Friday, May 9, 2008

Choosing the Homestead Firearm

As more and more people are returning to the country many are deciding that they have a need for a firearm on the farm. For some this decision has not been an easy one. Some want to slaughter and butcher their own livestock humanely. Many have had to put down rabid skunks or raccoons to protect livestock and pets. Others, after finding mutilated and dead livestock, have realized that guard animals alone will not keep them from having livestock losses to coyotes and other predators. Many have realized that response times from law enforcement agencies can be hours or even days away when you live out in the country strictly because of the size of the territory and the small numbers of officers spread out to respond to calls. Some farms are finding that the hunting of feral hogs, deer and other game is an important part of farm income. I am often asked by those that have made the decision to obtain a firearm what gun I would recommend.

First we need to look at what this ideal gun would need to do. It would need to be able to shoot at close range and also reach out a reasonable distance to take care of predators or other threats to the homestead. Ammo would need to be cheap and light enough to carry a large number of shots yet powerful enough to drop a coyote, deer or whatever would do our family harm. It must be able to humanely slaughter livestock to be butchered. This ideal gun would need to be accurate enough to take small game for the table while able to hit a predator on the run or in limited light situations. It must be compact enough to handle in close quarters yet stable enough to make precise long distance shots. It must be a do-all, solve-all problems firearm and none I know of fits in all situations.

Now that you know that not one gun will answer all needs I will list several in order of importance in my opinion that one should try to acquire and have in your bag of tools. Just like tools, of which the firearm is one, no one tool does it all.

First Choice: If the truth be known the gun that won the west was really a shotgun. More sheriffs and guards carried a shotgun than a revolver or rifle. Most of the settler wagons headed west had a shotgun under the seat ready to grab in case of Indians or a chance to bag supper. The shotgun is capable of gathering game or defending the homestead. Almost anyone can hit a target that is not moving with a shotgun and with a little practice the fox will not even get to the hen house.

Loaded with birdshot you can gather dinner, kill a poisonous snake or defend the poultry from a predator. If you choose to load the shotgun with buckshot you can drop a coyote at 65 yards, stop intruders or add a deer to the winter food supply. Not to mention the fun my family has shooting clay birds thrown from an inexpensive clay bird thrower.

My favorite is a strong pump such as a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500. Pump shotguns are survivors and need little repair compared to other types of shotguns. Others prefer the simplicity and safety of a single shot version. The biggest drawback to shotguns is the limited distance at which they can be used, the weight of the shells and the cost of ammunition.

Second Choice: The next choice has been proven through time and that is a .22 long rifle. It comes in many styles and is effective as a game gatherer and also a weapon for predators and intruders.

It can reach out to about a 100 yards in the hands of a capable shooter. One can carry large amounts of ammo and the cost is the most reasonable of all the firearm choices. The inexpensive ammo allows for plenty of practice so one can be very familiar with the rifle and their ability to hit the target. Loaded with rat shot it becomes an effective tool for ridding the barn and sheds of rats and unwanted vermin.

The .22 rifle comes in many durable styles and models. I would recommend a good semi-auto, pump, bolt action or lever action by a major manufacturer. You can extend the accuracy by topping your rifle with a good scope. A four power scope will increase your target four times closer in size. The draw backs are few but important. One must be an accomplished shooter to hit small targets with the .22. It is also limited in power and is too weak in power to take down big game and large predators reliably.

Third Choice: This is where some will choose not to go any farther in putting together their collection. I think that we should all do as our hearts tell us and I for one believe in preparing for a rainy day. My next choice would be a semi-auto rifle in .223 or 5.56 mm such as an AR-15 or Ruger mini 14. These guns use the same ammo as our military’s battle rifle and one can often purchase surplus military ammo at bargain prices. This type of firearm can put a deer in the freezer, down a coyote across the pasture and is very efficient as a defense rifle if necessary.

These rifles are highly accurate and may be scoped if one prefers. They can handle from a five to a forty round magazine for a high rate of fire. The ability to send a round down range with each pull of the trigger may allow one to save livestock from fast moving multiple predators if the need arises.

This rifle has become the firearm of choice for controlling feral hogs in many parts of the country. This rifle is my choice to humanely slaughter large livestock to be butchered. There are numerous options and after market accessories for these type of firearms. This rifle has saved many a goat, lamb and calf from the jaws of predators.

There are other choices and many other firearms that some may prefer to have on the farm. I enjoy carrying a black powder squirrel rifle on occasion as it is inexpensive to shoot and takes me back to the days of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. There is nothing like a dinner of fried squirrel or cottontail taken with an old time rifle that belches fire and smoke.

I often carry a small pistol or revolver on my belt as I check fences and livestock. It is out of the way and allows me to do other chores but is there if I feel the need for a gun. It has taken several poisonous snakes out of areas around the barn and house where kids and livestock roam. A revolver allows one to load snake loads or regular rounds as needed.

Whatever you choose make sure you are familiar with your firearms and practice safety at all times. If you have not grown up with guns I would recommend you get some professional instruction in safety and firearm use. Many of the larger sporting goods stores have classes in firearm use and safety. As a firearms instructor I often recommend the purchase of an inexpensive BB rifle to practice with or to teach members of the family the use of firearms. The longer you live in the country the more you realize that the gun is just a tool and one that you often have the need to use.
Maybe the next time a coyote or other predator gets after the livestock you can take care of the problem on the spot. Good Shooting, Wild Ed

No comments: