“According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.” Sun Tsu – by Jesse Mathewson BSCJA
(For the sake of continuity all facts pertaining to ballistics are listed as links at the end of the article, and not within the article. I have not submitted my own testing results, simply because from experience, I have found people ignore my results if they go against what they believe. When it comes from someone else, eg., the FBI or some other organization, they believe it.)
Lists are always difficult, reasons are very simple. We all want what we have been told is best by people we trust or what we have grown up believing is best. My list is based entirely on firearms I have or currently own and use and have proven themselves to me entirely. My idea of having a firearm proven too me is simple, 500 to 1000 rounds with no hiccups. Minimum 200 rounds of my chosen SD ammunition, no hiccups.
Accuracy, sandbagged must be within hunting needs, eg, two inches at 100 yards for ALL rifles, 4-inch max for handguns at 25 yards, sandbagged. Lastly, shotguns, I do not use shotguns for numerous reasons*. As a result, even though I can suggest** two names that most will agree with, I will not include them on the list.
Agree or disagree, however, here is the list and I can honestly say, it is based entirely on personal experience as well as the experience of a close group of individuals. We run firearms, and we run them well. Reloading, shooting, etc., the people I surround myself with all are at the very top of their profession whichever that is. The list will be in three parts, rimfire firearms, rifles (including carbines) and handguns. So here is the list, without further ado.
Mossberg 702 Plinkster
Mossberg 702 Plinkster, like all rimfire guns, clean it well after shooting or every 200-300 rounds. Do so and you won’t have problems with it, 4lbs of lightweight accuracy and more importantly, accurate, reliable and less than $150.
Ruger SR22 handgun, reliable, accurate, and with all rimfire again, clean it well after shooting. I love my Walther P22s (threaded) however, they are not inexpensive. Ruger SR22s can be had for under $300 and many times used for under $200.
FegPa63, P64, Makarov 9×18
FegPa63, P64, Makarov 9×18 virtually any Eastern European 9×18 handgun, the round works well, it will work in self-defense, I use Hornady 9×18 critical duty, NOT other rounds, some are too hot, these are blowback handguns and surplus, not designed for the +p novelty rounds out there. Most can be had for right at $250, well worth every penny. I prefer the FEGPa63 and the P64.
Glock 19 and 17
Glock 19 or 17, denigrate the 9×19 with a solid defensive round all you want, sure BALL ammunition sucks, it sucks in everything! Modern self-defense ammunition makes the 9×19 round better than the .45 and virtually equal to the, 40 or .357 and does it at half the cost.
Gold Dot 115 or 124 grn, NOT 147 grn, too slow doesn’t penetrate well. Or the Hornady Critical Duty 135 grn round. These rounds have been tested and approved for carrying by the FBI which is switching to the Glock 19.
Accuracy is far more important than a near miss with a wide projectile. I can guarantee my Glock 19 will meet and equal or beat any other firearm out there in terms of reliability, accuracy and putting a target down.
Plus being 9×19 (not plus P never plus P) means even my 7-year-old daughter shoots it well! Pricing is $300 – $500 depending on used or not, and remember, unlike other firearms, used only means broken in on a Glock. I prefer buying used, after all, there are changes I make automatically too mine. Personal preferences and all.
Smith and Wesson M&P 9×19
Smith and Wesson M&P 9×19 works great and costs between 350 and 500 depending on what you get with it. I can also recommend the SW shield 2.0 you will want to put an Apex trigger in these guns otherwise…they run to really well.
Canik 55 TP9SF
Canik 55 TP9SF a new arrival to the scene, but at a price point of $350 brand new, you cannot miss this as a possibility. If you are prepping on a budget and new to firearms, THIS is the way to go. Reliability to date is amazing, accuracy very good and it comes new with spare mags, holster, etc., I mean what’s not too like! Honestly, if I didn’t already have too many Glock 19s, I may have switched to these.
AR15 platforms, there are dozens of approaches, builders and several calibers. My suggestion, stick with what is most popular currently, 5.56 is what you want it chambered in, or .223 Wylde. I would suggest 1/8 twist or 1/9 to start, these twist rates are good in between and allow you to shoot 55 through 77 grain accurately, the 1/9 is better with 55-62 grain, however, I continue to be able to put rounds on target easily at out too 500 yards with a nice 1/9 twist nitride barrel. If you go with 1/8 it truly is a solid twist rate, at 16” MINIMUM length, it is amazing.
