When I was a kid, I always wanted a cool secret room somewhere in my house where I could open a vault door and have a bunch of guns and ammo absolutely dripping off the walls inside, like I had seen in “Commando” or pretty much any of the James Bond movies. Even as an adult, I look at Travis Haley’s gun room with open jealousy. Few of us can afford the luxury of a well-lit room lined with hundreds of rifles, but we all want to have our own little armory. So what would be the best choices, the highest value, for a basic but well-stocked gun locker?
First, we are going to need a pistol, and since it’s our first one it needs to be a jack of all trades. Concealable, comfortable to shoot, accurate, reliable and durable, chambered in a caliber that is affordable yet still offers good stopping power, and of course, it can’t be too expensive. No sweat, right? That’s a pretty tall order, and my choice is the “3rd generation” Glock 19. Now that’s a squat, ugly little gun. Its polymer frame is topped by a square chunk of a dull grey slide, its trigger has that weird little integrated safety lever, and let’s face it, the Glock is just… ordinary. Ordinariness is actually a benefit though because accessories for the Glock cost less than any other quality pistol out there. Holsters, magazines, spare parts—all cost less than the Glock’s competitors.
The sheer volume of Glock doodads produced in order to satisfy all the law enforcement agencies, militaries, and civilian shooters that have adopted the platform means that you can get Glock stuff for less, but that doesn’t make the Glock a “cheap” gun. It is frankly the most proven handgun of all (and with that, millions of 1911 fans now hate me). The 3rd gen Glocks work and work and keep working, shooting straight and true, no matter what, every time. I prefer the mid-sized model 19 because it is small enough to be easily concealed yet holds 15 rounds of 9mm ammo, and its practical accuracy in the hands of real shooters is excellent. Who cares how mechanically accurate a firearm is if ordinary shooters can’t accurately and quickly send rounds downrange in the real world? Full metal jacket 9mm is affordable to practice with, yet the round is absolutely deadly when high-quality hollowpoint ammunition is used (P.S. I’m a Speer Gold Dot man). The Glock 19 does it all and does it well.
Since I’m talking about how great it is to have a versatile gun, you know a 12 gauge pump shotgun is going to be on the list. Unlike semi-autos which can be finicky about which loads they like, a pump doesn’t care if you are shooting full power 3 inch magnum slugs or the cheapest #7 birdshot practice rounds you could find. The variety of ammunition you can put through a 12 gauge is staggering. Depending on ammo you can hunt everything from small birds to large deer. You can shoot sporting clays for fun, or repel home invaders with a devastating barrage of lead. To maximize this versatility, I might consider one of the “combination” packages that come with a long barrel for hunting and also include a short barrel for home defense. Both the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 are excellent shotguns for the money, you won’t waste a dime choosing either of them. There are tons of accessories available to customize them and they both offer legendary durability. The value per dollar spent is off the charts.
Now we need a rifle. To teach yourself marksmanship, to hunt small game effectively, and to have a great time for as little money as possible, start with a .22 LR. And is there really any choice here? It just has to be a Ruger 10/22. A lot of the things I said about the Glock 19 apply to the Ruger as well. There are untold thousands of fouled, dirty, gummed up 10/22s out there with shooters rapid firing cheap ammo through their aftermarket 30 round magazines, terrifying soup cans and ripping up Shoot-N-C targets all day long. It doesn’t cost much to get into a 10/22, which is probably why so many folks customize them with the money they have left over. There’s almost no recoil with the 10/22, so even relatively cheap scopes will live on them forever without breaking. No matter how many guns you eventually get, the 10/22 will still be a favorite for pure shooting fun. I sprung a few extra bucks for the factory cold-hammer-forged heavy barreled version. With quality ammo, its accuracy is truly impressive.
Lastly, if your state allows it, it is your duty as an American citizen to own an AR-15 rifle. The AR-15 isn’t perfect by any means, but the versions being built today reflect over fifty years of refinement since Eugene Stoner developed the original. Again, the best word to describe the AR-15 carbine is “versatile.” For any given situation, yes there is a better rifle than the AR-15— for example, if you had to shoot accurately from an extreme distance, you would want a precision bolt action rifle, or if you have a bunch of close-range targets you would want a submachine gun. But real life isn’t a video game where ammo weighs nothing and you can carry 6 weapons and a red crowbar around all the time. The US military needs one standard rifle that can get the job done anywhere in the world, in a variety of tactical situations, and in all weather. The AR-15’s flexibility makes it the continued weapon of choice, especially in carbine form with some 1913 Picatinny rails added and a quality red dot optic.
We are living in the golden age of the AR-15 right now. Think about it for a moment: the free citizens of the most powerful nation on earth can buy that nation’s military issue weapon for themselves, and not only that, they have a huge variety of brands and configurations to choose from to suit their personal preference. If you’re on a budget, you can get an AR-15 for as little as $600 or so, but if you can hold off and save for a little while longer, you can get an amazingly good do-it-all rifle for somewhere between eight hundred to a thousand bucks. To buy an AR-15 that is as close as possible to what Uncle Sam’s finest go to war with, go with the Colt 6920. If you feel bad that it doesn’t go full-auto like its brother the Colt M4A1, take one of our boys who just got back from Iraq or Afghanistan to steak dinner, and ask him how often he used full auto on his military issued carbine (hint: the answer is usually “never”). If you prefer the latest piston-driven operating system technology, the Ruger SR556 is an excellent value as well. I could (maybe should) write a whole blog article about which civilian AR-15s are my favorites, but the bottom line is that CTD has no less than 198 different listings for AR-15 rifle variants actually in stock right now. Buy one, learn to shoot it, and know deep in your heart that you are truly an American.
Now that you have these guns, you need at least six magazines for each of them, slings for the rifles, a holster for the pistol, a red-dot optic for the AR-15 and a cheap scope for the 10/22, at least a thousand rounds of pistol and rifle ammo, at least 250 rounds of 12 gauge ammo for the shotgun, did I mention that the shotgun needs a sidesaddle… uh oh. I think my credit card just melted! Seriously folks, when it comes to prioritizing where your money goes, buy the firearm, the magazines, and the ammunition first. They are the items under constant political attack, so get them while you can. Slings and red dots and holsters aren’t likely to be restricted in the future so those accessories can wait just a little while longer.