Grossman argues that many people could not kill someone, even when threatened with lethal force. Killing from a distance, Grossman writes, such as artillery or  bombing, can be relatively easy. But a close encounter, where you can see the other person and witness the affects of pulling the trigger, he comments, can be extremely difficult for most people.

Brigadier General S.L.A Marshall discovered this in surveys of combat military personnel.

“In World War II, only 15 to 20 percent  of combat infantry were willing to fire their rifles. In Korea, about 50 percent,” Marshall writes. “In Vietnam, that figure rose to more than 90 percent.”

If trained military people have problems pulling a trigger during combat, what will your chances be?  Your unwillingness or inability to use your gun under dire circumstances could cause you to be disarmed. Then you have armed a perpetrator.

If your mind in not made up on these points, don’t buy a gun. It will do you no good, and may cause harm.

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  • Charlotte Fleet

    I love how you stated that it is important to have a place to store a gun safely before you buy one. My dad is hoping to buy a gun so he can go hunting with my brother. I will be sure to recommend that he buy the gun from a reputable store and have a safe place to keep it once he does.

  • Leon

    I would suggest she get firearms training before she buys a gun. Then she will be knowledgeable enough to get one that will work for her.

  • Thomas Clarence

    You made a great point when you mentioned that it is important to make sure that you develop the skills to properly handle it when you own a firearm. My mother is wanting to purchase a small pistol that she can keep in one of the fireproof safes she has in her closet. Once my mom gets the firearm, it might be a good idea for her to find a training facility that can teach her how to use it safely.

  • Leon

    Firearms training is also critical. To quote me: A firearm is an unthinking machine, neither good nor bad. It can be used for either good or evil.

  • Megan Alder

    My husband and I have been thinking about buying a gun for each other since times have gone crazier and we have gone through some bad situations lately. You made a great point when you talked about the secondary things that need to be thought about, like where will we secure the arm. We have three children so it’s critical for us to keep them safe and away from the guns until they frow older and understand them.

  • Alice Carroll

    Thanks for the tip that consulting a local sheriff will help in making me decided which kind of firearm I should buy. I’ve been thinking about joining my uncle in deer hunting in the future so I think having buying a rifle for myself. On the other hand, a handgun is a lot more practical when it comes to self-defense purposes.

  • rachel frampton

    My husband has been planning to purchase a gun both for protection and hunting. I guess you’re right; before purchasing any guns, it’s best to find a place where he can secure it once bought. Also, I agree with you that he should take a hunter safety course first.

  • Oscar Morrison

    I like that you addressed how it’s important to consider whether you’re going to actually be willing to use your gun when you need to, because if not then it’s just a liability. My wife and I have been thinking about buying a gun lately, but I don’t think we’ve honestly considered whether we’d actually be willing to use it if we needed to. If we’re going to make a decision that important, we should definitely talk about it and decide whether we want to do that.

  • Leon

    I firmly believe people should be trained in firearm use. Even if a person has no intention of shooting or hunting, it is important to know gun safety.

  • Ellie Davis

    I liked that you mentioned you need to take proper training before even thinking about buying a gun. My brother was thinking about buying a gun for protection, and we are looking for information. I will let him know that he needs to have proper training before to prevent accidents.

  • Leon

    Contact your local fish and game folks – they should be able to recommend a good instructor. That failing, contact your local police. I think every person should take a gun safety class, even if they have no intention of ever using a gun.

  • Shayla Cademis

    Thanks for the suggestion to take a gun and/or hunter safety course before purchasing a firearm. My son has recently expressed interest in going shooting with his dad, but I was a little worried about his lack of knowledge on gun safety. I think a gun safety course would be a great way to give him the safety skills he needs and to truly see if target shooting and hunting would be something he is interested in. I’ll have to let him know that if he passes, we can start thinking about getting a firearm for him. Hopefully we can find a great gun safety course in our area!

  • Dave Anderson

    That is a good point that a bolt action hunting rifle might not be the best to repel intruders. Maybe it would be good to get a different kind of rifle to scare off intruders. This is something I am going to have to look into getting for my home to keep my family safe.

  • Leon

    Encourage her to take a gun safety or hunter safety class. She will learn safe gun handling, even if she never needs to use the gun. Also, make sure you have a way to safely secure the weapon, and that will go a long way toward lessening her fears.

  • Ridley Fitzgerald

    You’ve got good tips for buying the right gun. I like how you said that the firearm itself isn’t evil; it all depends on who picks it up. My wife is a little nervous to have one in the house, but I’ll explain this to her and make sure she understands the self-defense benefits it will bring.

  • Ted Gordon

    I remember the first time I hold a gun, it was very exciting and I just want to own a gun then. This post reminds its reader especially survivalist to have the right reason in owning a gun. Way to go!

  • Duncan Lance

    I agree, before you purchase any firearm, you need to make sure that you have taken a proper safety course and handling class. This is especially important if you are buying any hunting guns. After all, you will want to make sure that you properly know how to use them once you get out into the wilderness, so that there will be no risk of an accident.

  • Heidi Bookenstock

    I live in an area with a lot of crime and many people that I know have had their homes broken into and ransacked, sometimes while they’re in the home. I would feel a lot safer owing a firearm, but I don’t come from a gun-owning family and I don’t really know where to start. I appreciate the insights from this article, especially the question whether or not I’d be able to take a life if I were in danger, that is something to think about.

