From the email box, a reader asks a question which boils down to “what do you mean when you say ‘hobby gun’, and how is that different from any other gun?” It’s actually a great question, because it helps create an understanding of how the opinions here on Gun Nuts get framed. I personally have talked before about how I see the shooting sports through tunnel vision that often excludes activities outside my interest in competition shooting and defensive training. That focus has created two distinct categories of firearms in my mind, which I’ve taken to calling “Range guns” and “real guns”. “Range gun” is also interchangeable with “hobby gun”, because they both represent the same thing.
What’s a Range Gun?
When I think of a range gun, the guns that come to mind are fun guns, but not guns that I’d choose to win a match, defend my life, or take to a Pistol-Training.Com class. I have a couple of these myself, my single action .22 Magnum revolver comes to mind as a really good example of a range gun or hobby gun. This category is also where I tend to drop guns that don’t have a proven reputation for reliability; even if they’re from a reputable manufacturer I like to wait until they’ve been on the market for a bit before I give them the Gun Nuts Seal of Approval.
What’s a real gun?
A “real gun” is basically a gun I would depend on to save my life. These are guns that have proven records of reliability, are in common use in competition, law enforcement, etc; this is a gun that I would pick up out of the box and take to a 1500 round class and expect to be absolutely stone reliable for that class. For example, my S&W M&P Pro in .40 is a “real gun” – I’ve run over 1300 rounds through it so far, including a grueling 501 round 2.5 hour practice session. Most of the ammo has been BVAC 180 grain FMJ, and the gun keeps on ticking. Bottom line, a real gun is a gun that you can buy, get some mags for, and shoot 1000+ rounds out of in a class or match and not spend half the time trying to fix malfs to your gun.
Now, there’s a lot of cross-over depending on what you use your guns for. For example, for someone that uses a .22 rifle for varmint control, a Ruger 10/22 might be a “real gun” because it’s ready to do what you need it to do right out of the box. That’s sort of the defining factor between a real gun and a range gun. A range gun is essentially an expensive toy – it’s primary use is going to the range and converting money into smoke and noise, and I want to be very clear that there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s totally awesome. I would imagine that the great majority of the guns that are owned in this country are “range guns”, and that’s awesome, because it helps proliferate firearms ownership. But a real gun, a serious gun, or a working gun – whatever you want to call it, must be ready out of the box (I’ll make an exception for changing the sights) to do whatever it is you need that pistol to do. Whether it’s run during a defensive pistol class, win a trophy, ride in a radio car with you – that’s a real gun.