The "Why You Need Them" ought be fairly plain to the reader by now. In case you missed it, over the Summer, Peter Fonda was in the news because he was actively instructing his grandchildren in LongRange Riflery. Google the article if you want to read the whys and wherefores, but suffice it to say PF was motivated by the political climate in the USA these days...
LongRange Shooting is a particular interest of mine. We'll talk about that later, but right now the pressing need we all have is to own and be able to effectively use Defensive Firearms. In SURVIVAL GUNS, Mel Tappan differentiated between defensive and working firearms. The Defensive gun is one designed expressly for sustained fire and rapid reloading so as to function continually until a fight is over and then to work reliably again on the next occasion. Revolvers and sporting rifles/shotguns are not typically built to deliver this kind of sustained firepower and deliver rifle-fire on a sustatined basis without significant wear.
The 10mm Auto and .45acp are the most viable pistol cartridges for self-defense. To reliably stop an attacker with one hit to center chest-mass requires a bullet of .40 caliber or larger with bullet weight of 180 grains minimum. Most reliable is the .45acp with 230gr bullet. Flatpoint design is favored over the roundnosed-ball design, but plain old generic ball ammo will stop a fight Very Effectively. The 10mm Auto delivers more velocity than the .45acp (automatic Colt pistol) and delivers more recoil and muzzle blast. If you anticipate a need for a pistol that is flatter shooting than the .45acp, then this is your ticket.
The Colt pattern 1911 auto-pistol is the premier fighting handgun. Some favor Glock and Springfield XD. The 1911 pistol is tremendously popular, parts are available from Brownells, MidwayUSA, and likely at your local gunshop. More options and aftermarket upgrades are available for these pistols than any other ever made. To be most effective, you need sights which are higher profile than the standard Colt's Government Model small blade and rear notch. High sitting fixed sights or adjustable rear are required. I recommend Colt, Smith & Wesson, Kimber, and Springfield Armory for best-built weapons. The short concealment guns are very superior to any hideout revolver, although they do weigh more. The Combat Commander 4" barrel models share the same frame with the full-size slide versions. A .22LR Conversion Unit might be worth owning. Jonathan Ciener & Co offer a fine unit at about $225. Mine is very accurate, even with junk .22lr bulk ammo.
You need a decent trigger pull to enable accuracy with a pistol. I have found the Cylinder & Slide aftermarket sear spring to enable about a 1lb reduction in pull weight and is a drop-in, no tweaking reliable upgrade. Cost is under $10 from MidwayUSA.
When you buy your pistol, you need to also buy your ammunition, and several spare magazines. Generic .45acp ball from Winchester/USA would be my recommendation, but Remington or Federal is also fine; just buy the cheapest ball ammo for practice. Holsters make or break the carrying comfort of a handgun. Going into Winter, you likely won't need an under T-shirt slimline holster. A shoulder holster enables carrying weapon out of the elements, a belt holster with flap like the US GI ambidextrous flap holster is also excellent for open carry in the field. Uncle Mike's nylon holsters are very good as are the Bianchi. Not really a lot of reason to buy an expensive leather shoulder rig unless you intend to carry concealed in your day to day and aren't comfortable with Small Of Back or Inside Waist Band concealment holsters. Hard to beat Milt Sparks, but Bianchi, Galco, DeSantis, and Safariland are also excellent.
When carrying an auto-pistol, its a great idea to carry spare magazines in a fitted magazine carrier. These are firm fitting and release mags quickly which is definitely a plus, compared to rooting around in a pocket for a loose mag that is picking up dirt, debris and other crap that can spoil your day if it gets in the way of your pistol mechanism. Probably not going to be too long before you are open carrying your pistol, at least around your home. A matched belt, holster and mag carrier will be a tool you get many benefits from.
A pistol is a fast response weapon that should always be on your person or in your hand once you are alerted to or expect trouble. FBI statistics reveal that most gunfights occur at about 7 to 10 feet. You had better hope you have more distance than that between you if your opponent has drawn a knife. A skilled blademan can kill you before you can react and draw a weapon if he is inside your safety zone. Jeff Cooper wrote a short pamphlet I recommend entitled, PRINCIPLES OF PERSONAL DEFENSE. This is a great read that will enhance your awareness and give you a system of readiness to be conscious of at all times. Also recommend Massad Ayoob's IN THE GRAVEST EXTREME. There are newer videos and books, but these remain very good.
The rifle is your primary weapon. You can hunt with a Defensive Weapon, and modern self-loading (semi-auto) military specification rifles offer built-in mounts for telescopic, backup iron sights, or Trijicon and other high visibility dot/triangle sights. The modern fighting rifle will deliver very accurate aimed fire and provide a 20-30 round magazine facilitating reloading with great swiftness and firing without breaking eye contact with target.
The primary rifles for defensive use are the Armalite AR-10 and AR-15 pattern rifles. Others will work fine, and many favor the Garand type M1, M14/M1a and Mini-14/30 designs. These have much less desirable facility for scope mounting, (mini 14 ranch rifle is an exception with built-in base and rings.) The Heckler-Koch 91 & 93 designs are also well-regarded but again lack the integral scope mount of the AR. The FN-Fal is another venerable battlerifle.
