8 min read

A Necessary Tool

Photo of a newspaper bin with a headline that reads "Pro-Trump Mobs Storm US Capitol."
Photo by little plant on Unsplash

After last week, I want to come at this from a different angle than I’d planned. I wasn’t going to make another pitch for guns, but instead move ahead with how one should approach the purchase of one—and I’ll do that still. But I want to say one more thing.

Every time I encourage you to do something, it’s in preparation for the worst. We can hope that we never have to worry about what we prep for, but we prep for possibilities. Whether they be practical, cheap preps like canned food and water, or less practical, like putting together a whole bugout bag, the point is that you’ve got it, not that you wait for the chance to use it.

What I mean is that I do not see guns as the way forward. I see them as a single tool in an entire spectrum of preparedness, and one with limited efficacy. You will always need food and water; you’ll only need a pistol in the context of armed self-defense. However, when that context arises, it is very much the tool for the job. Until then, if ever, you need only dedicate as much time to the tool as is necessary for the safe operation thereof.

I’m not going to go on and on about firearms. I won’t discuss optics, extended mags, or reasons for getting a folding stock. If the time comes that you need those things, you’ll also need to turn to someone who is more of an expert than me. If we wind up in a civil war, I’ll be sure to point you in the right direction. In the meantime, I will be satisfied with a factory-setting firearm in a secure gun safe.

Why Guns?

We’ve talked about the threats that face us at length, and in general, but today I want to get into a few specifics.

We cannot answer fascist armaments with nothing but goodwill.

First, I want to clarify that while I am recommending firearms in regards to preparedness—and in that context, self-defense—we have to consider what sets us apart from preppers on the right; we, as leftists, care about others. We will not just hoard supplies and ammunition and lock our doors, taking aim at whoever gets close. Instead, we will be not only attempting to foster a community, but to defend it as well. That means that while you may not be under much threat from the far-right, the people in your community may be. There is no point in trying to break down scenarios in which you might be called to defend others, but the possibility exists, and the importance of it can’t be overstated. That position is not for everyone, but for those able to answer that call, it’s integral to who we are.

Second, consider our opponents. By and large they are better equipped and better armed. They have a disregard for others and a thirst for violence. It will not suffice that we stand in front of their guns; a fascist movement in this country will not be bloodless, and it will not be stopped with proud, nonviolent sacrifice. If you look back through history, these movements begin just as they have begun here, and the tides can turn very quickly, and very violently.

It has got to be guns because they have guns. We cannot answer their armaments with nothing but goodwill, nor with less lethal measures. The pandemic has made gas masks ubiquitous, and as you’ve seen through protests and marches, these people have armor that can protect them against most anything—even including some smaller arms. You simply cannot expect to stop a fascist with a taser or bear spray. These weapons are better than nothing, but they are not better than defense by semi-symmetrical response.

Lastly, outright fascism is not our only enemy. It may be the apotheosis of our enemy, but it is not the only one. There will come a day for those among us when the walls close in due to all the other stressors in the world, economic and climatic, and there will be no recourse for survival other than force. What I mean is: when your water is turned off because the community on the hill wants to keep their lawn green, it may be time to make the climb.

The Prep

We’re going to discuss the briefest highlights of gun safety before anything. After that, I want to go through a few terms that you might not be entirely familiar with that will help you on your search for the right gun. Then we’ll talk about the one gun you should prioritize, depending on who and where you are. By the end of this newsletter, though, I hope that you’re ready to purchase your first firearm. If you’re not, you probably already stopped reading, and that’s okay.

Gun Safety

Here are some never / always dos:

  • Never point your gun at that which you aren’t willing to destroy. This includes whatever is behind the thing you think you’re willing to destroy.
  • Always lock your gun away when not in use. (Step one: buy that gun safe.)
  • Always assume a gun is loaded and capable of killing you or others until it is disassembled.
  • Always keep the safety on until you are ready to shoot.
  • Never put your finger on the trigger (or in the trigger guard) until you are ready to shoot.

The Basics

These are just a few basic terms that someone who’s considering firearms for the first time might not be knowledgeable about.

  • Caliber: Simply speaking, this is the size of the bullet. Sizes are measured differently depending on type, and to a layman (which I essentially am), you may need to Wiki these differences (which I essentially did) to understand them. For our purposes, we’re not even going to bother. I’ll recommend a single caliber and that’s where we’ll stand.
  • Magazine: A magazine is the detachable part of the gun that stores the bullets. This term is not interchangeable with “clip,” though it sometimes is referred to in the same way—both are methods of loading multiple rounds into a weapon at once. A magazine can be any number of sizes and hold a variety of numbers of bullets, depending. Said bullets are loaded into the magazine, and the magazine is then loaded into the gun. Generally speaking, you’re only going to have a magazine for a pistol or a rifle.
  • Semi-automatic: A semi-automatic weapon will fire a bullet every time you pull the trigger. An automatic, which you can’t get, will fire so long as the trigger is held down. Everything else has to be cocked after every round fired.

