[Ed. note: This post was lost in the transition from TeachYourselfToShootBetter.com to MagSquad.com and has now been restored. It references an earlier post called “Work Your Equipment” that has, sad to say, disappeared to data heaven.]

Last time, we talked about working your equipment as opposed to letting your equipment work you.

Now I want to talk more about choosing your equipment.

When you buy a firearm, you’re not just buying a lead launcher, you’re buying into an ecosystem of accessories, factory support, spare parts, gunsmiths, training and for some of us, friend and family emergency plans. The focus of this post will be on guns that are a part of your self-defense plans, but I’ll come back around to guns you just want to shoot at the range later in the post.

Accessories

Firearms love accessories. Holsters, slings, Patridge sights, aperture sights, electronic sights, laser sights, scopes, slide stops, magazine releases, flashlights, grips, magazines, bipods, and on and on, ad Brownellsum. Will your new gun be compatible with all this stuff? Will your new gun be compatible with any of this stuff? If you buy some unusual gun, it might not be. Did you know that each type of pistol has its own type of sights? Some guns have dovetail sights, but the dovetail pattern differs between manufacturer, and often from model-to-model for a single manufacturer. If you buy an unusual gun, it’s possible that nobody makes an aftermarket sight for it, and you’re stuck with whatever sights the manufacturer offers.

So maybe you don’t want any of this crap on your gun. (I’m not a big fan of hanging crap off my guns, personally.) But what if you change your mind later? What if you don’t want any of the accessories that are available today, but tomorrow somebody comes out with an awesome accessory that you do want? Uh-oh.

Now, manufacturers do have some relatively standardized interfaces for accessories. The pistol front rail system is an example of this. Maybe at some point electronic sight mounts will standardize. If you do buy an unusual pistol, try to pick one with standardized interfaces for aftermarket accessories as much as possible.

Factory Support

Guns don’t always work right. They’re mechanical devices, and even reliable ones break down sometimes. Will your manufacturer offer you support? They’ll only support you if they’re still in business. (And even among large, stable manufacturers, some offer better support than others. Some judicious Bing searches can tell you about a manufacturer’s rep.) Many manufacturers have custom shops, offering tune-ups, upgraded parts and precision gunsmithing to make your gun better and faster. The smaller guys offer fewer of these, in general. Dornaus & Dixon were not available for comment.

Spare parts

There are more spare parts available for common guns than there are for uncommon guns. If a spring breaks in your gun, can you just walk into the nearest gun store and buy a new one, or are you going to need to hang around with a broken gun until the manufacturer mails you one when it gets a round tuit? The same goes for barrels, triggers, slide stops, etc.

Gunsmiths

Who wants to walk into the local gunsmith’s shop and hear, “Hmm, we don’t see these kinds of guns very often.” Not I. Buying weird guns leads to that kind of response from your gunsmith. The same goes for home gunsmithing. Do you want to be able to pick from two dozen “how-to” videos on YouTube for what you’re trying to do, or do you want to be stuck with no video at all, or one video from the toothless guy in his basement whose iPhone video camera keeps falling over?

Training

All guns have their own quirks. When you go get training, a good trainer should be able to help you work with your gun’s quirks. If you’ve picked a gun that’s common, your trainer should be able to help you. If your trainer says, “Hmm, we don’t see many of those kinds of guns,” then he isn’t going to be able to help you much. Some types of training are pretty much built around a single type of gun or a small set of guns. Defensive carbine classes, for instance, are going to be strongly biased toward AR-pattern rifles. The techniques you’ll be taught will be based around the way a standard AR is laid out. Many trainers can work well with AK-pattern rifles, and there are even some AK-specific classes out there. Revolver-specific classes aren’t too hard to find, either. Good luck finding a trainer who knows the ins-and-outs of your new Steyr Aug.

Friend and Family Emergency Plans

If you are like most humans, you fit into a web of human relationships. Hopefully you’ve thought about how those relationships impact your personal safety. How likely is it that someone else will wind up having to defend himself with your firearm? Or that you’ll have to defend yourself with his firearm?

Is it possible that you’ll have to use someone else’s firearm for self-defense? Is it possible that someone else will have to use your firearm for self-defense? If you live with someone, this is a particularly important question. Wouldn’t it just be easier if you could all use the same kind of gun for home defense, or at least all use guns with the same manual of arms? (E.g. standardize on AK-pattern rifles for home defense, or standardize on pistols with Browning-style thumb safeties for concealed carry.)

