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Do you enjoy shooting?

If you’re like me – going to the range is an evening well spent. I can get out of the house. But it has gotten more expensive then ever! With the cost of the range fees and the fees for ammo – it has become very expensive. My wife is not happy that my hobby has become a gauge on the pocketbook.

I usually bring my own ammo so I don’t have to pay the upcharges of ammo at the range. But Ammo is getting very expensive. Keeping ammo stocked has become challenging for alot of vendors and customers are paying a premium price for ammo. So going to the range seems a like tempting your  wallet.

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Former U.S. Marine, Federal Air Marshal, Police Officer and Federal firearms instructor.
     • Grandmaster (multiple divisions) by the United States Practical Shooting Association
     • Master by the International Defensive Pistol Association
     • 2018 IDPA National Champion & 2019 IDPA World Champion

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4 Technique & Gear PDFs
12 Foundational Handgun & Rifle Technique Videos
5 Mental Preparation Videos
3 Firearms Focused Fitness Sessions
2.5 Hour Introduction to Competitive Shooting Course
3 Firearms Focused Fitness Sessions
7 Personal Defense Videos

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Best Home Defense Firearms

A home invasion can be very bad. Home invaders normally run in packs of two to four people. They may be buzzed on meth or heroin and can be very violent. They may be looking for valuables or drugs. Even worst, is they could be looking for fun and have their sick way with you and your family members. Rape and torture are a sport for many thugs.

What are you going to use to defend yourself? A knife or baseball bat? Most likely one or all of the home invaders will be packing a pistol. A baseball bat or knife will do you no good in a gunfight.

Having a high capacity pistol or revolver will put you on an even playing field with the criminals. Having a pump shotgun or rifle is even better, and could give you the upper hand.

Defend Your Community:  Autoloading Rifle

A weapon for this purpose needs to reach out there, plus have firepower. Prepping for war, you need a good semi-auto rifle with open sights. With practice, you should be able to hit a basketball-size target at 200 yards. Low-cost ammo is important too, as you will need to stockpile.

AR-15 rifle

My first choice would be the AR-15 M4 rifle as parts and accessories are plentiful. The second choice would be a toss-up between an AKM (AK-47) and Ruger Mini-14. Both excellent weapons.


See the Cheap AR-15 rifles website, as they list the best AR rifles on the market priced under $750.

Protect Your Home: Pump Shotgun

The autoloading shotguns are cool but have limited capacity. Get yourself a pump shotgun that carries at least 5 rounds of 12ga 2 3/4 shells in the tube. An ammo sling or shoulder bag with 15 rounds of backup ammunition is a good idea too. Pump shotguns are cheap, with prices starting under $200 for some imports.

Escort Shotgun

My favorites are the Mossberg 590 and Remington 870 police. The Escort Aimguard and Rock Island M5 are two of the best cheap shotguns.

Mossberg Pump

Keep an ammo stash of #8 target, #00 buck, and slugs. The #8 will be your cheap practice and hunting ammo. The pistol grip 18″ barrel shotguns look cool, but are not that fun to shoot.

Protect Your Family: High Capacity Handgun

If you can only afford one weapon for home protection, choose a high capacity handgun. A good pistol you can shoot well should be your first choice. One without an external thumb safety is best. In panic mode, all you need to do is pull the trigger. Calibers 9mm, 40 S&W;, and 45 ACP are all great with easy to find ammo. I would give the advantage to the 9mm for the high magazine capacity and cheaper ammunition. I am not going to tell you what brand of the pistol is the best. My advice is to see what the cops carry. The Best 9mm pistols site ranks and reviews over 30 handguns.

Walther PistolRuger Revolver

Some family members may not be able to grasp the function of a pistol. A double-action revolver may be a better choice for them. A D/A revolver is simple to load and easy to shoot. The first choice should be the 357 magnum, as it can also shoot popular 38 special ammunition. Even a cheaper single action cowboy gun in 357 makes a good home defense weapon. It is natural to pull the hammer back then fire. My wife does this with D/A revolvers too.

Protect Yourself: EDC & Concealed Carry

I always liked the concept of concealed carry. It is good to be armed when you are out and about. Nothing makes you feel more free and safe than a loaded gun.

Springfield XDS

For many years I could never grasp the EDC or “everyday carry” when you are at home. I thought EDC was only for paranoid nut jobs. What I have learned is there are times to be paranoid. A few examples: Riots are breaking out a few blocks from your house. Some of your neighbors have reported home break-ins. Three convicts just escaped from jail. People in the house down the street are rumored to be dealing drugs. You just fired a bad employee. Your daughter had a nasty breakup with her boyfriend. You are a witness to a crime.

Kahr CW9

My first EDC weapon choice would be a sub-compact single stack 9mm like the Kahr CW9 or Springfield XDS. A 380 ACP pocket-size handgun would be good too, as you won’t notice the bulk or weight. See the CCW concealed carry website as they have a weight sorted list of most concealed carry guns.

Stash Guns: Keep Weapons Within Reach

Don’t let bad guys get between you and a gun. In a home invasion, seconds do count. I think about how terrible it would be if someone broke into my home while I was in the shower. What if meth-heads got in through the bedroom window where I keep my pistol in the nightstand and shotgun in the closet? Meanwhile, the wife, kids, and I are watching TV in the living room. We would be in trouble!

Taurus 85

Stash guns should be low-cost firearms that you can afford to buy plenty of. Handguns are the best, as they are easy to stash. Good stash points are Bathroom cabinet (inside Ziplock bag). Kitchen cabinet. Under the living room couch (the invaders will force you to lay on the floor). In the garage. The utility room. In the basement. If you have young children in the home, make sure guns are secure or out of reach.

Smith Wesson SD9

The price limit is set at $350 for stash guns. A few good ones are the Taurus 85 revolver (pictured), Smith & Wesson SD9 (pictured), Walther PPX, Kahr CT9, SCCY CPX-2, Taurus 111 G2, Kel-Tec P-11, and Bersa Thunder 380.
See The Best Cheap Pistols Under $350

Cache Weapons: Guns, Ammo, & Knives

Cache weapons are for when your home security has been compromised. You flee out the back door and grab weapons from your hidden cache. Now you can go back inside to save a family member or property. When you re-enter your home, you may need some serious firepower. The cache is good for if your house burns down too. You may be homeless, but well-armed.

Taurus 111 G2

Your Cache: An old large Igloo cooler, or another watertight container. Loaded pistol grip shotgun with ammo sling. Loaded medium-size pistol with a nylon holster on a rope; so you can tie it around your waist or hang on your shoulder. Hunting knife. Include your choice of survival stuff like; snack food, water, blanket, and a tarp.

Riot Shotguns

Load up your cooler and bury it in the back yard, far away from your house. Make sure the lid is only 3 inches below the surface so you can dig it out with your hands. Another idea is to place it under a birdbath or flower pots flush with the ground, instead of covering with dirt. Don’t spend a lot of money on your cache weapons.

22 Rifle Food Getter: Ultimate Survival

A semi-automatic 22 rifle is awesome for hunting small game. With the firepower, the 22 autoloading rifles will work for self-defense in a pinch. At cheap prices, a 22 rifle should be part of your weapons collection. Keep quality ammunition on hand like the CCI Mini mags, Remington Golden, and Federal bulk pack. The hard-hitting Winchester 42 Max and Remington Viper ammunition are best for defense.

Ruger 10/22

Good ones are the Ruger 10/22, Marlin Model 60, and Savage 64. The 22 rifle is a great tool to get your family involved in a shooting.

High Power Bolt Action Rifle: Stopping Power

A scoped deer rifle can double as a sniper weapon. This is not the main reason we have it listed for home defense. A high powered deer rifle can kill a car engine. It can shoot through a car long-ways. Thugs are smarter than you think. Some of them may be wearing body armor. At close range, an 300 Winchester magnum will shoot through level IV bulletproof vest, including the breast-plate! The 300 Winchester can shoot through cinder-block walls too. The 270 Winchester and 30-06 Springfield will penetrate the popular level III vest at about any range.

Savage Rifles

I would stick to the long action popular calibers, like the 270, 30-06, 7mm Remington Mag, and 300 Winchester. If Walmart has it, it is popular. Ruger, Remington, Marlin, Mossberg, and Savage make good budget-priced high power bolt action rifles.

