This is the final installment of my husband’s article on the basics of firearms he wrote for any of you who don’t know anything about firearms and are thinking of purchasing one in these unstable and potentially dangerous times. If you haven’t read Parts 1 & 2, please do so or this isn’t going to make much sense, won’t be informative and may be confusing. Firearms 101 Pt. 1 by Bear Firearms 101 Pt. 2 by Bear Please start with these!
Now getting back on track. One nice thing about the .22lr is that it will work in both a pistol and a rifle. You won’t have to carry different ammo for both guns. It isn’t the only caliber that does this. There are some rifles out there that will shoot handgun ammo. There are some lever actions that will shoot the .38/.357 combination and the .44 as well as a Highpoint and a few others that will shoot 9mm.
.22lr as well as most center fire rounds comes in two types. You have your standard full metal jacket or FMJ and you have Hollow points. There are drastic differences in the way the two rounds work. A Full Metal Jacket type round is just as it sounds, a solid bullet that is fairly aerodynamic. It will have a longer range in most cases. It is cheaper to buy and is used mainly for target practice. What you need to understand is just what the two types of rounds do with their energy. Let’s say you are out shooting and take along a melon of some type. You shoot it with a FMJ you may actually have to go pick it up to be able to tell if you hit it or not. A FMJ is going to go right through it and leave a small hole where it went in and a little larger hole where it went out. All the energy is focused on the tip of the round so it is going to usually go right through whatever you hit. The tip of the Hollow Point is more cup shaped as the name implies. If you shoot the melon with a hollow point you are going to get a drastically different result. When the hollow point hits the melon the end of it is going to mushroom out and the facing surface area of the round is going to expand dramatically. What this does is transfers all the energy of the round into whatever you hit. If you hit the melon with a hollow point there is going to be no doubt if you hit it or not. Depending on the caliber there may not be enough left to hit a second time. Hollow points are what most personal defense rounds are. The round is more complex to make and so will be more expensive to buy. The hollow point is also not very aerodynamic so is not going to have the range of the FMJ.
The 22lr has been around for several generations and if a family has had a gun handed down from one generation to the next most likely it is some type of .22. I will warn you we are about to get into another Chevy/Ford argument. If you decide to get a .22 in the rifle style, I would suggest one of two guns. Either the Ruger .22 that comes in more shapes and sizes than you can shake a stick at. The other option is the Marlin model 60. Both are guns that will be handed down from one generation to the next. Personally I am on the Marlin side. I have had several in my lifetime and I have yet to see one break. I have seen some not function but that is because the person who had it had not cleaned it for years. I have saved several by taking them apart and giving them a good cleaning. Of course they are all gone because we only have the Crazy Uncle Joe approved double barrel with 10 rounds “Honest”.
This is the place most people start when they get into guns. The ammo is comparatively cheap and it will work in both pistols and rifles. If you want to hunt it is good for small game such as rabbits & squirrels. It won’t hurt your hand or your shoulder and will help build the skills to move up to other calibers. Just don’t confuse the 22lr with the 22 wmr they are entirely different rounds. There is a .17 caliber that is becoming popular. It is starting to become more mainstream and is a very fast flat shooting round but I have never shot one so can’t really comment on it.
Now we can talk about Center fires. Center fires are just what the name says. There is a primer in the back of the round that the firing pin hits to set off the round. This is for everything from the .38 up to the 105 mm round the M1 tank I was on in the military shot. These are used in both pistols and rifles. Unlike the .22 there are only a few calibers that will work in both a rifle and a pistol. If we were to ever decide to have a gun collection again and I could only have 1 rifle and 1 pistol I would probably go with a .357 revolver and a lever action in .357 also. That way I only had to stock 1 type of ammo and it would work in both guns.
Pistols come in 2 basic forms. Excluding the Thompson Contender which is a whole subject in and of itself. Let’s just say it is the Ferrari of handguns and is well beyond the scope of this article. The form that has been around for the longest and is recognizable by everyone is the good old trusty revolver. What you may not know is that there are two types of revolvers and there is a drastic difference between the two. Revolvers come in single action and double action. Single action is what has been around for the longest. That is the old gun you see in the movies where the gunfighter has to fan the hammer with his other hand. This is because to fire you have to pull the hammer back each time you want to fire. You can pull the trigger as times as you want, but it is only going to fire once till you pull the hammer back again. This is the “action” that advances the cylinder to the next round. If you know what to look for it is easy to tell a single action from a double action. A single action has a plunger that goes along the barrel and it almost looks like there is a really small second barrel under the first. There is also a little door that opens next to the hammer. This is where you take the rounds out of the cylinder and put the new ones in. The cylinder does not flop out the side like a double action to be unloaded and reloaded.
The other is obviously the double action. This works like the single action, in that you can pull the hammer back to fire, but this time if you pull the trigger again and again it will continue to fire unit you run out of rounds. This is by far the most reliable of the types of pistols. There was one drawback to this type of pistol and that was, that the hammer had to come back and then fly forward for the gun to fire. That didn’t work so good for people who had the gun in their pockets and didn’t have time to pull it out so they could protect themselves. You can now get small double action revolvers that have the hammer covered so that you can fire it from inside a coat pocket. Look up Lady Smith and Wesson to see what I am talking about.
If those don’t work for you then you can also choose a semiautomatic. These are the ones that have the clips in the handles. Some of these have a hammer you have to pull back the first time to get it to fire but there are now double action semiauto pistols that you can actually carry loaded and all you have to do is pull the trigger to fire.
Sorry for the people that don’t like math but we are going to have to talk about physics again now. Remember the law of equal and opposite actions and reactions. You can get some really small and cool looking pocket guns in large calibers. The problem is, it is the mass of the gun that helps keep the kick of the round going off controllable. If you try and go with a subcompact .40 or .45 caliber it is going to probably hurt your hand when you fire it. If it hurts every time you shoot how often are you going to practice? Several good hits with a .22 or a .38 will do far more damage than a miss with a .45. I suggest you start small and work your way up. My personal opinion is that a .380 semiauto or a .38 revolver is just great for a pocket gun. No one wants their “blood bag” popped and they are not going to go “Oh well you only have a .38. Now if you had a .44magnum then I would have been scared but go ahead and shoot me with that .38 I don’t care.” NO they are going to head for the hills most likely no matter which one you have.