Multiple Guns

Related to this, many of us have different-sized guns for different occasions. Some people carry a full-sized or compact double-stack gun on a regular basis, but have a small pocket pistol for when the occasion demands. Wouldn’t it make sense for your multiple pistols to fire the same ammo and have the same manual of arms, maybe even down to the trigger pull weight? Or even take the same magazines? Many compact pistols will take their bigger brothers’ magazines just fine. For example, a subcompact Glock 26 can use a flush-fitting 10-round magazine, a 15-round Glock 19 magazine, a 17-round Glock 17 magazine or a 33-round (!) Glock 18 magazine. And what’s the sense in having to train to the challenges of a revolver trigger if you don’t always carry a revolver? Want to mess around with a gun of a new caliber? Why not get one that fits in a holster you already have? Then if your main gun goes down, you grab the one with the other caliber, drop it in your holster and you’re good to go. (Make sure you function test your pistols with good carry ammo before you carry them.)

Your Supply Chain

OK, I’ll admit to having drunk some Toyota Kool Aid. One of the major tenets of the Toyota Production System (aka “lean”) is that you should have as simple a supply chain as you can manage. This is why Lexus power window switches bear a startling resemblance to the power window switches in a Toyota. By standardizing on a single caliber, a single pistol manufacturer and/or a single pistol model, you simplify the process of keeping your household well-armed. If you run one type of gun, it’s not too hard to lay in a set of spare parts that make it easy to keep that gun running. It also makes it easier to lay in an entire spare gun. It makes training easier. It makes sourcing ammo easier: Lay in a boatload of your chosen caliber and you’re good to go for a long time. It makes it easier to lay in a small selection of holsters that work across a variety of guns.

Range Toys

Not every gun has to fit into your self-defense strategy. Sometimes you just want a gun because you want it. But even fun guns have to find a place in your supply chain. Think about how you can ease the logistical burden of owning the gun you want. Is it available in a caliber you already shoot? Is it available in a size that fits a holster you already have? For example, if you are a semi-auto guy and want a revolver, you can buy revolvers in semi-auto calibers. It’s possible that picking the right fun gun can actually enhance your self-defense strategy. Having a backup pistol that can slide right into your everyday carry holster, even if it’s in a different caliber, is a huge advantage if your main carry gun busts a spring or starts misfeeding at the range and needs attention from a gunsmith. If you decide that new 9mm revolver would be nice in your bedside safe, you already have a stack of 9mm hollowpoints available to feed to it. (You do have a good stash of your everyday carry ammo, right?)

And of course, different guns bring different advantages. You won’t hunt quail with your Sig P226, and you aren’t going to carry your elk rifle around with you every day for personal protection. But as you add guns to your safe, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I buying this gun? What purpose does it serve that isn’t already served by one of my existing guns?
  • How can I ease the logistical burden of having this gun?
  • If I’m looking to add this gun to my self-defense strategy, am I buying into a whole new manual of arms and supply chain? Are the additional advantages worth it?

Before you add something to your stable for self-defense, make sure it’s a good fit. Renting guns is a great idea. Does it feel comfortable in your hand? Can you shoot it well? A few bucks spent renting guns can get you a long way toward figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t.

And on the other side of the discussion, there’s no shame in buying a gun that you know isn’t going to work for you in the long term. Unlike many types of sports equipment (I’m looking at you, skiing), guns retain their value quite well. If you want to carry a concealed pistol but don’t have much shooting experience, it’s OK to buy a gun you like in order to learn to shoot. (I really recommend a full-sized 9mm for that purpose. Something Glock 17-sized is fantastic. .22 pistols can be great in that role also.) You can sell it later, or trade it in for something that suits your needs better. Note that accessories like holsters don’t retain their value very well. Optics are a mixed bag in terms of resale value.

Wrap Up

Many firearms are going to fit into your self-defense plans in either a primary or backup role. Make sure you’re picking guns that are not just useful, but also fit into an ecosystem of aftermarket accessories, factory support, tuning and your supply chain.

Feature photo: Four Glocks, Two Sizes, Two Calibers, One Holster by John ShootBetter.

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