Bug-out Bag Gun: Get Out Of Town Fast

What are the best firearms for a bug-out bag? Really just about any that will fit, that isn’t too heavy. You need to take the weight and bulk of the ammunition into consideration too. A bug-out gun will not only be used for protection but may be used for small game hunting too.

Ruger SR22There is no real wrong choice, but a 22LR pistol is almost ideal. Do some research, as half of the 22 pistols on the market are jam-o-matics. The top 3 choices are the Smith & Wesson M&P22;, Ruger SR22, and Bersa Thunder 22. These three are lightweight and feed premium ammo just fine. The hard-hitting Winchester 42 Max and Remington Viper ammunition is best for defense.

Why America Stays Free

Here in the USA, we have the best army in the world, but sometimes it is stretched thin from conflicts around the globe.

The main reason we will never be invaded is our quiet civilian army. We are talking about 120 million gun owners in America with 270 million firearms. Over 15 million have a hunting license. This is 15 million hunters that know how to shoot and handle a high powered rifle or shotgun. 15 million hunters that know how to stalk, find a target and kill. They also have camping gear and 4×4 trucks!

Take the state of Michigan for example. There are 700,000 hunters in Michigan. This would make Michigan hunters the 6th largest army in the world; bigger than France and the United Kingdom combined!

Best Pistols For Home Defense under $400

Listed below are some of the best pistols you can buy at a dealer for $400 or less. We did not list all of the small pocket pistols, even though they will work for a house gun.

For home defense, try to stay with the most popular calibers that will do the job. The ability to find ammunition at reasonable prices is important. We are sure we missed some.

Best Low-Cost Pistols Under $350

Arcus 98 HP Clone

$320-$350 from a dealer

Arcus 98 Review

The 9mm Bulgarian Arcus 98 is an overbuilt replica of the FN Hi-Power, except it is DA/SA instead of an only single action. Most Hi-Power parts and accessories will work with some minor modifications. The Arcus 98 fit and finish compare well to premium pistols. 15 round magazine capacity. Mec-Gar Browning Hi-Power mags work great! Arcus 94 is the same but in a single action.

American Tactical Pistols

$320-$400 from a dealer

American Tactical Handguns

ATI (American Tactical Imports) is the importer of the high-quality Tisas pistols made in Turkey. The models CS9, CS40, and C45 look like a modded Sig (as pictured). The ATI model AT92 is a copy of the Beretta 92. The ATI HP9 is a clone of the Browning Hi-Power. The FX45 1911 is patterned after the M1911-A1 45 ACP service pistols. The model MS380 looks like the Beretta 380. It looks like ATI has picked the right Tisas pistols to market, plus the prices are very cheap.

Bersa Thunder 380

$250-$280 from a dealer


The Bersa Thunder 380 is one of the most popular .380 pistols. This same frame design is also available in low recoil 32 ACP and 22LR calibers. Great for women and new shooters. The Bersa pistols have a full lifetime warranty and are known to be some of the most trouble-free guns made. The Bersa 22 model is ammo picky, so only use hypervelocity cartridges such as CCI Velocitor, Remington Viper, or Aguilla Super Max.

Hi-Point Pistols

$140-$190 from a dealer


Hi-Point pistols are available in .380, 9mm, 40 S&W;, and 45 ACP. These pistols have a good quality reputation and come with a lifetime warranty. The 380 and 9mm are compact pistols. The 40 S&W; and 45 ACP are full-sized. Hi-Point uses a simple blowback operation and manual safety. Because of the affordable prices, Hi-Point pistols are very popular for home protection. I have owned the Hi-Point 45 ACP for several years and never had a misfire or ammo jam. They are not pretty, but always go bang when you pull the trigger. Made in Dayton Ohio USA.

Jimenez JA-Nine 9mm Luger

Haggle Price $170-$200

Jimenez JA-Nine

Made in Nevada USA! The Jimenez JA-Nine is the best survivor of the cheap Saturday night specials from the 1980s. The frame is made of mystery alloy and the rest is steel. The reliability is outstanding; and they always go bang when you pull the trigger. Each Jimenez JA-Nine pistol includes two 12 round magazines. Great pistol for those on a tight budget. There is also 380 ACP (JA-.380) and 32 ACP (JA-32) versions you can get for around $150. The Jimenez JA-NIne comes with a lifetime warranty.

Kel-Tec P11 9mm

$280-$310 from a dealer

Kel-Tec P11

Since the Kel-Tec P11 has a 10 round magazine, it would make a good nightstand gun as well as a concealed carry pistol. The P11 has been in production for a long time, so any problems from the past have been worked out. At only 14 ounces, the P11 does kick like a mule. Because of the size, you can carry it in a jacket pocket, or keep it in your fishing tackle box. The green version is cool.

Kel-Tec PMR-30 22 WMR

$330-$360 from a dealer

A 22 magnum needs a 4-inch barrel to build the velocity to be effective. The Kel-Tec PMR-30 has a 4.3-inch barrel, and 30 round magazine so you know it will do the job. It is about time a company filled the grip with as much rimfire ammo that would fit! This 22 mag pistol would be so much fun at the range. At only 14 ounces empty, the PMR-30 is no hog either. The PMR-30 is so wicked looking. I want one!

Phoenix Arms HP22

$130-$160 from a dealer

Phoenix Arms

A 22 pistol is not the best choice for home defense. However, if you unload the whole magazine, it is about as effective as a shotgun! We listed the Phoenix Arms HP22 because they have a good reliability reputation and they are cheap. Plus the HP22 is fun to shoot! The HP22 is the ultimate survival weapon for your bug-out bag! You can also get a 5-inch range barrel for only $45 if you want to go small game hunting. As with any 22 semi-auto, use high-quality ammo such as CCI Mini-mags. 11 round capacity. The HP22 comes with a factory lifetime warranty. Also available in 25 ACP.

Rock Island Armory 1911A1 45 ACP

$380-$410 from a dealer

Rock Island Armscor

The RIA 1911 is a very good copy of the M1911-A1 army service pistol. Rock Island makes some of the best 1911 pistols on the market. The price is good too! There are so many goodies available to turn a 1911 pistol into a hotrod. You can also spend $55 more and get the RIA Tactical version that is already a hotrod. I own the Tactical version and it shoots as good as a $1200 Dan Wesson! Eight round magazine capacity. Caution: Dealers think they can get away with really jacking up the price on RIA 1911 pistols. Shop smart! Also, see the ATI FX45.

Ruger P95 9mm

$300-$330 from a dealer

Ruger P95

I would bet that the P95 is one of the most popular nightstand guns. The P95 is a very reliable pistol with 15 round magazine capacity. You can get the Ruger P95 with stainless or blued slide finish. The frame has a built-in rail so you can add a laser if you want. I have known some police officers that carry this pistol and just love it. The trigger is a little mushy, but a good shooter. If you shop around, you may find the Ruger SR9 and SR40 pistols under $400.


9mm Luger $230-$290 from a dealer

SCCY Firearms

Weight: 15.0 oz., Barrel: 3.1″, Capacity: 10+1 rounds
The early models had some issues. The new generation 2 models are reliable as a claw hammer. Smooth double-action trigger. Also, see the CPX-1 model with a manual safety. SCCY Firearms carry a lifetime warranty that stays with the gun, not with the owner. Made in the USA. Great as a nightstand gun or concealed carry.

Stoeger Cougar 8000

$380-$410 from a dealer

Cougar Pistols

This gun was called the Beretta Cougar, then production was moved to Turkey. The Stoeger Cougar uses the rotating barrel design to improve accuracy and reduce recoil. The 9mm version only kicks like a 380 ACP! This is a metal-framed handgun and built very tight. Very accurate for a short barrel gun. Also available in 40 S&W; and 45 ACP.

Smith & Wesson SW9VE Sigma

$300-$330 from a dealer

I bought a 9mm Sigma for my wife. The trigger pull was so hard for her, she couldn’t hit the side of a barn with it! This is still one of Smith’s best selling pistols. If you can live with the 10-pound DAO trigger, it is a very nice quality gun. I never hear of anyone having problems. Reliable as a claw hammer! Some police and the border patrol have used the Sigma, so the heavy trigger pull might be fine for them. The Sigma is also available in 40 calibers. Look for rebates!
S&W; Sigma

Smith & Wesson SD9

$370-$400 from a dealer

S&W; SD Pistols

The SD9 is a much better pistol than the Sigma. The trigger feels twice as good! Of course, it cost $75 more too. S&W; markets this pistol as a personal defense weapon, so it might be just what you are looking for. At only 23 ounces, it would work great for concealed carry too. This is a new handgun, so prices should come down when the excitement fades. Also available in 40 caliber (SD40).