Under 14” the 5.56 loses effective velocities. For personal defense, I prefer 55 grn ball ammo, again, per FBI testing it penetrates less than 12 gauge 00 buckshot in drywall. (see links) So here are the brand names I suggest, Palmetto State Armory, Delton, DiamondBack and Olympic Arms are all solid AR15 builders, they may need minor work as they are not as highly polished as a $1200 plus rifle.
However, they are absolutely reliable and more importantly, the bottom side of all of these rifles can be found for between $500 and $700 apiece. (Magazines are simple, get Hexmag or Magpul magazines.)
I use palmetto state armory and Delton primarily even though I have owned and own DPMS, Smith and Wesson, Colt6920le and other higher end too highest end AR15s. I use palmetto state armory because they work extraordinarily well!
AK47 platforms specifically some of the better designed and implemented copies and or kit guns put together by arsenal and even palmetto state armory version runs well. I use these because I like having a larger caliber for hunting purposes – if need be. However. I will say that current pricing has AR15s running far less on average for better products than many current American put together or made AK47s. Again research them well and always think full testing for reliability before relying on them.
This category has a different approach, it is something many people do not consider. Hunting and shooting over 500 yards. Though there are thousands of people online especially who make wonderful claims regarding their prowess as a shooter, distances past 500 yards are not easy, and when you hit the 800 mark, things start getting REALLY fun. Personally, I have shot past 1000 yards only a few times, and while I am a very good shot from 0 through 500 yards with simple iron sights, past this is not easy.
My observations and experiences are much more refined in this area, leaving the last two spaces for un-scoped milsurp and scoped non-milsurp. Iron sights at distance there are only three rifles I can honestly suggest, that meet the criteria as stated. Enfield .303 (I prefer the MkIV or III), Mauser 8mm K98, Swiss K31 in 7.5×55 (my personal favorite, and a rifle I have taken to 1100 yards four times now, with iron sights, amazingly very very nicely.
Each of these can be had for between $300 and $600 and should be looked at closely prior to purchase for signs of wear. (Side note: my first rifle at 16 was a MkIV Enfield that I took jackrabbits at 400 to 600 yards regularly, quite fun when young, but the eyes go with age.)
Long distance rifles, non-milsurp. Remington 700, Mossberg 100 ATR, Weatherby Vanguard are all wonderful rifles, I have owned them all and shot them all, and loved them all very much. The Vanguard was a sub MOA model, (not normal) and shot under an inch off of a bipod at 100 yards.
The Remington and Mossberg both shot very well also. Pricing ranges from $300 – $600 for these rifles. You can upgrade all of them as you go and get the money, however, an inexpensive Bushnell scope will get you on paper well for around $200 or less.
There you have my list, again, subjective, absolutely! But realistic, also ABSOLUTELY!
*Why don’t I use a shotgun, this is an interesting question with a VERY simple answer. Here is my response. I have grade v spondylolisthesis (since I was 12- and yes I worked for over two decades full time with grade IV before it went to grade V), nerve damage down my left leg below the knee and in my right leg is permanent and severe.
When I am tired or in pain (which is daily, pain can be a friend) I drag my feet and eventually my legs simply stop working. Literally, I fall straight down several times a week. Weight is NOT an option, shotguns of equal weight. 10 shotgun shells weigh the same as 200 rounds of .22lr or 50 rounds of 5.56.
Eating birds shot with a shotgun is a process filled with fun times and occasionally cleaning lead or steel shot out of your teeth. I can build a live trap for birds easily, that works and the parts are found growing around us.
As a self-defense weapon, it is NOT the “just aim at the general direction” that people like to say it is. Even from an 18” barrel, the shot WILL not spread enough at defensive distances to allow that approach and honestly if you have children or animals, why would you want stray shots anyhow. So there you go. An AR is MUCH easier to shoot far more accurately, as is a solid 9mm handgun.
**If a shotgun you must have, Mossberg 500/ 590/88 (Maverick), Remington 870 – there easy, yes I’ve owned them, no I wouldn’t again simply because everything I have must have a use.
See the links below for statistical real information regarding ballistics.