[This was originally posted on November 3, 2011]
In prior posts, I've discussed some general issues as to the number of firearms, and some specific issues as to revolvers versus pistols, and medium caliber versus small caliber military rifle rounds. This time, I want to start getting into issues with actually picking weapons. Unlike my other posts, where I tried to back up some of my points by reference to other sources, this discussion is very subjective on my part, and is offered more to provoke thought on your part rather than be a definitive guide.
Point 1: There is no "one best gun." Whether speaking of firearms generally, or breaking the discussion into smaller categories (e.g., handguns, rifles, and shotguns), no firearm is perfect for all tasks. That's why there are so many different types of firearms and ammunition.
Point 2: Don't confuse "wants" with "needs." If you want a gun, and can get it (i.e., can afford it, can lawfully purchase it, whatever), then get it. But don't delude yourself into thinking that it fulfills a needs where it clearly does not. For instance, you may want to get a [finely] engraved over-under shotgun, but don't expect it to pull double duty as a defensive shotgun; you may want a 1911 style pistol over a Glock, but recognize that there is a large tradeoff in magazine capacity and there may be other issues that make a Glock a better weapon for your "go-to" weapon.
Point 3: Identify the purpose, or purposes for the weapon. Basically, this is the answer to the question, "Why are you getting that gun?" There may be more than one reason, and you may need to give different weight to different reasons. For instance, you want a rifle that can serve as both a hunting rifle and defensive rifle. However, you should also decide which is more important to you. If you live in a rural location with abundant game, few neighbors, and lots of open terrain, hunting may be a higher priority than someone in an urban or suburban setting where the "hunting" use is really more wishful thinking than realistic.
Point 4: Can the weapon actually fulfill the purpose. I have this as a separate category because it deserves a separate emphasis. Sometimes you may not know until after you get the weapon and try it in its intended role. If you want a weapons providing long distance accuracy, can this weapon actually do it? It is too heavy or unwieldy for its intended role? Is it going to be durable or reliable enough for what you need? Are there other features that just won't work?
Point 5: Weight. I put this into a separate category as well. Never underestimate the importance of the weight of a weapon in selecting one--particularly a concealed handgun or a weapon (such as a hunting rifle) that you will be carrying around for a long period of time when you do use it. In [other] words, don't expect that you will be able or willing to lug a bench-rest rifle up and down hills looking for game, or keep a 6 inch barrel .44 Magnum on your hip all day long.
Point 6: Personal limitations. This includes not only whether you can physically operate or carry the weapon, but any other mental, habitual, or emotional issues. The main example I like to use for this category is whether you will frequently clean and check your weapon, switching magazines regularly to not set the springs; or you are the type to throw it in a drawer and forget about it until you need it. If you clean weapons infrequently, you will want to emphasize reliability and durability over other features. In terms of a handgun--particularly one that is carried a lot--this may be the difference between choosing a revolver over a semi-automatic. For defensive rifles, this may be the determining factor between getting an AK over an AR.
Point 7: Other limitations and factors. This is sort of a catch all, but primarily encompasses the legal and financial considerations for buying a weapon. First, the financial. I figure that, on average, you should plan on spending at least the same amount as the cost of your weapon on needed accessories--scopes, holsters, extra magazines, slings, cleaning supplies, etc. This is not a cut-and-dried rule, and the actual cost may vary, but seems to work as a good guideline for most defensive weapons. Its usefulness is helping to realistically budget for your purchase. Again, this is a time to be honest with yourself. If you can't afford the weapon, don't get it; or reevaluate and see if there is a less expensive alternative. Besides your day-to-day expenses and bills, don't neglect other preparations (particularly food storage) in favor of building an "arsenal." As the Bible teaches, all things in moderation.
Legal is just simply whether there are legal considerations. Obviously, there are the restrictions due to the National Firearms Act (NFA) on automatic weapons, short-barreled weapons, and so on, which make such weapons cost-prohibitive to most people. Some jurisdictions may require special licenses and permits for some or all types of weapons; others may restrict certain features or types of firearms. For instance, if you live in a jurisdiction that restricts or prohibits handguns, you may need to focus on a long-arm (such as shotgun) as an alternative. If you live in a state that restricts or prohibits semi-automatic rifles, you may need to consider alternatives such as a lever-action rifle or carbine. (For instance, the restrictions in California appear to be leading to some new thinking on the use of lever-action rifles in combat).
Point 8: Availability of Parts and Accessories. While this may not be as much an issue for the collector or hunter, for someone using firearms for survival or self-defense, how common parts and accessories are for your weapon is extremely important. If nothing else, you need to be able to get spare magazines for your pistol or rifle; and you need a good holster for your handgun. As a general rule, for survival or prepping, try to select weapons that are common and popular or use commonly available magazines and accessories.