Taurus Millennium Pro .40 S&W

$340-$370 from a dealer

Taurus PT 145

The PT 140 is a medium frame, a semi-auto pistol that has a checkered polymer frame. It has a 3.25-inch barrel and incorporates the Heinie 2-dot Straight Eight sight system for great functionality and dependability. PT 140 features include a loaded chamber indicator, recessed magazine, and a 3-position safety. Taurus has an unlimited lifetime repair policy. Also available in 9mm (PT 111), and 45 ACP (PT 145). At only 19 ounces, the Millennium Pro is great for concealed carry.

Taurus PT 809 9mm

$360-$390 from a dealer

Taurus PT 809

I can’t believe this pistol is priced so cheaply! The PT 809 is one of the best pistols you can get for under $400. A nice feature is you can swap out backstraps to make it fit your hand better. The PT 809 will fool you into thinking it is a metal frame handgun. It feels that solid! SA trigger pull is right at 5.5 pounds and very crisp. Also available in 45 ACP (PT 845). Also, check out the Taurus 24/7 G2 pistols as they are very similar.

Shotguns For Home Defense under $500

If you don’t have much money to spend for home defense, make it a shotgun. Pump-action or semi-automatic should be your first choice. A double-barrel coach gun would also be a good choice. Even a $130 single shot is better than a baseball bat!

All shotguns on this page are 12 gauge. The 12 gauge is king, but the 20 gauge and .410 are good too. In fact, the little .410 is powerful as a 357 magnum revolver! The .410 is a good choice for women as the recoil is light and the shells are easy to cycle.

As for 12 gauge home defense ammo, anything between #4 and #00 buckshot will work fine. The #4 buckshot would be like getting hit in the chest 20 times by a 22 rifle! At 15 feet the pattern will be about 4″ wide from a 20-inch barrel. The #6 shot game bird loads should be the minimum size for use indoors.

Listed below are shotguns that are made for tactical situations. Shotguns for deer hunting work well for home defense too. For house guns, we have selected shotguns that you can buy from a dealer for $500 or less. I am sure we have missed a few.

ATI Shotguns

$190-$300 from a dealer

We will update this listing when we know more about the Americal Tactical Imports shotguns. We do know they are made by Ottoman in Turkey. The ATI Grand Vizar pump should retail at a dealer for under $200. What I am excited about is the ATI Sultan autoloader that should be around $270 at a dealer. This is really cheap! Both defense shotguns carry 5 rounds in the magazine. Also available in nickel marine finish. Check out their website.

 Benelli Nova Pump Tactical

$370-$410 from a dealer

I don’t have experience with the Benelli Nova Tactical, but I have shot the Benelli field guns. I do remember the action was very smooth and had a solid feel to it. The Benelli Nova Pump Tactical has an 18.5-inch barrel, weighs 7.2 pounds, and holds 5 rounds. The Italians are famous for their styling, and the Nova Pump Tactical is a sweet looking shotgun. You really need to haggle to get a good deal. The MSRP is $409, and dealers don’t discount the price much.

 Browning BPS High Capacity Pump

$430-$460 from a dealer

You may pay more, but you are getting the quality Browning is known for. The Browning BPS has a Forged and machined steel receiver is a matte blued finish. 20″ fixed cylinder choke barrel with silver bead front sight. Bottom ejection action with dual steel action bars and a top tang safety. Browning BPS has composite stock and forearm in matte black finish. 8 round capacity. Also, see the Ithaca model 37.

Century Arms Coach Gun

$290-$320 from a dealer

Nothing will stop an intruder faster than looking down the bore of a double-barrel coach gun. 20″ barrel. Nice hardwood stock with blue finish. With practice, you can reload in only seconds. Brass bead front sight, sling swivel, 3-inch chamber, checkered forearm, and grip. Barrel: 20 inches, Century Arms Coach Gun is Overall: 37 inches, Weight: 7.84 lbs.

 Century Arms Ultra 87 Tactical

$220-$250 from a dealer

Modeled after the famous Remington 870, this pump-action beauty is perfect for home defense. The Ultra 87 comes with front and rear sling swivels, fiber optic sights, black synthetic furniture, 5 round tube capacity, and a 19-inch barrel. Also, see the Norinco Interstate Arms Hawk Pump Defense. Many aftermarket 870 stocks and accessories will fit.

Charles Daly Field All Weather

$260-$290 from a dealer

The Charles Daly Field All Weather sure is pretty with the nickel-plated finish. Pump action. Ghost ring sight. 6 shot capacity. The aluminum receiver helps to keep weight down. 18.5″ barrel. Note: Charles Daly (KBI) is out of business. You still may be able to find them new at gun shows and dealers.

 Citadel LE Tactical Standard

$330-$360 from a dealer

The Citadel LE Tactical pump shotgun is made special just for the law enforcement market. You can get one, but you may need to ask your dealer to order it. Citadel LE Tactical features a very modern narrow short stroke, lightweight receiver with a 22-inch barrel. The Citadel LE Tactical Standard weighs only 6.35 pounds, plus has a 7 round tube magazine. There are 4 different options for stocks. Made in the USA!

CZ 712 Utility Semi-Auto

$450-$480 from a dealer

CZ handcrafted shotguns merge old world craftsmanship with state of the art modern technology. The CZ 712 Utility is very rugged and built to last a lifetime. Great shotgun for police use, home defense, or on the farm. Semi-automatic action with 20″ barrel. 5 round capacity. The CZ 712 Utility Semi-Auto is priced low for a quality semi-auto.


$210-$240 from a dealer

The EAA SAR has a duel smooth reliable action bar. Solid drilled and honed barrel. Stock and forend produced from the highest quality polymers. Machined thread on barrel extension. Cross trigger block. Machined locking block and bolt. Aircraft quality machined not the cast aluminum receiver. The EAA SAR Pump has an 18.5″ or 20″ barrel and weighs less than 6 pounds. There is also a SAR Special Purpose version with tactical pistol grip stock. The sporter version is pictured. Made by Sarsilmaz, so you know the quality is good. EAA also offers a 24″ semi-auto deer shotgun you can get for around $350!

 Escort MarineGuard Pump

$280-$310 from a dealer

The MarineGuard is built like a swiss watch! You can feel the premium Hatsan quality in the Escort MarineGuard. 6 rounds capacity and weighs 6.25 pounds. Escort MarineGuard and AimGuard shotguns are designed specifically for defense use. The MarineGuard has an 18-inch cylinder-bore barrel, five-shot magazine, and nickel finish. There is also an AimGuard version in black finish for about $70 less. The Escort has the fastest pump action of any shotgun I have ever fired. Faster than many semi-autos! HK FabArm FP6 aftermarket stocks and accessories should fit.

Interstate Arms 97T Trench Gun

$360-$390 from a dealer

The 97T Trench Gun is so cool. I want one! The 97T is an exact replica of the 1897 shotguns used in world war one and two. It looks like a military collector piece from the exposed hammer to the oiled wood. Of course, if I owned one, I would be shooting it! The Interstate Arms (Norinco) 97T is 12 gauge with 2 3/4 inch chamber, metal handguard, 20-inch barrel, bayonet lug, and military swivels. 5 shot capacity. All you need now is a replica bayonet.

 Maverick Model 88

$200-$230 from a dealer

The Maverick 88 is made by Mossberg to the same quality standards. I have owned a Maverick 88 pump-action shotgun, and it was nice. I don’t know why they are priced so much less than the Mossberg 500 as the quality is very good. 20″ barrel with 8 round capacity. There is also a Maverick 88 model with an 18.5-inch barrel and 6 shot magazine. Aftermarket Mossberg 500 accessories and stocks will fit.

 Mossberg 500 SP

$310-$340 from a dealer

The Mossberg 500 is the top-selling pump-action shotgun in the USA. It is available in many different barrel lengths and stock configurations. Shown is the Mossberg 500 pistol grip model. Pistol grip shotguns may look cool but are only fun for a little while. You will be glad you went with the rifle buttstock instead. Aftermarket accessories are galore! There is also a 510 Mini version great for smaller shooters in .410 or 20 gauge. The 510 Mini has an 18.5-inch barrel and weighs only 5 pounds!