  • Leon

    A gun is an unthinking machine, that will kill anything in front of it. Owning one won’t keep you safe, and in fact, may be more danger to the untrained person than if you didn’t have one. That being said, I encourage EVERYONE to take a gun safety class, and learn how to safely handle firearms. Even if you decide not to buy a gun, knowing how to handle one can help keep you and yours safer!

    Let me know what you decide!

  • Deb Pearl

    My husband really wants to buy a gun, but we both have never bought or had a gun before. I really liked how you said you must develop the skills to use the weapon and just possessing a gun won’t keep you safe. I think my husband should take some classes first before he gets a gun.

  • Kairi Gainsborough

    I agree that you should take a safety course before you buy your first gun. Since I am planning on getting a hunting rifle, it would be a good idea to take a hunter safety course, like you suggested. I’ll start looking around to see what courses are offered in my area before I visit the gun show to get my first rifle. Thanks for the sound advice.

  • Leon

    There are many triggerlocks that work very well. Both of you might take a gun safety class together, and that might resolve several safety issues.

  • Roger Middleton

    I have been wanting to get a gun for a while now and it’s been hard convincing my wife to let me get one. I liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to have somewhere that you can safely store the gun before purchasing one. This weekend I’ll have to start looking for somewhere to store a gun and maybe that will be what I need to convince my wife to let me go to a gun store to purchase one.

  • Donald Wright

    It is not all about buying a gun, but buying the right gun. I think when you carryout research and fact finding activities, you will be able to get useful information that will guide you in acquiring the right gun. It is not just about buying guy, but buying the right gun that will meet your requirement. This is why you need to do thorough survey. Thanks a million, your information was useful .

  • Leon

    The next step might be to take a concealed carry or hunter safety class. Get some actual gun handling experience before you make the final purchase choice. Thanks for reading!

  • Becca Holton

    I’ve been thinking about buying a firearm. These questions to ask yourself before buying a firearm was enlightening. I can see how answering these questions are helpful.

  • Richard @ Gun Safe Able

    In a world where people are increasingly feeling unsafe, the need to protect ourselves has become central to our lives. When your country allows free gun ownership, you might want to jump directly to this option as a way to protect yourself. What this post reminds us is that you might want twice before getting yourself a firearm. Like is it really the best option? Are there other ways to protect yourself? Are you at any risk of suffering the kind of harm that would need you to use a gun to defend yourself?

  • Sam Solo

    I agree with you about making sure that people are in the right state of mind before selling them a gun. Even for people with good mental health, they should have mandatory safety courses before they can purchase a weapon. This way there will be far fewer gun accidents and mass shootings.

  • Ridley Fitzgerald

    Thanks for the great tips for buying a gun. I like how you said that I need to first ask myself what I’m willing to do in order to keep my family safe. Honestly, I can say that I’d do anything. Buying a handgun is part of that.

  • Leon

    I am a firm believer that everyone should know how to use a firearm before considering buying one. There are courses in every community, and your brother should be encouraged to check one out. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Alexandria Martinez

    My brother has been thinking about going to the gun store and buying a firearm he has had his eye on for a while. I think it is great advice for him to take a course before purchasing anything. This way he is educated and knows how to properly protect himself and his family.

  • Rachel

    Like you said, these are all important things to consider before buying a gun. I think the safety classes are a must, especially so you can keep yourself and your family safe. Thank you for sharing.

  • Leon

    Nobody said anything about a two-shot derringer versus a Glock 19. I would not advise a newcomer/beginner – who is the target audience for this article – to buy a semi-auto with high capacity magazine as their first choice for the best defense weapon.

  • MrApple

    “A semi-automatic weapon, with high capacity magazine, does not make the best self defense weapon. Large capacity magazines encourage a lot of “spray-and-pray” IMHO, and the only shots that count are the ones that hit the intended target.”
    >Bullshit. So I’m better off with a 2-shot derringer instead of my Glock 19? Again, BULLSHIT.

  • Cabinfever

    Leon is right on the money here. Personally, the Ruger 10/22 is one of the most verstile and dependable rifles ever made. I own several of them. It is a great training rifle for teaching the new shooter, it’s very dependable and well constructed. Most important, try before you buy.

  • Taxdn2poverty

    Every law abiding citizen needs guns. It is not a matter of why they need guns: They need them. The only decision making process is to determine type and caliber. An armed law abiding citizen keeps the others law abiding. ’nuff said, thanks for the article.

  • Pete M

    Good stuff Leon! I would add that if someone is new to guns and shooting consult an expert before buying anything. A personal protection pistol course or a long gun course will help a potential gun owner figure out what they need or don’t need. Some offer weapons to rent or use for this purpose.
    By the way, not all Recon guys were trained snipers when I was in but, the M-24 is an easy weapon for any Marine to use. And it does weigh a ton like some of the “fancy” stuff out there. It’s just a good, bare bones, 7.62. Sometimes the simplest solution is also the most effective.

  • Bill

    I would agree with you on the first opinion. I think that knowledge of how and when firearms can and should be used is extremely important to firearms owners. But then, who determines whether a person is qualified to own a firearm? Criminal record is just about the only thing that we have to go on. It’s like the idea that people who are on the no fly list shouldn’t be allowed to own guns. On the surface, it seems like a good idea, but who determines who gets put on the no fly list and how do you get off the no fly list? If a five year old Canadian can get put on their no fly list, how do you or I know that we won’t get put on the no fly list by some bureaucrat?

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