The AR-10 rifle is chambered for the .308 family of cartridges. Lots of power compared to the .223rem for which the AR-15 is chambered. The .308win weighs about twice what the .223rem weighs. While the .308 with 168/175gr bullets is a better longrange performer, the .223rem when loaded with 75/77gr bullets will shoot right with the .308 out to 500 or 600yds, maybe to 700 depending on conditions.
The AR-15 with heavy bullets is a very viable defense rifle. The 75gr bullet will also take game up to deer size or larger. The bullets are very tough. I've recovered them from rocky soil bent like pretzels, but they don't fragment. At 500yds the 75/77gr bullet has same energy as a 125gr bullet fired at 1400fps from a .357mag at 25yds. The .357magnum is touted as a hellacious defensive weapon, but a 75gr .223 at muzzle is about 3x as powerful...
The AR-15 in 20" rifle configuration with a 1:7 or 1:8 twist barrel is what is needed to shoot the heavier bullets with precision. Colt and Armalite offer the finest in production rifles with premium quality chrome-lined barrels, in both flat-top and carryhandle styles. The flat-top A4 is what you want for scoped usage. A chrome-lined barrel is the better choice for situations that might require continuous shooting that would soon ruin a stainless or chrome-moly barrel. In the AR-10 category, only Armalite offers a chrome-lined barrel as standard in their basic rifle lineup.
My perspective is that the AR-15 is so easy to shoot with precision, recoils so minimally, weighs signifcantly less and since ammunition weighs half what .308win ammo weighs; it is the rifle I prefer and recommend.
One Caveat: The AR-15 requires the 75 or 77 grain match boat tail hollow point bullets to deliver the power you must have and the accuracy at distance which makes it worthy of choice as primary self-defense rifle.....
The AR-15 rifle is significantly less expensive than the AR-10. Ammunition and magazines and other accessories also cost much less. The days of cheap military surplus ammunition seem to be behind us here in America. Decent .308win generic ammo costs about $1 per round. .223 generic is about 75 cents. Match ammo which either rifle will need to shoot with precision at distance, is about $1.75 per round....
The solution is to handload your own ammunition... A progressive loading press can load about 250rds per hour, maybe more. Lee Engineering sells a progressive press for about $150, RCBS, Hornady, and Dillon also sell progressive loaders, with Dillon offering several machines in varying levels of automatic and fast cartridge assembly.
The Dillon 550b setup and ancillary loading eqpt will cost about $600. A Lee setup likely about $250. These are the extremes. No reason you shouldn't load your own highpower rifle ammunition and handgun ammunition while you're at it. NRA match shooting competitors favor US Military once-fired brass for their handloads. The brass is heavier than commercial Win/Rem etc and lasts longer and can take heavier pressures. Military brass has primers crimped in place. This crimp must be removed or swaged to enable new primer to be inserted.
One of the best deals I know of for bullets and brass come from tjconevera.com in IL. Coneveras sells 600 pcs of military brass, primer pockets already to load, plus 600 hornady 75gr bthp match bullets for $140. Pretty sure this includes shipping. See their Bullet & Brass Combo page. They'll also deliver 500 .308win brass and 168gr bthp match for $210...
Gunpowder and primers are all else you need. A pound of smokeless powder weighs 7,000 grains. The .223 and .308 in semi-auto rifles will both use the same burn-rate powders. Reloader 15 and Varget are the 2 primary powders. The .223 gets about 280 loads per pound, the .308 about 185 loads. As to primers, the AR and Garand type rifles pre-indent the primer when loading. Too soft a primer can cause a pre-ignition or slamfire; both can blow-up the gun and maybe injure or kill you!!! So, I use Remington 7-1/2 small rifle match primers for .223 in my AR-15s and Winchester Lg Rifle in the .308s. There are mil-spec primers from CCI also.
Bottomline is it costs about 40 cents to load match .223 ammo using conevera brass/bullet deal. Once you have fired brass, all you need is bllets, primers, and powder so costs are even lower. MidwayUSA sells .223 Lake City brass that is unfired and w/o crimp. $75/500pcs. They also sell the fantastic Nosler BTHP match bullets in 2000qty boxes at a great price. Yet, there are many other dealers that sell even cheaper, just have to shop agressively...
Midsouthshooters.com sell hornady and nosler bulk pack bullets also at excellent prices with same day shipping. You'll likely wait a week or two on shipment if you buy from the low ball websites that have no telephone order facilities.
My recommendation is to load your own match ammo and go with a quality AR-15 rifle by Colt or Armalite. The webs finest info and selling resource is ar15.com; visit that site and learn everything from how to shoot the rifles to how to build one. Guys sell tons of new and used gear there and dealers there pretty much have to be very competitive.
The most critical firearms you will ever own are those you choose for self-defense. Remember that Politicians Prefer Unarmed Peasants and will ban semi-auto pistols and rifles before other guns. I advise taking action and buying your pistol, ammunition and spare magazines as soon as possible, followed soon by your rifle purchase. Handloading gear is much in demand and bullets, ctg case, powder and primers go up in price as the raw materials like lead, copper, and brass increase on world markets. Not likely to see lower prices on these in-demand items ever again in our lifetimes....
Lots more to come about guns, shooting, accessories and how to load precision crafted ammunition. These are critical skills which you need as a priority.