Mossberg 590 SP

$400-$430 from a dealer

The 590 series Mossberg is a little beefier built than the 500. The 590 can also handle 3 1/2 inch magnum shells. The 590 the top choice pump-action shotgun used by the US Military. Also, check out the Mossberg 835 Mag. Model 835 for deer hunting is an awesome shotgun.

Mossberg 930 Special Purpose HS

$470-$500 from a dealer

The model 930 Home Security is a semi-automatic shotgun for police and home security use. The model 930 has 6 round capacity. Weighs in at 7.5 pounds. The 930 HS can handle 2 3/4 or 3-inch shells. If you are willing to spend more money, there is a 930 Blackwater version with 8 shot magazine and very cool stock. Autoloading shotguns are so fun to shoot! Also, see the SA-20 Tactical in 20 gauge.

NEF H&R; Pardner Pump Protector

$190-$220 from a dealer

Compare the New England Firearms Pardner pump shotgun, feature for feature, with any of its higher price competitors. The NEF pardner Pump has a steel receiver, double-action bars, and cross-bolt safety. 5 round capacity with 18.5″ barrel. Comes with the famous H&R; a two-year warranty! Many aftermarket 870 stocks and accessories will fit. Also, see the Norinco Interstate Arms Hawk Pump Defense. Note: My local Wal-Mart has the Pardner Pump for $160!

Remington 870 Tactical Express

$330-$360 from a dealer

The 870 model is over 50 years old and still going strong! The Remington 870 is the most popular pump shotgun for police use. The 870 Tactical Express has an 18.5″ barrel and 7 round capacity. Just like the Mossberg 500, there are tons of accessories and goodies for the Remington 870. The model 870 is the most copied shotgun on the market.

 Rock Island (Armscor) M5 Tactical

$240-$270 from a dealer

You would swear the Armscor M30SAS (or RIA M5 Tactical) is a $600 shotgun. The picture does not do it justice. With the jeweled bolt and heat shield, it is a very nice looking pump-action shotgun. 7 round capacity with 20″ barrel. The M5 is patterned after the awesome High Standard police shotguns of the past and the Winchester 1200. The Rock Island M5 quality and finish is amazing for a shotgun at any price. RIA also makes an M5 with a shorter 18.75-inch barrel. Nickel finish is available. Lifetime warranty.

Savage Stevens 350 Security

$220-$250 from a dealer

Savage Stevens 350 Security Pump shotgun in 12 ga with a 3-inch chamber and 18.25″ barrel. Has matte blue finish with black synthetic stock. Savage Stevens 350 Security has 6 shot capacity and a sturdy 7.6 pounds. Very well built shotgun with steel receiver! Looks like an Ithaca model 37! A real bargain is the Savage Stevens Field/Security combo that includes a 28 inch vented rib barrel.

Stoeger P350 Pump Defense

$300-$330 from a dealer

The Stoeger P350 is designed to fire any 12-gauge ammunition, from light target loads to 3-1/2 inch magnum. The fore-end assembly with twin action bars delivers smooth, non-binding cycling. The Stoeger P350 is a very nice pump shotgun from the same family that brings you Benelli and Franchi shotguns. Quality is first-rate. 18.5″ barrel. 5 round capacity. Weighs 6.4 pounds. The P350 also comes with a standard style polymer stock (pistol grip stock is pictured).

Stoeger SXS Coach Gun

$340-$370 from a dealer

Stoeger Double Barrel Coach Gun in 12 gauge with 20″ Barrel. Single trigger. Modified & Improved Choke. Hardwood Stock, Matte Silver Finish. SXS Fit and finish is excellent. Stoeger SXS Coach Gun is nice enough to be a collector piece. Shoot it or hang it on the wall.

Stoeger M2000 Tactical

$450-$480 from a dealer

The Stoeger Model 2000 semi-auto shotgun uses the Inertia Driven operating system. This means fewer moving parts to wear out. The M2000 Tactical features 4 shot magazine and an 18.5-inch barrel. You know the Beretta-Stoeger family of firearms are always built to last. I like the 24-inch barrel deer version better as it has a conventional shaped stock with the same shell capacity.

TriStar Cobra Force (pump)

$310-$340 from a dealer

What a mean looking pump-action shotgun. The TriStar Cobra Tactical delivers reliability and firepower with a 5 + 1 capacity magazine. This easy to maneuver, short barrel pump shotgun comes with a standard molded stock.

TriStar Cobra Viper (autoloader)

$420-$450 from a dealer

Sweet shooting semi-auto with 5 shot capacity and 20″ barrel. The TriStar Viper Series Semi Automatic Gas Operated Shotguns are reliable, functional, and hard working. The TriStar Cobra Viper Tactical Shotgun comes with a 5-year warranty!

Weatherby PA-08 TR

$310-$340 from a dealer

You know if this 12 gauge tactical shotgun is sold by Weatherby, it must be a good one! The Weatherby Tactical Pump PA-08 TR has black synthetic stock and forearm. 18.5-inch barrel. 5 shot capacity. Weighs 6.75 pounds. The Turkish-made PA-08 TR features a dual-action bar design that is straightforward, overbuilt, and made for round after round of high volume shooting. Weatherby shotguns are made by Hatsan. Hatsan is one of the best shotgun makers in the world! Great price for the Weatherby brand!

Winchester Super X Pump Defender

$320-$350 from a dealer

The Winchester pump shotgun was a worthy warrior in the Vietnam war. 6 round capacity with 18″ barrel. It also has non-glare metal surfaces with a tough composite stock and forearm. Super X weighs in at only 6.5 pounds. The Winchester Super X Pump Defender is a good priced shotgun considering the big brand name.

The Single Shots

$100-$160 from a dealer

At these low prices, there is no reason to not be armed! H&R; (NEF) and Rossi build quality break-open single-shot shotguns. My favorite of them all is the Baikal imported by USSG. The Baikal does not use an exposed hammer as the break-action cocks the gun. Reloading to ready to fire is fastest with the Baikal. Reloading speed is important with a single shot. With some practice, you can be almost as fast as with a pump. There is a place for the break-open single shot for home defense. If you have a daughter living on her own, a youth-sized .410 or 20 gauge may be the perfect weapon. They are simple for an inexperienced shooter to operate.

Revolvers For Home Defense under $400

Listed are some of the best revolvers you can get from a dealer for $400 or less. This almost looks like a sales promotion page for Charter Arms and Taurus as they both make so many models. We didn’t list them all! Single action cowboy guns are not listed.

The DA revolver is one of the best choices for a safe house gun. There is no safety to mess with. A revolver can be kept loaded with no springs to wear out. A double-action revolver is safer if you have small children in the home, as most young kids don’t have the strength to pull the double-action trigger or cock the hammer.

A revolver is so simple to use that adults with no experience can shoot it.

Armscor M206 38 SPL

$220-$250 from a dealer

This quality revolver is made in the Philippines and is a close copy of the Colt Detective service handguns used 30 years ago. Rumor is Armscor purchased the tooling and equipment from Colt. The M206 has an alloy frame that keeps the weight down to about 25 ounces. Many complain about the parkerized military finish. It is supposed to be ugly you stupid fools! Sweet trigger. The Armscor M206 gun is made by the same company that makes the awesome Rock Island Armory 1911 pistols, so it should work great. Available in 6 shot 38 special with 2 inches or 4 inches (M200) barrels. Rated for +P ammo. If you want a bobbed hammer version, look at the Bersa Firestorm FS38R (also made by Armscor). Hogue rubber grips for the Colt Detective can be made to work.

Charter Arms Undercover 38 SPL

$300-$340 from a dealer

Charter Arms has improved their quality so much in recent years and now are one of the best. Made of premium stainless steel and weigh only 16 ounces. The Undercover has a 2-inch barrel and 5 shot capacity. There is also an Undercover Lite version with an aluminum frame that weighs only 12 ounces! Bobbed hammer versions are available for concealed carry. The police model is beefier and has a 6 shot capacity. All are rated for +P ammo. You can also get the Charter Arms Undercover in 32 H&R; mag for those wanting less recoil.

Charter Arms Pathfinder 22 Mag

$320-$360 from a dealer

The Pathfinder also comes in 22 long rifle caliber, but the 22 WMR packs more punch. Get the 4-inch barrel version ($40 more) so the 22 magnums can burn enough powder to be effective for home defense. My daughter owns a Pathfinder in 22 mag and it is very accurate and fun to shoot. I am amazed at the quality you are getting for the low price. Recoil is light, but they do make a lot of noise. Weighs 20 ounces and has 6 shot capacity. Nice trail gun!

