If you’ve got a couple thousand dollars available, it’s relatively easy to select one or more firearms for home defense, or for your bug-out bag, or what have you. You’ve got plenty of choices, and just need to sort through the options available and find the gun(s) which best fit your needs.
But what if you only have a couple hundred bucks?
A good used pump shotgun will serve most people pretty well for home defense. But what if you want something more compact for your bug-out bag or emergency kit? Then your options are much more limited, and you have to prioritize. You have to decide just what you want your firearm to be able to do, and then see what is available to best meet those goals.
This is one such solution. By no means do I think that it is the only solution. But how I went through the decision-making process and then how I put it into practice might provide some insights.
I wanted a fairly versatile firearm for an emergency kit, the sort of thing which could get taken along on a long drive, or to have when vacationing away from home. I wasn’t thinking of the firearm as a combat weapon, but something which would be suitable for emergency hunting or self-defense. I wanted it to be compact, reliable, and with a wide enough selection of loadings* (whether factory or my own reloads) to meet a range of uses from hunting small game to protecting against large predators.
After thinking it over, I decided to look for a good used .357 magnum revolver, with a 3 – 5″ barrel. I didn’t already have such a handgun, so it would also give me a chance to fill in a gap in my collection. After some shopping around, I found a 40 year-old Ruger Security Six with a 4″ barrel in my price range. The gun looked and felt mechanically sound, but was kinda beat-up. There was a fair amount of holster wear on the bluing. The walnut grips had been abused, with scratches and part of the bottom finger groove broken away. The bore looked fine, but there was a lot of built-up lead around the forcing cone, and the trigger and cylinder barely moved from what felt like built-up gunk.
I decided to take a chance, and brought it home. Yesterday I had the time to take it apart and completely rework it. What I found was that while the gun had been reasonably well cared-for, seemingly no one had ever bothered to do more than just a basic quick cleaning. I pried out/off about a 1/16″ layer of accumulated dirt, burnt powder residue, and old oil from most of the internal surfaces, particularly around the trigger assembly. Little wonder it felt almost frozen in place. I went ahead and did a thorough cleaning of the rest of the gun, and was even able to remove the lead deposits with minimal work.
The grips were first slightly reconfigured with a wood file then sanded thoroughly. I refinished them to a satin finish for slightly better tactile control.
Here’s how the gun looks now:
It’s not gorgeous. It could certainly stand to be reblued, or at least have the bluing touched-up. But I’m not going to worry about it — for my needs, it’s just fine as it is now.
The moral of the story is to think through what you want your firearm to do, then do your research to see what the range of choices are. Shop around. If you have modest skills with hand tools, you should be able to make dramatic improvements in the performance & appearance of a gun (perhaps with some help from online videos and instruction).
*Ammo Selection I will keep on hand for this gun in the emergency kit (representative examples):
- 10 rounds of Shot-shell ammo (for birds, really small game)
- 20 rounds of .38 Short low-power ammo (for small game)
- 20 rounds of 125gr .357 Mag self-defense ammo (for two legged predators)
- 40 rounds of 158gr .357 Mag hunting ammo (for medium & larger game)
- 10 rounds of 200gr .357 Mag bear ammo (for large predators)
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