Those who frequent Internet forums, training classes, local gun stores, or shooting ranges have surely heard this question before: “What is the best all around rifle, pistol, bolt action rifle, shotgun, etc., that can do everything?”
That may be an exaggeration but I’m sure you’ve heard something very similar. Let’s take a moment to contemplate the question. I will try to address it from a few different angles with regards to mindset – put any attachment to your high-end weapon aside for the moment. I own many top-of-the-line, custom, tactical firearms. Let’s take a wrap off and address the question. When approaching tool selection, for example, when building something out of wood, there are usually any number of implements that will succeed in helping you do the job quickly and effectively. Some are more expensive than others; some will complete the job more efficiently, but which one is “correct”?
If I’m asked to help make such a decision, the first question I ask is “for what do you intend to use it?” The response “everything” is not a relevant answer. Let’s tear this down a bit more and talk about a specific example: the “do everything” Glock 19, a staple of the American tactical gun culture. Every instructor in the country probably has two or three variants of this pistol, as it has been consistently one of the best selling handguns ever. Can a Glock 19 do “everything”? Will it accomplish everything you are trying to attempt to the standard you might be seeking? You first have to identify exactly what you need the pistol to do.
If you intend on carrying it daily for CCW, you first have to ask: is it concealable? What does “concealable mean? What is your body type? Can a larger person conceal a weapon easier then a smaller person? What clothes do you plan to wear when carrying – a light tee shirt, parka, suit, dinner jacket, sweater? In which season do you plan on carrying the weapon? What holster method do you intend on using to conceal?
These are important considerations. Fail to to take them into account, or just going to ask for the advice of “someone who knows about guns” may get you some terrible advice.
Just like clothes, guns fit people differently: hand size, body weight, prior injuries and numerous other factors will determine whether a gun will be comfortable for a person to shoot. I can offer suggestions with regard to reliability, the manufacturer’s customer service, accuracy, but that’s about the extent of it. A gun I shoot comfortably as a man standing greater than six feet in height will likely not be the same for a female standing five foot four. A Glock 19 could be an option but not necessarily the option for that person.
With precision rifles we constantly see the question of what caliber, chassis, trigger is “best”. As with any pistol the same questions have to be asked: what is your desired use? A gun used for hunting prairie dogs in Iowa, versus brown bear in Alaska will result in very different recommendations. Do you plan on shooting F-class or tactical precision rifle matches? Are you getting out of your truck and lying down prone and shooting, or carrying it while climbing mountains looking for sheep? This changes the recommendation for chassis, barrel contour, action choice, etc.
How large a person are you? A smaller man or woman will fit a rifle stock or chassis differently then a larger person, their hands will fit the grip at a different angle, the bone structure in their face will make different cheek pieces more or less comfortable.
I don’t want to drag the point out. Rather, my hope is that before people recommend firearms to others, they take into account the key factors that will make the gun work best for them. The firearms industry is full of well-made items produced by good companies who manufacture a nice product. Be wary of experts who make recommendations without first asking a number of questions…because if they don’t, there’s a good changes that either their experience is limited or their opinion is bought and paid for.
(Editor’s note: that lead image is a pistol built by MARS Armament Inc. in Salt Lake City. Base gun is a Colt Rail Gun with series 70 Slide, Gunner Grips, iMAG mag well and MARS rear sight; rail is a Colt Rail Gun frame, integral to the frame forging and compatible to with 1913 accessories.)