Charter Arms Mag Pug 357

$320-$350 from a dealer

The 357 magnum is an awesome home defense round. However, in a small revolver like the Mag Pug, the recoil does sting. The good news is the 357 Mag Pug can also shoot 38 special bullets for practice. The Mag Pug has a 5 shot capacity, ported 2.2-inch barrel, and weighs 23 ounces. Choose blue or stainless finish. There is also a 4-inch barrel model that is good for police and security use. The most famous Charter Arms revolver is the 44 Bulldog that shoots the 44 special cartridges. The Bulldog is built on the same frame as the 357 Mag Pug. The 44 Special has a little less felt recoil than the 357 mags.

Comanche II 38 Special

$210-$240 from a dealer

The Commanche II is made in Argentina. Adjustable rear sight. 3-inch barrel. 6 shot capacity. All steel construction. Transfer bar safety. Weighs 29 ounces. Choose a blue or stainless finish. Perfect for security personnel and personal protection. Also available in a 4-inch barrel service version. Rated for +P ammunition. The Comanche II fit and finish is not as nice as the S&W; 19, but they are reliable and shoot good. The new Comanche revolvers should have past quality issues fixed. Comanche II warranty is covered by the Bersa Lifetime Service Contract.

EAA Widicator 357 Magnum

$280-$310 from a dealer

The EAA 357 Windicator is the best bargain of any revolver. The quality and reliability of this German-made revolver compare well to $600 handguns. The finish is just average, but so what. Look at the price! I owned a Windicator for 6 years and put thousands of rounds through it with no serious problems. I had to use Locktite to keep the screws from falling out, but I had to use Locktite on my Colt Python too. The Windicator weighs 26 ounces with a 2-inch barrel. There is also a 4-inch barrel version for duty use. The 357 Windicator is built very tight, so break it in easy by shooting 38 special for the first 100 rounds. The Windicator is also available in 38 Special with alloy frame. Choose the 357 instead as the frame is steel and only weighs 1 ounce more.

 Rossi Snub Nose Revolvers

$290-$350 from a dealer

Rossi is now owned by Taurus. What this means is an excellent service and warranty. The Rossi R351 is chambered in 38 special and can handle the +P ammo. The R351 is 5 shot, with a 2-inch barrel, and weighs in at 24 ounces. The Rossi R461 comes in 357 Magnum, with a 2-inch barrel and 6 shot capacity. The R461 weighs in at 26 ounces. Both models also come in the stainless finish; model R352 for the 38 and R462 for the 357. You will love the rubber grips.

Rossi R971 357 Magnum

$330-$360 from a dealer

The Rossi R971 357 mag has been around for quite a few years and has shown a very good reliability history. The R971 is based on the S&W; K-Frame revolvers with 6 shot capacity. The 4-inch barrel and 32-ounce weight help to tame the recoil. Also available with a 6-inch barrel. For practice, you can shoot 38 Special ammo with no problem. You can also get one with a stainless finish (R972). You may want to check out the Rossi R851 in 38 Special. The R851 is pretty much the same size as the R971, but cost $40 less.

S&W; 637 Airweight 38 SPL

$370-$400 from a dealer

The 38 Special Smith and Wesson J-Frame revolver is economy-priced but offers good features. With the Alloy frame, the Airweight lives up to its name at only 15 ounces. Awesome for concealed carry. The 637 comes with a 1.87-inch barrel and 5 round stainless cylinder. It is rated for +P ammo, but don’t feed it a steady diet of the strong stuff. Best of all it is a Smith and Wesson at a price you can afford. Lifetime service policy.

Taurus 605 357 Mag

$320-$350 from a dealer

The Taurus 605 packs a lot of punch in a very small package. 2-inch barrel. 24-ounce weight. Transfer bar safety. 5 shot capacity. The Taurus 605 comes in blued or stainless finish. Something to think about: The Rossi R461 is also made by Taurus. The Rossi offers a 6 shot cylinder instead of 5. The R461 and 605 costs about the same. To me, the Rossi sounds like the better deal here. Also, see the 357 magnum Taurus model 617 with a 7 shot cylinder. There is also a model 445 Ultra-Lite in 44 Special caliber.

Taurus 65 & 66 357 Mag

$330-$380 from a dealer

Taurus model 65 is one of my favorite handguns. It just shoots and handles so well. The model 65 is a tack driver! The quality and performance compare well to the S&W; model 686 in every way. The blued finish does wear pretty fast. Spend a little extra and get one in stainless. This 4-inch barrel 6 shooter weighs 38 ounces. The model 82 is the 38 special version, but why bother? The model 66 features a 7 shot 357 mag cylinder. With model 66 you can get a 6-inch barrel for target or hunting.

Taurus 941 22 Magnum

$320-$360 from a dealer

Years ago I purchased a Taurus 941 revolver for my wife. I thought the light recoil would be perfect for her. It did not work out well. The DA trigger pull was so heavy, she could not shoot the gun unless she pulled the hammer back first. The DA trigger is heavier than a 44 mag! It was very accurate when cocking it first and just loved CCI ammo. I believe the heavy double-action trigger should be considered a design flaw. My daughter has a Charter Arms in 22 magnum, and the DA trigger is manageable. The 941 comes in blue or stainless finish.

Black Powder 44 Revolvers

$250-$320 from a dealer

If you live in an area where guns are banned, black powder weapons may still be allowed. The 44 black powder revolver packs as much punch as a 38 special +P! The gun that won the west makes a fine defense weapon. They are fun to load and shoot too. Just remember that a black powder pistol charge has a shelf life of about 12 months, so you need to take it out and shoot once in a while. Even though brass is very pretty, get one with a steel frame as it is stronger. Both the 1951 Colt Navy and 1958 Remington Army styles are proven designs. The 1860 Colt Army is considered the best. I believe you can order directly without going through an FFL dealer.

Best Cheap Pistols Under $350

1. Canik TP9-SA 9mm: $330-$350 From a Dealer

Weight: 28.8 oz., Barrel: 4.47″, Mag: 18/9mm

What started out years ago as a Walther P99 knockoff, evolved into an awesome weapon Canik made their own. The single-action 4.5lb trigger is sweet. You can swap out backstraps for hand fitment. The Canik TP9 is good enough for IPDA.

 2. Taurus TH9 9mm: $290-$310

Weight: 28.2 oz., Barrel: 4.27″, Mag: 17/9mm

The Taurus TH9 is pretty much a makeover of the PT809. This is good, as the PT809 was one of the best Taurus handguns ever made. DA/SA hammer action, Interchangeable backstraps, and Novak sights. The 40 S&W; is in the works.

 3. Ruger Security-9 9mm: $310-$330

Weight: 23.7 oz., Barrel: 4.00″, Mag: 15/9mm

I love this gun. The Security-9 is the size of the Glock 19, but thinner. It has an internal hammer, but the trigger is good as most striker-fired handguns. The grip fits medium to small hands just fine. It is ultra-reliable and so fun to shoot. Way to go Ruger!

4. Walther Creed 9mm: $320-$340

Weight: 26.6 oz., Barrel: 4.00″, Mag: 16/9mm

Can you believe a German-made Walther at this price? The Creed is the Gen2 version of the PPX. Walther made the Creed trigger much better. However there some trigger takeups. The Creed is kinda chunky, but you get used to it. Great shooter!

 5. FMK 9C1 G2 9mm: $330-$350

Weight: 23.5 oz., Barrel: 4.00″, Mag: 14/9mm

California built a budget handgun made to compete with the Glock 19. It will even fit some Glock holsters. Get the FAT (Fast Action Trigger) version, as it is very good. It is a great shooter. Why did FMK not make the magazine 15 rounds?

6. Smith & Wesson SD 9mm, 40 S&W: $290-$310

Weight: 22.7 oz., Barrel: 4.00″, Mag: 16/9mm, 14/40 S&W;

High-quality budget gun! Very safe too. It has a long 8lb trigger pull that reminds me of a Colt DA revolver. Some ladies may have problems with it. Buy inexpensive trigger & spring to get the pull-down to 6lbs. The SD feels so good in the hand.

