I went to the range today. Met a friend and his son there. I brought all of the guns and most of the ammo. They did not appear to be experienced shooters, but they were more than competent. We shot a 9mm semi-auto, a .38 Special revolver, and a .22 semi-auto pistol mostly. Which one did they enjoy shooting the most? The .22 pistol. These were adult males mind you, not women or children.
I enjoy shooting guns and cameras. Inevitably people come to me and ask me what kind of camera or gun to buy. My answer is increasingly becoming “the one you can shoot comfortably the most often”. If the person asking doesn’t already own a .22 long rifle pistol and rifle, I will usually encourage them to get both. Why?
- You need practice and practice costs money. – My discounted gun club membership costs $125/year. That doesn’t cover ammunition and ammunition isn’t cheap, unless you’re shooting .22 long rifle. The cheapest centerfire pistol cartridges will cost you about $.20/round. .22 long rifle cartridges cost between $.04 and $.07/round. That’s a huge difference. You can buy 500 round bulk packs of .22 ammunition for $20. With that much ammo you can go to the range and feed that thirsty semi-auto of yours until the barrel starts to melt. Every round you fire is an opportunity to practice your presentation, speed reloads, training your dominant eye, picking up the front sight quickly. These are all skills you need to be a competent gun owner. You don’t need a .44 magnum to learn this.
- Anyone can shoot a .22. – Any child above the age of 10 can shoot a .22 (and some below). Your spouse can shoot a .22. I realize that men purchase the majority of firearms out there. But what is the point of owning a firearm that only one member of a household can handle effectively? .45 ACP stopping power is great on paper unless someone who needs it is scared to death of it. Do I think the .22 long rifle is an ideal round for self-defense? Heavens no. But I wouldn’t want to go up against someone who can put five out of ten rounds into a target the size of a dinner plate. That’s gonna ruin someone’s day.
- It’s your responsibility to train new shooters. – Yes you. Once you become proficient at handling and employing firearms, you will be asked by curious family members, friends, and others for advice and instruction. Offer to take them shooting. When you get to the range, put your trusty .22 in their hands first. I have a short-barreled .357 magnum revolver that when loaded with full-power rounds makes a huge fireball and concussive blast that will make anyone flinch. I would never hand that gun to a new shooter. You shouldn’t either. We don’t need to scare away new shooters. We need more of them and we need them to know what they are doing. Scaring them off because you had to demonstrate the superiority of the 10mm cartridge is unforgivable.
- The guns are cheap. – $500 will buy you a .22 handgun and rifle. Those two guns will last you a lifetime. I bought my .22 rifle used for $129. There are deals like that all over the place. In case you didn’t notice, we’re in a bit of an economic downturn right now. Regardless of that, you need to keep your skills up. I can think of no better way.
- They are fun to shoot. – It’s kinda hard to overlook this. The guns don’t beat you up. You can buy a myriad of cheap reactive targets that you can stick in the ground at the range. Some of them spin. Some of them hold clay shotgun targets that disintegrate on contact. There are even paper targets that you can play games with. Anything that keeps the shooting experience interesting and doesn’t cost a fortune is good.
You will of course be able to handle larger calibers in relatively short order. How large depends on a number of factors. But even though I own bigger guns, I almost always take a .22 to the range. Because when I run out of the expensive ammo, there’s usually one of those .22 long rifle bulk packs still in my bag.