Kinds of Guns for the Novice

In an ideal world (but one in which you still need to buy weapons, so not ideal), there are three guns I would recommend that you purchase because each have particular advantages and disadvantages. One, to start with, will suffice based upon your particular abilities and needs.

There are so many kinds of guns. There is no point in listing them all, their manufacturers, or the varying calibers. I’ll make a single recommendation of caliber, gun, and leave it at that. I won’t be linking you to the guns that I recommend, either. As I mentioned last week, handling the gun is extremely important, and what may seem like a good gun to me may be too bulky—or too small—for you. Short of picking a manufacturer with a bad reputation, you’re really not going to go wrong if you choose a weapon that’s comfortable.


A pistol is a handgun, generally small and potentially concealable. A handgun’s strengths stem from its small size—it’s good for close-quarters, it’s portable, and adaptable. Its weaknesses, likewise, are due to size— it’s less accurate than a long gun. Some pistols maximize their concealability by being as thin as possible; I am not a fan of how these feel in my hand, but you might be.

For simplicity and ubiquity’s sake, I’m recommending a 9mm Smith and Wesson. There are plenty of other brands, but S&Ws are a good middle-of-the-road, both accessible and reliable. A decent pistol is going to run you around $400.

  • Don’t get a revolver. Technology has simply passed them by. Pistols don’t jam as much as they used to, and they hold more rounds than a revolver.
  • Don’t get a .22 caliber for defense. They’re good for practice, and the ammo is cheap, but they won’t stop an attacker unless you’re a sharpshooter.


Shotguns are meant for medium to close range and are long guns. A shotgun is loaded with shells, rather than bullets, and these shells can contain two varieties of projectiles: shot and slugs. Shot are essentially BBs but ranging in size—birdshot is small, while buckshot is larger, and both are meant to kill their namesake. A slug is a single, solid piece of metal, typically lead, meant for a large target. Shotguns come in gauges, as do shells, meaning they can vary in size as well as content. Your most common shotgun is a 12 gauge. Because of the power behind a typical shotgun, there’s going to be some recoil.

A simple, pump-action (like on TV), 12 gauge Mossberg is my recommendation. You will want to purchase 00 ("double-aught”) buckshot. This setup will run you $350 or so.

  • Don’t screw around with birdshot thinking it won’t hurt someone. All ammunition can be lethal.

Semi-Automatic Rifles

I mean what you’re thinking: an AR-15-type rifle is simply the best weapon for the kind of conflict we might anticipate and prepare for. A semi-automatic rifle of this type can fire a round as quickly as you can pull the trigger. It will be accurate, relatively easy to use, reliable (depending on the brand), and carry adequate rounds in one magazine. They are not, for most, ideal for home defense. Rifles are meant for long-range, so unless you have a big house or are defending some farmland, you’re better off with a pistol if your aim is good, or shotgun if it’s not.

This is the sort of gun that a person just getting around to using firearms should probably wait on. If you were so inclined, an AR-15 can cost you a shockingly cheap $700. It's got multiple uses, despite it being a war-platform. It won't have the stopping power of a traditional hunting rifle, but its accuracy will fill the gap adequately in the absence of one. (We aren't considering a hunting rifle in this post because that's their primary usage. They are for single, precise, powerful shots—not what a beginner is apt to put downrange.)

What to Choose

Having just gone through the shortest of crash courses, consider these questions when selecting your first firearm:

  • Who or what (hopefully who—property is unimportant) are you defending?
  • What can you afford?
  • How coordinated are you?
  • What are you able to lift and use for a reasonable length of time?
  • Can you safely store your firearm?
  • Where are you defending / sheltering?

These questions should help you choose the appropriate firearm.

Ammo & Training

Ammunition is scarce right now, and because of that you may be left with the poor choice of expending what little ammo you're able to find or not training at all.

Luckily, there are options for both.

  • AmmoSeek, and similar websites, will ship to you for a slight premium. As hard as ammunition is to find right now, and with COVID, it might be worth skipping a return to your gun store.
  • MantisX is a training system that will allow you to do some dry-fire shooting while keeping track of your accuracy. When it comes to shooting quickly and accurately, muscle memory is everything, so even this sort of exercise is extremely worthwhile.

In Closing

Thus ends, thankfully, my talk about firearms. I suspect that I didn't convince many folk that weren't already leaning toward gun ownership, but I felt it was a subject that needed to be broached given the environment we're in.

I shouldn’t need to reiterate how precarious our position is, even though it would appear we’re out of danger. We’re not. Biden’s installation does not guarantee safety or stability when fascism is simmering throughout this country and in the halls of government. There is time for one or two relaxed breaths, and then we need to get back on the ramparts. Having considered, and perhaps purchased, a firearm, you’ve better prepared yourself for the days ahead.