 7. Sarsilmaz B6 9mm: $290-$310

Weight: 28.2 oz., Barrel: 4.50″, Mag: 17/9mm

What would a CZ 75b be like with a polymer frame and grip? It could be like the SAR USA B6. I tried a friend’s B6 at the range, and what a darn good shooter. Feels good in the hand too. Long term quality? Made in Turkey, so it should be OK.

 8. Kahr CT40 40 S&W: $320-$340 from a dealer

Weight: 21.0 oz., Barrel: 4.00″, Mag: 7/40 S&W;

The Kahr CT budget series is also available in 9mm and 45 ACP. This is the thinnest 4″ barrel pistol on the market. It looks good in an open carry holster but will work for CCW. If you could only have one handgun, this is it. Durable as heck!

9. Remington RP45 45 ACP: $310-$330

Weight: 26.6 oz., Barrel: 4.50″, Mag: 15/45 ACP

I have always been a fan of Remington rifles and shotguns. After reading reviews that the Remington RP 9mm had problems, I purchased the 45 ACP version. It holds 15 freakin rounds! Zero ammo feeding problems. Good Alaska handgun!

 10. Diamondback DB9FS 9mm: $270-$290

Weight: 24.2 oz., Barrel: 4.75″, Mag: 15/9mm

This is a darn good shooter for the money. I got mine to run great with Sellier & Bellot 124gr ammo. As big as it is, the magazine should hold more. Why make the DB9FS look like a race gun, but have the capacity of a compact? Awesome budget bargain!

11. Taurus PT111 G2 9mm 40 S&W: $240-$260

Weight: 22 oz., Barrel: 3.2″, Mag: 12/9mm, 10/40 S&W;

The PT111 Millennium has evolved into one of the best pistols on the market. It is small enough to work for concealed carry but has the firepower for home defense. Great weapon for your woman. Cheap Price! Buy an extra one for the truck.

 12. EAA Witness Pavona 9mm: $330-$350

Weight: 29.0 oz., Barrel: 3.60″, Mag: 13/9mm

Owning several Witness pistols, the quality is top rate. You can see by the weight, the Pavona has a lot of steel in it. The extra heft really tames recoil. With the light recoil and pretty colors, chicks dig it. Small enough to tuck into an IWB holster.

More Worth Checking Out – not ranked

Concealed Carry Pistols

  • Walther CCP 9mm (pictured)
  • Bersa BP9CC 9mm, 40
  • Kahr CW Series 9mm, 40, 45
  • S&W; M&P; Shield 9mm, 40, 45
  • Ruger LC9s 9mm
  • Taurus 709 Slim 9mm, 40 S&W;
  • SCCY CPX-2 9mm 10+1 Rounds
  • Kel-Tec P11 9mm 10+1 RoundsDouble Action Revolvers
  • Taurus Model 82 38 Special 4″ (pictured)
  • Rock Island M200 38 Special 4″
  • EAA Windicator 357 Magnum 4″

Hard To Find Top 10 Shooters

  • Arcus 94 & 98 Hi-Power Clone (pictured)
  • Zastava EZ9 CZ99 CZ999 Sig Clones

Muzzleloading: Tips For Tighter Groups

If your muzzleloader isn’t as accurate as you’d like, the problem might be “operator error.”

“Ian, you know all about in-lines. How about helping me sight-in this new Encore?” A friend had just opened a big cardboard box from Thompson/ Center and handed me his shiny new muzzleloader. Because my friend has a 100-yard shooting range in his backyard, we grabbed my muzzleloader supplies and headed for the door.

I placed a box of Hodgdon’s Triple Seven pellets on the shooting bench, as well as a box of Winchester No. 209 shotshell primers, some moistened and dry patches, my trusty range rod and a box of 250-grain T/C Shock­Wave saboted bullets.  I then proceeded to teach him the basics of how to get the most out of a muzzleloader.

Basics For Better Groups

For the best accuracy, you should swab the barrel after each shot when sighting-in at the range. Swabbing can be done with pre-soaked patches from the factory or “spit patches,” whereby you chew on a patch until it soaks with saliva. Swabbing the barrel with a damp patch removes ignition residue and prevents build-up in the bore that results in difficult bullet loading and poor accuracy. I believe the tiny amount of moisture left in the bore after swabbing also makes it easier to seat the bullet.

Swabbing is a simple job, but I regularly see shooters doing it wrong. Don’t push the rod to the bottom of the barrel in one stroke. Doing so piles up residue on the patch, and as this accumulation increases the patch gets tighter in the barrel, to the point the ramrod is almost impossible to pull back out. Instead, push the barely moist-to-the-touch patch down the bore in 4- to 5-inch jabs. These short jabs prevent the ramrod from getting stuck in the barrel.

Always discard the first moistened patch after removing it from the bore. Next, you can swab a second time with a moist patch or simply run a dry patch down the bore. I’ve found that one slightly moistened patch followed by a dry patch results in excellent ease of loading and accuracy.

I prefer commercial patches because they’re cut for the bore-size of your muzzleloader. Many shooters prefer to cut their own, using cheap flannel or similar material. I haven’t found any significant advantages between patch material, size or shape as long as the patch fits snugly in the bore. T/C and Knight offer round patches that work great, and I’ve also used 2-inch-square patches with fine results.

I use T/C pre-lubed patches for the damp patch with one warning: To ensure the patches stay moist, T/C places a surplus amount of solvent in each container, and I suggest you remove five or six patches and squeeze the juice out of them before use. Having the patches just moist to the touch is best. I also make my own moist patches by placing a bunch of them into a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, then pouring T/C’s Number 13 solvent over the patches and letting them sit for a while so the solvent is fully absorbed.

If you shoot a lot, consider buying a range rod for swabbing the barrel and seating bullets. Heavy-duty one-piece range rods are longer than the rod supplied with your gun, and they have a comfortable handle that makes pushing and pulling easier.

Always exert the same amount of pressure when seating the bullet on the propellant charge. I like to give the rod a smart tap when I get to the bottom of the stroke, regardless of whether I’m using loose powder or pellets. An important reminder if you’re using powder in pellet form: You don’t want to crush the pellets with too much force as this will result in uneven ignition and marginal accuracy.

When my friends and I have a new in-line muzzleloader to sight-in, we like to experiment with a variety of propellants and projectiles. Although pellets are by far the most user-friendly, some in-lines don’t shoot as accurately with pellets as they do with loose powder. I start my accuracy test with Triple Seven pellets and then try Pyrodex Pellets, too. Then, if I’m not happy with the accuracy, I’ll switch to Triple Seven and Pyrodex loose powder.

I always start with two 50-grain pellets (measured by volume) and a 250-grain bullet (measured by weight). Then I’ll try three 50-grain pellets to let the rifle determine the combination it prefers. Shooter’s tip: The best accuracy is usually achieved with bullets and sabots of the same brand as that of your in-line muzzleloader. That means T/C bullets typically shoot best in T/C in-lines, Knight bullets in Knight rifles and the same for CVA and Traditions.

Primers are a non-issue in my opinion. I haven’t found any accuracy improvement with the new primers designed specifically for muzzleloaders, and as a matter of fact I prefer to send as much flame into my propellant as possible—we’re trying to set off a detonation here, not start a progressive burn. When my rifle is cold, maybe sweating or whatever, I prefer as much fire as I can get to ignite the charge. I don’t buy into the claim that too much flame can push the powder charge forward because I’ve seen far too many sub-1-inch groups shot with three pellets and standard primers. But if you believe the new primers work well for you, then go to it.

Some shooters are surprised to learn that many popular saboted muzzleloader projectiles are actually handgun bullets. Velocity loss frequently ranges as high as one-third in the first 100 yards of travel according to my chronographs, and terminal performance isn’t much better. (I once said that most muzzleloader bullets have the ballistic efficiency of flying trash cans.) And even at low impact velocities, these handgun bullet cores and jackets frequently separate.

Thankfully, today’s shooter has aerodynamically shaped bullets specifically designed for muzzleloaders, and they feature relatively sharp tips that retain velocity and energy better. I’ve tested the new T/C ShockWave, Hornady’s SST and the Spit-Fire MZ from Barnes and found that these bullets retain their velocity significantly better than the flying trash cans. This extends long-range killing potential significantly. I particularly like the new Bonded ShockWave from T/C and the Barnes Spit-Fire MZ. These are tough bullets that shoot superbly in my test rifles.

