Okay, lissen up youse mugs and dolls, ‘cuz I’m gonna take you through da what’s and wherefore’s of getting started in dis sport…..
Now, since we are going to talk about firearms, I’m going to use clear English. First things first, safety:
Rule #1 Always treat all firearms as if they are loaded, at all times. Even if you have just cleared and checked it, still treat it as loaded.
Rule #2 Never point the firearm at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
Rule #3 Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on your target.
Rule #4 Always know what is behind your target.
These rules are the basis of Firearms Safety and have been for years [it’s not just something I made up].
Please let me introduce myself, my name is Kevin Collier and I have been a firearm’s enthusiast my entire life. I am a licensed collector of old guns and a Moderator at www.Surplusrifleforum.com . I carry a gun on the job everyday and am extremely narrow minded about safety, so if you can’t follow the above rules, KEEP YOUR FRIGGIN’ PAWS OFF ANY GUN!
Now to the fun stuff. This sport we are in has so many great ways to proceed when it comes to guns that anyone can find what they like. During the time frame we are celebrating, everything from Colt Peacemakers, 1911s, Detective Specials and vest guns, Smith & Wesson’s finest revolvers, Lugers, Broomhandles, Winchester and Remington’s great shotguns, and of course, the Tommygun. Choosing your persona will be intertwined with what guns you want to shoot. Someone who is a Southside hitman will dress differently than someone who is a Southern Illinois moonshiner from the Shelton Gang. Or maybe you want the Explorer look of Roy Chapman Andrews. And oh my, don’t the ladies have options galore? But not every gun will work for everyone. Personal preferences, size, costume and strength and expense will all play a role in the choice of your firearms.
If you already own appropriate guns, congrats! This sure helps because quality guns are rarely cheap, but the on the positive side, much of what we will use can be found much easier, at good prices, than more modern “tactical” guns. The expense falls into two categories: buying the gun and then the ammo and accessories. For example, I just picked up a Winchester Model 12 shotgun in great mechanical shape but with honest finish wear for under $300. This is an ideal example of the “fixed” cost of the sport. Buying ammunition for it is the “variable” or “ongoing” cost.
Now here is where two of our iconic guns run into some problems. The 1911 and Tommy Gun are our centerpieces and I love them. The Tommy has always been one of my “Grail guns” and I finally picked one up last year in a trade. They are expensive and unless you have deep pockets you will notice the price tag! Good 1911s are available in price from just under $500 new to the thousands of dollars, depending on all sorts of things.
First, make sure the gun fits you. Your body is built differently than the next person, so fit is very subjective. I am 6’ 3” tall and have very large hands and some guns are so small they are awkward for me to handle. On the other side of the coin, if you are a petite woman, some guns will be too large for you to be comfortable with. Revolvers have an advantage here as the grips can be swapped out for different sizes. Most autos from this time were single stacked magazines, so are comfortable for most shooters. Oh, and protect your investment. If you get an older gun, don’t go slapping some cold blue on it to make it “prettier” until you check its value out. Depending on the gun, it may actually ruin its collector’s value doing that.
This leads into where you can save yourself some money, starting out you can pinch pennies by going a slightly different path. The 9×19 cartridge [commonly called 9mm Luger, 9mm NATO or just 9mm] and the .38 Special are cheaper to buy ammo for, mild on recoil and you can find excellent bargains in the guns shooting these rounds. It is flat easy to still find a S&W .38 with fixed sights for under $300 in excellent mechanical shape. In 9mm High Power clones, Walther, Star and Astra all had guns made during our time and are easy and reasonable to find.
Rifles can also be found in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 Colt in good shape [look for someone getting out of SASS or upgrading guns]. The .357 will fire .38 Specials and the .44 will also handle .44 Specials. Shotguns in side by side are easy and can be very reasonable to buy. I would recommend getting a 20 gauge in these, the ammo is a little more expensive, but the recoil is only half of a 12 gauge, very important for beginners.
Cartridges that are legal right now are as follows by size and power:
.32 ACP or 7.65 Browning, low powered, very mild recoil, usually found in small autos
.32 Smith & Wesson or Colt, small revolver cartridges, mild recoil can be found in small to medium size revolvers, ammo can be hard to find
7.62 Nagant, cheap ammo and guns, only used in the revolver of the same name
.32 WCF or .32-20, revolver round from the Old West, accurate and mild, but expensive
.380 ACP or 9mm Short/Browning , 9×17mm, mild recoil, small to full size autos, easy to find ammo, lots of really great guns for our sport
.38-200 or .38 S&W, ammo can be hard to find, but a mild recoiling round that was made for some very fine revolvers
7.63 Mauser or .30 Mauser, the first auto round built for the C96 Mauser, expensive, but fun
7.65 or.30 Luger, obviously made for the famous P 08 Luger, again, expensive and fun
7.62×25 Tokarev, a hot rodded version of the 7.63 Mauser, do NOT use this in a Broomhandle, it’s cheap, hot, fun and available in autos
9×19 Parabellum, Luger, NATO, auto round that is mid to full size guns, mild recoil, well priced, is everywhere
.38 Special, revolver round for everything from snubbies to Dirty Harry sized guns, mild shooting, cheap, easy to find everywhere
.38 WCF, 38-40, Old West revolver round, like the 32-20 also in lots of lever action rifles
.38 Super, auto round, popular out West in the 1911, expensive to shoot, ammo will only be at gunshops
.44WCF/.44-40, one of the classic Winchester rounds from the old West, in revolvers and rifles, expensive
.44 Special, descended from the .44 Russian revolver round, powerful, ammo is harder to find but in some of the finest guns ever built
.45 Colt [long Colt] revolver round, the one that defined stopping power in handguns, this is the old cowboy round, expensive
.45 ACP, our favorite for Zootin’, used in autos, Tommy Guns and revolvers, reasonably priced
.357 Magnum, only would be legal in 3 guns, the S&W N frames, Colt New Service and Peacemaker revolvers, these guns will also shoot .38Specials and are pussycats with that round
Any of these can be shot well by anyone with practice. And it is a blast [pun intended] when you let loose with the big ones.
Guns to avoid right now? Try the trigger first, if it feels rotten or too heavy for you to pull comfortably, pass it by. Obvious damage or broken/missing grips are often a clue that the gun has been abused or neglected. Police trade-ins are an exception, as many were scraped in fights, but the damage is just cosmetic. If buying from a dealer, make sure you get a couple of magazines with the gun. Make sure that if you get an older auto, good magazines are still available for it, these are the heart of an auto running right. Weird, oddball cartridges, no matter how cheap the gun, will can be a problem. If you have questions about an old gun, feel free to email me.
I will post some more in a couple of weeks on other things to look for.