A Brief History
On November 26, 2018, we once again revisit a subject we have covered twice before (“Dear Santa I Want a Gun for Christmas,” and “Dear Santa I Want a Gun for Christmas, Redux.”). With so many guns and so little time, anyone interested in history, especially the history of warfare, interested in hunting, interested in competitive shooting, interested in gun collecting, and of course, anyone interested in self-defense would be interested in receiving just the particular firearm they may want for Christmas. Today we list some of our selections for this year.
Questions for Students (and others): Do you have a particular firearm you would like to get for Christmas? Do you think private ownership of firearms is an American right? How could we keep firearms out of the hands of mentally ill or dangerous people without infringing on the rights of others?
1. Box Magazine Shotgun.
Major American shotgun manufacturers such as Mossberg and Remington have come out with box magazine fed pump shotguns, usually with either 5 or 10 round magazines. Worked the same way as a normal pump shotgun, the big difference comes in reloading, with the new box magazines being changed in a couple seconds versus fooling around loading the under-barrel tubular magazines we have been used to for over 100 years. The higher capacity magazines are pretty awkward, and have a purpose only for dedicated shoot-out use, something we probably will not need short of an apocalypse. But they are cool! (Cool is a big factor with shootin’ irons…) Semi-automatic shotguns in 12 gauge and .410 gauge are also available from foreign manufactures with an outward appearance similar to an AR-15 or an AK-47. While these shotguns can be used for hunting, they are mostly meant for recreation and self-defense. Personally, I want the AR-15 looking type, such as the ATI Omni Hybrid .410, SKO-12, Fostech Origin-12, Saiga 12 or .410, Molot VEPR 12-01, TriStar KRX Tactical 12, and EAA MKA 1919 (12). There are actually many others to pick from as well, often for around only $500-600. Shooters competing in 3-Gun type matches may find these guns an interesting and viable alternative to tube magazine shotguns.
2. Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum Revolver.
Back in the days of Dirty Harry confidently bragging that his S&W Model 29 chambered in .44 Remington Magnum was “The most powerful handgun in the world,” customers flocked to the gun stores to own such a beast. Then some really powerful pistols and revolvers were launched, with the current champion being the Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum, capable of launching a .50 caliber bullet weighing 400 grains at 1800 feet per second, giving it a muzzle energy of an incredible (for a pistol) 2879 pound-feet of kinetic energy. (.44 Magnum seems tame at a maximum of 1500 pound-feet of energy!) For people who are not familiar with the “power” of firearms cartridges, the .500 Magnum has more than double the muzzle energy of an AR-15 chambered in 5.56mm caliber. Other large handgun calibers that come short of the mighty .500 Magnum include the .454 Casull, the .480 Ruger, and the Smith & Wesson .460 Magnum for revolvers, and the .50 Action Express in semi-automatic pistols. If you absolutely must have a repeating handgun (as opposed to a single shot, rifle caliber pistol such as the Thompson Contender), look into the Magnum Research BFR, a massive revolver weighing as much as over 5 pounds and available (we do not believe many are actually sold) in such potent calibers as .450 Marlin, 45-70 Government, .50 Beowulf and some other tasty rifle-type calibers. Incredibly (to me), these BFR’s can be found for $900 to $1100 brand new! And you can get them in the aforementioned .500 S&W Magnum caliber, too. If you opt for the Smith & Wesson model S&W 500, be prepared to shell out a couple hundred more dollars. These big revolvers are capable of taking down any North American game animals, including the biggest bears and Bison.
3. Kel-Tec PMR-30 pistol.
Chambered for the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire round, these pistols are semi-automatic wonders that have a magazine capacity of 30 rounds with a flush fit magazine, no bulky extended magazines needed. While the .22 magnum round is marginal for self-defense, it is fine for varmints and small game, and can be used for self-defense if needed. More of a “fun” gun for recreational use, the cost in bargain gun shops is a modest $350 to $400 (a little less than the msrp). Light in weight and with little recoil, the 30 rounds it carries can be rapidly fired accurately. A really nifty, fun gun for shooting cans and other makeshift targets with the added benefit for anyone who may need a high capacity .22 caliber pistol, the PMR-30 is a great stocking stuffer.
4. AR-10 7.62mm Rifle.
The AR-10 is the big brother of the M-16/AR-15 type rifles and is chambered in a real rifle cartridge, not a carbine cartridge. Capable of longer range and greater accuracy and terminal effectiveness, the AR-10 is another dream weapon I really do not need but would like to have anyway. For hunting medium sized animals such as feral hogs, deer, coyote and elk, or even Black Bear, the AR-10 and its 7.62 x 51 mm cartridge is perfectly reasonable, and you could use a low capacity (5 round) magazine for hunting instead of the 20 round magazine you would want to use in case of the Zombie Apocalypse or if the ISIS fighters invade the US. Depending on the model, an AR-10 can weigh from 7.5 to 9 pounds, lighter than most .30 caliber full sized battle rifles. (The military model could fire on full automatic/machine gun mode, while the civilian copies are semi-automatic only.)
5. M79 40mm Grenade Launcher.
We are pretty sure you either cannot buy one of these in firing condition, or if you can, it would only be after rigorous government protocols. This is really a fantasy gift, not a realistic one. Called a “blooper” by GI’s during the Vietnam War, this single shot breech loaded 40mm grenade launcher could fire high explosive dual purpose (my favorite), high explosive, flare, CS gas, smoke, and a “beehive” round loaded with anti-personnel flechettes (little dart type things). The flechette round was found to be wanting and was replaced by a buckshot round. Capable of launching a grenade 400 meters (a quarter mile), the effective area range was 350 meters. Point targets usually have to be within about 200 meters. The M79 only weighs about 6.5 pounds (loaded), so it is lighter than most military rifles. The grenadiers that carried them were also equipped with a .45 automatic pistol for self defense at close range. While we had the M-203 40mm grenade launcher attached to M-16 rifles when I was in the Marine Corps, I got to fire the M-79’s that ships I was embarked on were equipped with, and the experience was great! One of my favorite all time military weapons. Of course, I have no use for an M-79 other than recreation, but what recreation that would be! Production ended in 1971 after 350,000 were made, so they should be highly collectible by now.
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For more information, please see…
Lee, Jerry. 2018 Standard Catalog of Firearms: The Collector’s Price & Reference Guide. Gun Digest Books, 2017.
Petersen, Phillip. Standard Catalog of Military Firearms: The Collector’s Price & Reference Guide. Gun Digest Books, 2017.
Wexler, Bruce. 50 Guns That Changed America: An Illustrated Guide. Skyhorse Publishing, 2015.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by SSGT LAIRD from http://www.dodmedia.osd.mil/DVIC_View/Still_Details.cfm?SDAN=DMST9002821&JPGPath=/Assets/1990/Marines/DM-ST-90-02821.JPG of an M79 (right) with an FN minimi, Panama, January 1989, is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.