Let’s talk about needs for a moment.
No, I am not talking about the current media hysteria about “why do you need ________ [fill in the blank with the current evil, PSH instilling, inanimate object of the day]?” So, put away the torches and pitchforks (like anyone would want to waste good ammo on me these days). What I AM talking about is the concept of need versus want in a bad economy for those of us who are not independently wealthy (curse you losing lottery ticket…. CURSSSSE YOOOUUUUU!!!!).
Anyway, I’ll be alright. I promise.
For the sake of this discussion, I am going to assume that most of you are like me. You have a limited amount of disposable income and a wish list a mile long. Which brings us to the heart of the subject. We really have to learn how to prioritize our purchases.
Just like with any household budget, we have to pay for rent, food, lights and water before we think about cell phones, internet and satellite. We need to approach our firearms budget the same way.
It’s not easy.
We all want the new, shiny, sexy at the expense of the tried, true, dull and boring. I am no exception. Looking at my wish list, there is a lot of drool worthy stuff there, but there are also some basic tools that haven’t been taken care of yet too. I bet, if you are honest with yourself, you fall into the same category. Do you have a good .22LR rifle? Do you have a .22LR version of your carry weapon to practice with? Do you even have a carry weapon for that matter? Do you have enough ammo and the right accessories to use your existing weapons adequately?
So, how should I, or anyone else for that matter, tackle this problem?
The answer is: “It depends.”
Everyone’s situation is different. A newbie firearm owner is in a different place than an experienced competition shooter. Both have to prioritize, but they come at the problem from different starting points. Same goes for folks living in different geographic areas (my deepest sympathies to those of you in Colorado for what your kool-aid swilling legislature is about to do to you).
I will offer up the following suggested firearm’s budget/priority list as a means to analyze need versus want. Your mileage may vary.
1. The basics. I think we can all agree that everyone needs at least one .22LR rifle and handgun. How else are you going to train on any kind of regular basis with ammo prices where they are? Besides, they are just plain fun to shoot, and they are about the best tools around for introducing new shooters to the sport.
I would suggest you buy ones that will be similar to your planned or existing “big” guns. For instance, are you in love with ARs? How about a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 or the new Ruger SR-22 rifle? Are you afflicted with the 1911 fetish like me? Sig, GSG and others make a 1911 style .22 pistol. Are you into revolvers? You get the idea.
2. Accessories for the basics (and anything else you buy…this is more of a recurring budget item). Ammo, slings, holsters, cases, extra magazines, optics, sights, aardvarks, unicorns, entering the arc two by two, and extras of everything, etc. It’s best to get them now while you are getting to know your new firearm, and you haven’t committed to buying the next shiny toy on your list. Do not skimp on the ammo budget. Especially on the .22s, especially in this climate. I would suggest keeping 1000 rounds of .22 on hand as a bare minimum. That’s a day at the range for some people.
3. Where you go from here depends a lot upon your particular situation, likes/dislikes, etc. Some people may get their full sized or carry handgun next. Others may go the hunting rifle route. People living in Colorado are busy selling their first born for an AR, two dozen PMags and a case of .223/5.56 ammo. People in New York are trying to save up for the single shot, bolt action .50 BMG rifle because that’s the only thing left that they can buy.
4. At some point, you need to consider protecting your investments with a gun cabinet (at a minimum) or a safe. Most people reach that point somewhere between two firearms and “did you buy a gun store?”. People with small, untrained children need to bump this item up to number 1.1 to be purchased at the same time as their first gun.
You need to realize that a gun cabinet is not adequate theft protection. It is merely a means to keep the curious and the young from getting into trouble. Gun safes range widely in price and quality. Do your homework. Make sure your floor will support it (most good safes start at about 400 pounds and go up from there) and, more importantly (especially for renters), that you can bolt it to the floor and/or the wall.
5. Now we get to the luxuries. Your primary needs are covered, and we can now entertain the thought of some of our wants and desires. Barbecue gun? Everyone wants something to show off. You want a reproduction Sharp’s .45-70? Knock yourself out. Suppressor? Patience (and an NFA stamp) grasshopper. Duplicates of what you already have? Because two is one and none is one. Something custom? Because nothing says I have money to burn like a tricked out Ruger 10/22 with an integrally suppressed barrel that will shoot groups .0025” smaller than a Wal-mart special.
The main point here is to think through your situation and spend your money wisely.