Getting back to my friend and his new Encore: He insisted I shoot first to get the scope zeroed and determine the best load. The scope zeroed with only a couple of shots because we had a large backboard to catch every bullet. Then I fired three shots, each loaded with two Triple Seven pellets and a 250-grain ShockWave. The group measured exactly 1 inch. “There’s your deer hunting load,” I said. “We got lucky and got great accuracy with the first try. But just for fun let’s try three pellets.” After firing a three-shot group using the 150-grain powder charge, we walked to the target. I knew the bullets had hit closely together but was amazed when we measured the group. My three shots measured just under a half-inch!

At the range, you must determine the loading procedure that works best for you. Uniformity is the secret—do every step of your loading process similarly and good accuracy will be the result.

Remember—the more you shoot, the better you’ll shoot, and this holds true for pistols, shotguns, rifles, and muzzleloaders. Unfortunately, after I shot those groups for my friend with his new Encore muzzleloader, he proved this axiom. He sat down and fired three shots at the target and only one bullet hit the paper! Needless to say, he intends to do some practicing with his new in-line before taking it into the field.

If you’re a bad shot, it might be caused by a bad trigger.

Many hunters fail to realize that most factory production rifles have poor-quality triggers that inhibit or prevent accurate shooting. Typically, today’s factory triggers are burdened by 6-9 pounds of pull with 1⁄10-inch of movement before letting off (this is called creep) and significant movement after let-off (called slop or over-travel).

Why are factory trigger pulls typically on the heavy side? The primary reason is litigation. Today’s “lawyer-proof” triggers are the result of dozens of lawsuits that have hurt firearms manufacturers. The second reason is setting triggers for maximum performance costs money because it is a labor-intensive procedure. Trigger parts operate best when they’re polished smooth and perfectly matched, and that requires handwork that costs money. The name of the game is making a profit, so spending undue time on triggers reduces profit margins.

Good Trigger = Good Shot

For you to shoot a rifle accurately, a trigger’s pull must be no more than 4-5 pounds, although I prefer 21⁄2-3 pounds. The trigger should be as heavy as you can shoot well—not as light as you can get it. Next, the trigger must have minimal movement before and after let-off; it should break crisp and clean. Finally, the trigger should be reliable, regardless of dirt, moisture or extreme temperatures.

When you shoulder a new rifle, you naturally assess balance and fit. (NOTE: Always check a rifle to make sure it’s not loaded, and keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.) You also want to know how the trigger feels. One or two dry-fires will indicate if the trigger is properly set and enjoyable to fire. Thankfully, most triggers are adjustable so their performance can be improved, and most non-adjustable triggers can be replaced with after-market models by a skilled do-it-yourselfer or qualified gunsmith.

I recently spoke with the owners of five major trigger manufacturing companies, and each one really cares about the safety of the shooters who use their products. Bottom line, they want to ensure their products are installed correctly. If you’re a do-it-yourself type, these owners suggested you contact the factory for advice and assistance if needed.

•JEWEL TRIGGERS INC., (512) 353-2999:  Jewel triggers have earned an enviable reputation with the benchrest and precision shooting fraternity, and they’re available for Winchester and Reming­ton-style actions.

“What’s the difference between our triggers and most of the other trigger companies?” asked owner Richard Jewel. “Very simply, we hand-grind and polish surfaces to plus or minus 1⁄10,000-inch. We hand assemble every trigger, fitting every part perfectly. Although our triggers are used on super-accurate benchrest rifles, they’re tough enough for tactical and hunting rifles.”

Jewel ended our conversation with one bit of advice: “Anything is better than a factory trigger.”

•M.H. CANJAR, (303) 295-2638: Mary White, president of M.H. Canjar triggers, told me its single-set trigger design has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction in 1947. “Naturally the tooling has been updated,” she said, “but the basic design is still in use. We have triggers for Savage 110 and 112s, Ruger 77s, Remington 700s and 788s, Winchester Model 70s and the Ruger No. 1 single-shot rifle.”

White mentioned the importance of following the instructions exactly. “Don’t let a ‘basement gunsmith’ do the job,” she said. “You need a properly trained individual to install your trigger. For about $75 we’ll install any Canjar trigger bought from us.”

•RIFLE BASIX, (704) 499-3087: Owner/President Bob Brasfield re-affirmed the importance of customers contacting the factory if they have any concerns when installing triggers. “Our Savage trigger should install in approximately 10-15 minutes.” he said. “Our instructions are simple to follow for every trigger we sell. The newest Savage trigger even comes with a CD-ROM instructional movie. We’re expanding our offerings well beyond the Savage triggers that have been our bread and butter. We have some excellent rimfire replacement triggers, and our new Remington and Winchester Model 70 triggers are also significant improvements.”

•SHILEN RIFLES INC., (972) 875-5318: Wade Hull, president of Shilen Rifles, says his company offers two triggers for the Remington Model 700 action. The Standard Trigger is fully adjustable with pull weights from 11⁄2-3 pounds.

“Be confident you can handle the installation,” Hull said. “If it doesn’t feel right, contact the manufacturer. Or better yet, get a competent gunsmith to do the installation.” Hull also says it’s best to clean your trigger regularly with Ronsonol cigarette lighter fluid. It’s an excellent solvent and leaves a lubricant film with no varnish residue.

•TIMNEY MANUFACTURING INC., (866) 484-6639: Owner John Vehr is justifiably proud of the huge changes in trigger manufacture since Timney began in 1946. Timney, the world’s largest manufacturer of triggers, is also a leader in the field of technology. “We have invested in equipment and people,” he said. “Our EDM and CNC machines are operated by the best programmer-machinists in the business. We heat-treat our steel parts and have a case-hardening process applied for maximum strength. We can polish to 7⁄1,000,000-inch as required!”

Most of the triggers mentioned in this column can be purchased directly from the manufacturers or your local gun shop. Also check the catalogs from Brownells, Sinclair and Midway for a wide selection of makes and models.  Regardless of where you buy a new trigger and what brand you purchase, I’m confident you’ll be amazed at how well you shoot with it.

Super Slug Guns

There’s never been a better time to buy a dependable and accurate slug gun.

I happen to like slug guns, probably because I carried one for many years when I worked as a black bear specialist for Saskatchewan’s game agency. That old Remington Model 870 pump accompanied me on some hair-raising experiences, usually at night, and I can recall a couple of times when that gun saved my skin.

Back in those days, slug guns had short barrels, rifle-like open sights and no choke constriction. My coworkers and I shot whatever slugs we could find, and accuracy was measured in “minute of black bear” at 25-50 yards. Part of my job entailed shooting a significant number of cattle-killing bears annually, and my Model 870 did the job well. It shot Browning Legia brand Brenneke slugs very accurately out to 65 yards, so they became my standard workload.

Nowadays the term “slug gun” is likely to signify a shotgun that’s specifically designed for deer hunting. These guns have rifled barrels, superb open sights and/or cantilever scope mounts and special stocks designed for shooting with a scope. The most preferred slugs are now saboted projectiles that shoot consistent groups out to 150 yards or even slightly farther. In fact, ammunition manufacturers have concentrated their efforts on extending the capabilities of slugs with great success.

An Array Of Choices

Benelli’s top-of-the-line slug gun is the Super Black Eagle II, a 12 gauge semi auto in Advantage Timber HD camo, black synthetic or satin walnut stock. It features a 24-inch rifled barrel and will handle 3-inch shells. The M2 Field 12 gauge semi auto is available in black synthetic or camo and features the standard 3-inch chamber and 24-inch heavy-walled barrel. All of these slug guns have adjustable sights and receivers that are ready for a scope, as well as recoil-reducing ComforTech stocks that absorb almost 50 percent of the kick from magnum loads.

If you prefer a pump, check out Benelli’s Nova. It’s available in 12 or 20 gauge with a rifled barrel and adjustable sights, or as a combo rig complete with a field and slug barrel. The latter features a cantilever, rifled barrel.

Beretta offers its A391 Xtrema2 KO synthetic rifled slug model for deer hunters. This gun has a 24-inch rifled barrel and is available with a cantilever base for scope mounting. The action handles up to 31⁄2-inch shells and recoil is greatly reduced thanks to Beretta’s Kick-Off recoil reducing stock.

