Choosing the Right Gun

August 15, 2014 by | Be the first to comment »

Ask 100 people what they think is the best gun and you’re likely to get 100 different answers. The truth is that there is no “best” gun because like any other tool, each serves a unique purpose. For example, I love my AR-15 because it provides more firepower and accuracy than any pistol, but I can’t carry it on my body while walking around town.

Choosing the right gun depends not only on the circumstances, but also on the individual. While I can control a subcompact .45 with ease, the light weight and heavy recoil would make it almost useless for my wife. A heavier 9mm would be a more effective choice for her.


You have your choice of weapon at home since you’re in a static location. I recommend a shotgun or a semiautomatic rifle like an AR-15 or AK-47 because of the stopping power, and in the case of a semiautomatic rifle,the capacity and ability to quickly reload. On the street, you are usually limited to a handgun and your specific environment may limit your options even further. In cool weather you can carry pretty much whatever you like, but in hot weather you may be forced to carry a subcompact handgun.

Physical Ability

The 9mm v. .45 argument will probably never go away. It’s true that a .45 has more stopping power than a 9mm, but if you can’t manage the recoil, you can’t send rounds accurately down range and that extra stopping power becomes irrelevant, so make a realistic assessment of your physical abilities before choosing a weapon. If you’re left-handed, you have additional considerations. For example, most semiautomatic rifles will eject hot brass into your face and bolt-action rifles will be virtually impossible to operate properly.


Owning a gun and knowing how to use it under extreme stress are two different things. Having fired over half a million rounds from an M-16/AR-15 both as a U.S. Marine and a civilian, it is second nature to me. I wouldn’t feel anywhere near as comfortable with an AK-47 in my hands though. Figure out what weapon is best for you and then train extensively with it.

Evaluating Weapon Choices

Now that we’ve assessed your environment, physical ability, and training, it’s time to asses the types of weapons available.


Though handguns are light on stopping power, they are easily carried and concealed, making them ideal for self-defense outside of the home or office.

Operating a handgun is relatively simple, but it will take some practice—especially to clear jams and misfires.

A capacity of 8-20 rounds gives you plenty of ammunition for most scenarios, and it’s easy to toss an extra magazine or two into your pocket to add more firepower.


It’s tough to beat the raw stopping power of a shotgun, and the distinct sound of chambering a round will send most intruders fleeing. Operating a shotgun is dead simple even under stress; just rack the pump and pull the trigger. In the unlikely event that it jams or misfires, rack the pump again to eject a round and chamber the next one, then pull the trigger.

The capacity of 6-8 rounds may sound small, but when you’re working with 12 or even 20 gauge, it’s more than adequate for most situations.

Semiautomatic Rifle

I am a huge fan of semiautomatic rifles, particularly the AR-15 since I’ve fired over half a million rounds from an M-16/AR-15 both as a U.S. Marine and a civilian, so it is second nature to me.

Even the diminutive 5.56/.223 produces tremendous stopping power at the range you’ll encounter in a self-defense scenario, and the rifle platform is significantly more accurate than a handgun due to greater stability and longer sight radius. Add the increased capacity (typically 30 rounds) and it’s tough to beat this package.

Operating a semiautomatic rifle can be a bit more complicated than other weapons though, which is why we trained extensively on remedial action drills.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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