In regione caecorum rex est luscus
In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King
by Desiderius Erasmus, a GSL member
When Dad was still alive, I would go to the range, then drive to his house, and show him my target. Theatrically putting on his bifocals, he would closely examine hits and misses with his eye of a practiced infantry veteran of the Hürtgen Forest and Battle of the Bulge – harumphing here and there with: “You pulled that one a little bit right,” or “You jerked the trigger” and the like.
Once, the old Scotsman asked how much ammunition cost; I told him that self-defense ammo was running between $1.00 and $1.50 a round, at which he whistled – his signal that something cost “too danged much.”
I replied: “Dad, how much is your life worth? With practice, if you can stop a bad guy from killing you by shooting him twice, is three bucks a reasonable price?”
Dad would agree, so I ask you the same thing. For self-defense – of you or God-forbid someone in your family – what would you pay for your weapon, adequate practice ammunition, and the actual “combat” ammunition you will use? Pricier doesn’t always mean better quality, but often it does. Better quality begets increased confidence; and a confident shooter is a better shooter.
How about $350 for a weapon? $500? $1,000? Does it give you the minute of bad guy accuracy you need to get a first-round-hit? How about follow-on shots; is it reliable enough that you won’t get a failure to operate – feeding, extracting, chambering the next round, etc.? You might decide that a single firearm might not do everything you need. It might be fine if you live in close-confines of a very large city, but for home defense, or if you live on a farm or village you may decide you need a shotgun as well. Numerous firearms’ experts, in fact, say that a shotgun is the most flexible defense weapon based on the huge variety of ammunition – slugs, buckshot and birdshot.
So what to do? Join Guns Save Life; it’s money well spent. At your local GSL monthly meeting, ask other members about what they have. More importantly, when they brag about their Glock 40 MOS, CZ AccuShadow 2, Smith & Wesson Model 686 Plus, etc., flatter them, tell them that you would love to go to the range together, and you’ll pay for 20 rounds to shoot through their weapon.
GSL members are some of the most generous folks you will meet, and after 20 rounds, you’ll have a great idea if the weapon is for you. As an annual member of a range, you should be able to put a card up on the bulletin board with the same request. And at many ranges, you can rent a firearm.
During the test-fire, forget about opinions, calibers and ammunition costs. Concentrate on gathering information. How accurate are you with that weapon at 30 feet? How is the recoil? Can you shoot a second shot pretty quickly? How are the sights for your eyes? Will it meet your needs with respect to concealed carry if that’s a requirement?
Practice ammo can still be pretty reasonable; your biggest “cost” to practice is actually the time you devote at the range, not the dollar amount you spend on ammo during practice, and also what the hourly/monthly/annual fee may be. Pick annual membership: it is the most cost-effective over time if you go to the range regularly – and that’s the point, you really need to shoot at least once a week, and if you’ve already paid for that it won’t hurt so much.
You don’t need to fire “combat” rounds every time you practice, but they must work in your firearm – every time. That might take 200 rounds to determine that reliability with confidence at the start of the process, during which you’ll zero the sight to the point of impact.
Don’t re-zero the sights for practice ammo; just change your point of aim for them.
Once a year, confirm the zero of the weapon with “combat” rounds, and keep every target, noting when you fired, distance, and type and make of ammunition; that may only take 5-10 rounds of the expensive stuff. Monthly, fire 5-10 “combat” rounds – divided between two magazines – to make sure it functions OK; that’s a confidence builder that will work in crunch time. If you encounter a problem with a well-made firearm, and high quality self-defense ammunition, it’s probably a magazine issue. Try again with a new, factory magazine. If that fails, make sure your gun is clean and properly lubed. Also keep in mind that many firearms like some brands of ammo better than others and you must know which.
Finally, pay for lessons from a trained expert on situational awareness and shooting quicker with greater accuracy – you may just find that technique, along with your first-class weapon and ammunition, that spells the difference between death and life: yours.