The Browning Gold gas-operated semiauto shotgun is offered in three slug models, the Rifled Deer Hunter (12 and 20 gauge), Rifled Deer Stalker (12 gauge) and Rifled Deer (12 gauge). All models have 3-inch chambers, and rifled slug barrels are 22 inches long with a 1-in-28-inch twist rate. The barrels are thick-walled and have cantilever scope mounts attached, and none of the barrels has open sights.

The Rifled Deer Hunter has a satin-finished walnut stock/blued barrel, the Rifled Deer Stalker a black composite stock/blued barrel and the Rifled Deer has a Mossy Oak camo composite stock/ camo barrel.

Harrington & Richardson offers three single-shot break-open-design slug guns. The top of the line is the Ultra Slug Hunter Deluxe in both 12 and 20 gauge. The heavy 24-inch barrel is fully rifled, and the gun has a checkered, laminated Monte Carlo stock, recoil pad and factory installed scope bases and nylon sling.

The Ultra Slug Hunter is similar to the Deluxe except the stock is made of walnut finished American hardwood. This slug gun is available with a shortened stock for small-framed shooters that drops the length of pull from 141⁄4 inches to 131⁄8 inches.

Mossberg offers a pair of slug guns called the 500 Slugster and 535 ATS Slugster. The 535 ATS is a pump action in Mossy Oak camo or black synthetic stock featuring a 24-inch rifled barrel and adjustable sights. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope. The 535 ATS will handle 31⁄2-inch shells, and the 500 is similarly equipped but chambered for 3-inch shells. Mossberg’s pump shotguns are reliable, rugged and feature easily accessible top-mounted safeties and twin action bars.

Remington’s Model 870 pump shotgun is available in three slug models, the Express Deer, Express Synthetic Deer and Express Slug, all with 20-inch rifled barrels. The Express Deer has a Monte Carlo style wooden stock and choice of the standard 12 gauge 20-inch rifled barrel or a 20-inch Improved Cylinder barrel that will handle both slugs and buckshot. The Express Synthetic Deer has a 12 gauge rifled barrel and Monte Carlo style black synthetic stock.

The Express Slug is available in both 12 and 20 gauges, with a heavy contoured rifled barrel that increases the gun weight slightly, thus reducing recoil. The barrel doesn’t have open sights, instead of a cantilever scope mount is factory mounted.

All Remington Model 870 slug guns feature twin-action bars and receivers milled from a solid billet of steel. From experience, I can say with confidence that there are few shotgun designs that are as reliable as the Model 870.

Remington also offers the Model 11-87 gas-operated semi-auto slug gun in two 12 gauge 3-inch magnum models. The Premier Cantilever Deer has a Monte Carlo style satin walnut stock and 21-inch rifled barrel complete with a factory mounted cantilever base. The Sportsman Deer has similar specs but comes with a black synthetic stock.

Savage offers a unique bolt-action slug gun that looks more like a heavy-barreled rifle than a shotgun. The Model 210F Slug Warrior is one of the nicest-handling slug guns on the market and features a 24-inch rifled barrel chambered for 3-inch shells. The composite stock is available in black or Realtree camo. A one-piece scope mount is included with each slug gun because there are no open sights. The 210F is intended for accurate shooting, pushing the envelope for slug gun performance.

Weatherby offers deer hunters the SAS Slug Gun featuring a unique adjustable butt-stock that has a shim system for changing the cast or angle of the stock. The SAS is available in 12 gauge 3-inch with a 22-inch rifled barrel and comes with a cantilever mount installed, as well as sling swivel studs.

Winchester offers its Super X3 Cantilever Deer gun in 12 gauge, 3-inch magnum with a 22-inch rifled barrel. Winchester’s cantilever is unique because it incorporates a Truglo front sight and folding rear sight in its design, which enables a hunter to easily install a scope. The Cantilever base even has a full-length groove that can be used for open-sight aiming if the rear sight is folded down. The Super X3 has weather-proof coatings on the metal and stock. I’ve shot the Super X3 and was impressed with the accuracy I achieved with Winchester’s sabot slug.

Although I’ve listed these gun manufacturers in alphabetical order thus far, I had to break that rule to save the most accurate and best-built slug gun for last. Tar-Hunt Custom Rifles offers two slug guns, a worked-over version of the Remington Model 870, and a bolt-action model that’s essentially a custom rifle that shoots rifled slugs. The 870 modification in 12, 16 and 20 gauge sizes involves installing a threaded sleeve and barrel. This means the barrel is more or less permanently installed rather than having the original take-down design. The permanent installation makes for far superior accuracy.

The Tar Hunt is truly a custom built slug-shooter. It utilizes a proprietary action, McMillan stock, E.R. Shaw 12 gauge rifled barrel and all the tricks used in building custom rifles. This is a minute-of-angle slug gun, right from the first group fired. This is particularly true if you use specially developed Lightfield slugs, which have a unique post wad that wedges forward. This ensures a perfect fit of the slug within the plastic sabot and optimal accuracy.

As I stated earlier, modern shotguns fitted with scopes, rifled barrels and loaded with saboted slugs are deadly on deer at ranges up to 150 yards. Yes, most deer hunters will tote a centerfire rifle where it’s legal to do so, but they shouldn’t feel like they’ve drawn the short end of the stick when regulations mandate the use of a slug gun.

Cleaning A Rifle

There’s an old saying that “more rifles are ruined by cleaning than are by shooting,” and it’s likely true.

Cleaning rod wear, caused by the rod excessively contacting the rifling, is a common cause of barrel damage. This is particularly true when a cheap rod is used to clean from the muzzle. A soft aluminum rod picks up and embeds grit to become, in essence, a file that grinds away at the muzzle crown.

If it’s possible, always clean from the breech and use a rod guide. The best guides not only keep the rod aligned with the bore but also protect the action from dripping solvent and crud. Bore guides also make it much easier to start a patch.

Some rifles, such as semiautos, lever actions or pump actions, must be cleaned from the muzzle It’s important in that situation to use a rod guide to align the rod with the bore and to protect the crown from cleaning rod wear. Also, put a rag in the action to catch the crud you push out of the barrel; you must keep that gunk out of the action.

The Proper Procedure

It’s always best to hold the rifle in a cradle of some sort when cleaning it. For a workbench, it’s hard to beat the Decker Gun Vise. For fieldwork, such as at the range and also for the workbench, Midway offers a range box that serves for a multitude of chores in addition to carrying gear for the range. The box comes with a complete set of cleaning tools as well as a built-in cradle to hold the rifle. Those who have one of the ubiquitous MTM Shooter’s Boxes might consider the MTM Portable Rifle Maintenance Center that will fit on top of the box for field cleaning.

Start cleaning the bore with a general bore solvent, making several passes through with a wet patch. Use each patch for only one pass before replacing it with a new solvent-soaked patch. You might want to let the gun soak a few minutes between patches to allow the solvent to work.

Leaving the barrel wet with solvent, use a properly fitted brush soaked with solvent to make several passes. Bronze is the best; nylon doesn’t have the scrubbing ability, and stainless steel can gall and ruin the barrel very quickly. Keep the brush wet with solvent, reapplying after every couple of passes. Follow with one wet and several dry patches to remove all traces of solvent. After using the brush, always clean the solvent from it with a spray such as Outers Crud Cutter. This is to prevent abrasive debris from accumulating and also because some solvents will eat the bronze bristles.

Now scrub the bore with a patch soaked with a good copper solvent. Be sure to read the instructions on the label because these are harsh chemicals. Let the bore soak for a few minutes, then follow with another patch wet with copper solvent. When you have patches coming out white with no trace of green or blue (it might take a while if the fouling is extensive), dry the bore with several clean patches.

Scrub the bore again with the general solvent, again using patches and brushes. Then dry and repeat the copper solvent treatment. Sometimes metal fouling can be trapped under layers of baked-on powder fouling that you must remove to allow the copper solvent to get at the metal fouling. Keep repeating this process until you have no sign of blue or green on any patches.

Cleaning the bore is made easier by the Foul Out Electronic cleaner from Outers. This device uses an electric current to activate a reverse-plating process that removes the fouling from the bore and deposits it on a metal rod, speeding up the process a great deal. The system is not terribly expensive, and anybody with several guns and interest in the shooting should have one. Use it where you would use the copper solvent.

Finally, dry the bore with several clean patches and apply a rust protector such as Outers Metal Seal. Before shooting again, run a dry patch through the barrel to remove any residual rust preventive. Often the first shot might be off from the group—usually high—so a fouling shot is not a bad idea before hunting.