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If You Could Have Just One Gun...

I took the mental walk with a mentor to answer an age-old question.

If You Could Have Just One Gun...

(Photo by Lukas Lamb)

For those of you who know me, you may be familair with my ballistic advisor, Johnny “Dawg” Cone, a hunter and shooter living in Utah. Johnny Dawg kept me straight from the beginning. His casual shooting games inspired me to train hard (and often) to hone and maintain my shooting skills. His spiritual insight has been an inspiration as well.

One of Johnny Dawg’s recent diatribes happened to be about carrying a useable sidearm for personal protection. Concealed carry is something we often discuss, but his recent perspective was particularly thought provoking. I’ve always repeated, “Two is one and one is none.” This line was driven into my cranial structure early by my leaders and mentors of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations. Johnny Dawg took this a bit farther when he saw me carrying a compact, single-stack 9mm a while ago.

“If ‘two is one and one is none,’ why would you start with a half?” he rhetorically asked.

Of course, I knew he was right. The seven-­plus-­one or eight-­plus-­one capacity of a single-­stack 9mm pistol is miniscule. These no longer make sense for protection, especially when so many great but somewhat larger firearms are available. The SIG Sauer P365-XMacro is one such remedy. Now that I have one, I stand proudly for inspection by my mentor. So, on to the next conundrum.

“What would be the five guns you would pick if they were the only five guns you could have?” I presented this question to Johnny Dawg when we were discussing the possibility of downsizing our firearm collections. The choices started out simple:

Shotgun: A shotgun gives us the ability to use shot, buckshot, or slugs. Johnny Dawg prefers a Benelli. I would be satisfied with either a Remington Model 870 or a Benelli Super Black Eagle equipped with magazine-­tube extensions.

AR-­15: An AR-­15 topped with a Leupold VX-­6HD 1-­6X scope allows me to easily apply effective fire at most ranges. Such an AR could also be used for gathering most game when proper shot placement is emphasized.

Pistol: My choice of a semiautomatic 9mm handgun would be the SIG Sauer P320, but a Glock would get you by. John’s choice was the M&P. He is very comfortable in using that pistol, and it certainly is a great gun.

Rimfire: I initially chose a second 9mm pistol during our conversation, the SIG Sauer P365. After some thought, I changed this selection to a rimfire carbine. I prefer the Ruger 10/22, but John said he would keep a lever gun such as the Henry H001 in .22 LR because it would be more likely to function reliably in austere conditions. His point was well taken.


gaad-lsb-if-just-one-gun-02-1200x800
The author and his mentor Johnny “Dawg” Cone, a U.S. Air Force veteran, while on a Montana cow-elk hunt. (Photo by Lukas Lamb)

Rifle: For a rifle, I suggested a medium-­range bolt gun in a military caliber. That would be a rifle in .308 Winchester or 7.62 NATO. Of course, one could argue that a gas gun in 6.5 Creedmoor could replace this option, but I would stick with the 7.62mm for ammunition availability. (However, I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a half-­dozen folks who own a rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor.) I waffled on this decision for a while, and even considered the Marlin Model 1895 lever gun in .45-­70 rather than the bolt gun. Nostalgia is a misguiding principle sometimes; just look at all the M1911 shooters still around.

The discussion continued and challenged each of us to shrink our selections to just three firearms:

AR-­15: The aforementioned reasons described earlier are all the validation one needs.

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Pistol: A 9mm pistol of significant capacity, a minimum of 17 rounds. This is America; you are free to choose what yours happens to be.

Shotgun: Same as mentioned earlier.

Then the discussion escalated, “What’s your one gun? What would it be?” 

Initially, Johnny Dawg said he wanted to keep his Benelli shotgun for the same reasons he stated in his five-­gun selection. However, I championed the AR-­15. Sure, we thought about the 9mm pistol, but that conversation didn’t go anywhere.

John and I spent a day in his shop doing some forging and making some pretty cool spurs from old farrier’s rasps. While we were working, we continued to discuss our choices. Johnny Dawg made one simple statement that should be a guiding principle for everyman’s “one gun.” As he leaned over and slid his cap back on his head, he said, “Fast and accurate, near and far. There is only one choice, the AR.”

He nailed it! That comment spoke volumes about the modularity and compatibility of the AR-­15. It’s fast. This system can be shot by anyone having basic marksmanship skills, and with good speed. The accuracy part is easy to master with almost any AR platform. If you install a low-­powered scope, you have the potential to maintain speed and enhance accuracy for moderate distances out to around 400 yards. To be sure, anybody with a properly sighted AR can make head shots on targets or game animals out to 200 yards. “Fast and accurate” answers “near to far,” as well.

Near with speed, “America’s Rifle” is effective and easy for any body type to get behind, young or old. Far and accurate may not be what you think of when an AR is described, but for those who have shot using an AR with a magnified optic, they can attest that it doesn’t take a lot of skill to engage targets at moderate distances. The 400-­yard claim applies to those of you who have training; if you have no training but a properly zeroed AR-­15, 200 yards is still easy. Usually, I recommend a 100-­yard zero for scoped AR-­15s. My preference is with a low-­powered scope. I love the 1-­6X range because it works for “fast and accurate,” as well as “near to far.”

The choice of the AR-­15 as my go-­to “one gun” isn’t meant to change your mind if you feel differently. It is intended to inspire thought. Johnny Dawg is an open-­minded tactician. Now 80 years old, he can still out-­shoot 99 percent of those who fancy themselves gun people. When forced to consider all things, Johnny changed his mind from his tried-­and-­true scattergun to an AR-­15. If you applied similar logic, what would be your pick? Email your thoughts to gaeditor@outdoorsg.com with the subject line "Sound Off".

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