What makes a gun serious?

People are always talking about “serious guns” versus “fun guns.” For example, my Beretta ARX160 is a “serious gun” so I have it set up with a rugged optic and back up iron sights, so when I have to fight ISIS fighters in the mean streets of Sioux Falls I’ll be ready. But my Troy Carbine is a “fun gun” because I just have a 2 by 7 Leupold optic on it and I use for games and hunting coyotes.

Ruger Vaquero

Or take a Ruger Vaquero, that’s pretty clearly not a serious gun for serious things, because it’s a single action revolver! It’s really just an overgrown toy! But what about professional competition shooters? Their competition guns are pretty serious to them, right? And couldn’t you argue that any gun you carry is a pretty serious gun just by the fact that you carry it? So why does the internet spend so much time getting wrapped around the axle of “this is a serious gun?”

I have a theory. I think it’s because in general, the gun internet has lost its collective sense of humor. Sure, there are still a few people who can unclench a little bit, but the rising wave of Uber-Tacticality that’s dominated the landscape has complete erased the concept of “fun” from the shooter’s vocabulary. If you’re not dry firing for your next match, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re not training for a Sentinel Event (sorry John) you’re doing it wrong. Hell, I fall prey to this mindset all the time. I’ll go to the range and think “I need to work on this or that skill today and really bear down and focus” – which is all well and good, mind you. But sometimes you just want to do mag dumps with a shotgun because you can.

Lately I’ve noticed an even weirder reverse trend; since everything became uber-tactical and covered in Molle and rails, people would compete with each other online to see who was the most tactical. When that became gauche, people starting competing online to see who could APPEAR to be the least tactical, while still being tactical. “I don’t wear tactical pants anymore, they mark you as a gun owner. I only CCW in jeans and nikes with a ratty hoody on so I don’t stand out. #greymanoperations” – it’s bewildering to me, until I remember that the internet exists so people can argue about who’s better at stuff. Which is fine and everything.

Unfortunately, this leads to a real problem. Because some things are more serious than others. The gun that you use to defend your life or your home should be serious, and it should be well thought out and trained with. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun shooting it, but it should definitely be something that works. This is where the problems start. Let’s take two examples here: I would rather someone use side by side shotgun made by a reputable company for home defense than a Kel-Tec KSG. Why? Because the KSG is fundamentally unserious. It’s a bad design from a gun maker whose quality is spotty on their very best day. A side by side shotgun probably isn’t the best choice, but if it’s reliable and you can handle it well, it’s better than a gun that looks better on paper but might crap out when you need it to work.

Let’s take it back to the Ruger Vaquero. It is not the best choice for concealed carry. But it’s accurate, reliable, and a well proven gun. I’d rather someone carry a Vaquero than a lot of guns, because the Vaquero is probably going to work when they need it to. That’s really what makes a gun serious – it’s going to work when you need it to. If you have a gun that you never “need” to work, it doesn’t matter if it’s reliable. Fun range toys are great, and there’s a world of options out there. Just don’t go being a tool on the internet about it.


  1. “it’s going to work when you need it to” – excellent article on the definition of a serious gun.

    BTW, agree with the lack of a sense of humour on the net these days. Or tolerance for differing view points.

  2. I think there’s room at the intersection of serious and whimsical, but the mark of a serious gun is that it works, first, and plays second. Those Performance Center 9mm wheelies are, on the face, whimsical competition pieces; however, they work every time and are chambered in an appropriate and effect cartridge. That makes them more serious than a jam-o-matic AR covered in Tapco. And yes, I’m aware that the AR platform is plenty reliable, but we’ve all seen some set up wrong that AREN’T. That’s the jam-o-matic U’m referencing.

  3. First I’ve heard about this topic . . . I’d personally think, if it shoots, it’s serious enough for any living creature in front of the exit side of the barrel.

  4. They are all fun guns till they need to be serious. A high point beats a rock anyday because when you run out of ammo you can use it as a rock.

  5. I typically keep a Ruger Vaquero (.357) and a .22lr revolver in the farm truck. Old school yes, but between the two I think most situations I encounter are covered.

  6. My custom 38 Super race gun is as serious as can be on match day. But when a friend of mine shot it the other day, his comment was “Now that’s just too much fun!”

  7. Yeah, some of my guns are more “serious” than others. I don’t spend much time thinking or talking about it.

    I keep hearing about people successfully defending themselves with single barrel shotguns, 22 rim fire rifles and great grandpa’s top break .32 revolver. None would be my choice, but I guess they were “serious” enough to work.

  8. Seriously? Isn’t that rule #5? All guns are SERIOUS & All guns are FUN! There was never a gun made that wasn’t serious; including the single shot piece of steel pipe that fires a 12 gauge shell. I choose not to make a pipe gun and choose not to buy a KSG. I bet they would both be fun to shoot though. Freedom of Choice! That’s what makes this country great.

  9. Great post and very much needed in this tac-crazy world. I grew up in a time in which there were no “tactical” guns (I suppose “military” would have been the equivalent). The serious gun our sheriff carried was a .38 S&W revolver. If we sat around throwing bull and testosterone around we might argue over the best caliber rifle for deer or brag about shooting hot-load’s. No need to talk scopes because they came in 4x. And in spite of suffering the male desire to accessorize and upgrade everything, even if it is only in our own minds, there just weren’t that many things to purchase on the market. Tactical guns are over-rated when one keeps in mind that the US military and its best high-tech weaponry has made a very poor showing fighting against soldiers armed with cheap, stamped and folder receiver, AK-47’s with the only tactical mod being a sling. I would agree with the description of a serious gun being one that is best suited for the intended task and the shooter. Hunting deer? A .22LR is not a serious gun. And when the task is having fun and the gun is in my hands, there is no non-serious gun!

    1. The Mafia used silenced .22 semi-auto pistols to carry out murders for a long time. Favorites were the High Standard & the Colt Woodsman. Also, Ice Picks inserted @ the base of the skull to kill a rival. Undetected except after an Autopsy. That was High Tech for its day. The OSS issued ink pen guns to their operatives that fired one .22 short cart.. That was high tech in WW 2 along with silenced auto-loaders to take out guards and sentries quietly. Where theres a will–theres a way. Americans are great on ingenuity. I have a whole library of how to do books. I. E:.the Poor mans giude to improvised weapons is one. I picket up a Colt New Service revolver with a six inch barrell from a long time retired Police Officer for 50.00 bucks whey back when. It looked like it just came out of the box with only a small area of missing blueing @ the end of the barrell. I made up necked down .38 spcl brass to hold a 9mm hollow point bullet. Not getting too technical here; you run it into a lead bullet swageing die and expand it to .357″ to grab the rifiling and load a 9mm +P load in it. Good self defense load out of that.gun.

  10. Any gun that goes bang, every time you pull the trigger is a serious gun, any gun is better then NO gun.
    Yes for self Defense a .380 or 9mm, or .45 is better then a .22, but on the other hand, a lowly.22 and well placed shots are better then nothing. Know how to use whatever guns you have, Have fun with them, learn them, and learn how to use what you have well, and hope it only is ever used for fun.

  11. A lot of people have weighted on this and most have been serious enough to be sensible here. So I may as well add my two cent.

    What makes a gun serious? Simple enough for me it must:
    1. Go bang when I want or need it to and enough times to reasonably deal with the problem at hand. (I’ll stick to my Glock 17 as an example; I have faith it will load, fire, extract and reload reliably if I do my part like keep it feed and maybe cleaned once in a while).
    2. It must fit the constraints of the job it’s been chosen for. (Again the Glock; its usually easy enough to carry, easy enough to shoot and it chambers a decent enough cartridge).
    3. It has to make enough and big enough holes to do the job. Look my Glock is a great gun for what it’s intended to do… But if I’m going after say a bear give me a long gun in big bore!
    4. Those holes it makes must go where I tell the gun to put them! (The Glock is reasonably accurate).

    What a serious tool can’t be/do:
    1. Unsafe!
    2. Unweldly or unreliable. You can’t weigh a good gun down with so much crap as to make it unreliable or unweibly. (Back to the Glock no huge “big stick” mags or multi-rail sporting maglite/laser/bayonet/tacicool bacon/chainsaw/my little pony/Garadge door opener etc)

  12. It needs to in a non reflective finish. Like flat dark earth, black or O.D. green.
    But not coyote. Coyote is a completely unserious color.

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