The Hess Report

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Yeah, But What Do You Need All of Those For? 

"Yeah, but what do you need all of those for?"

I've heard this question asked by folks near and far, both to myself and to others, both in person and in print. Why do you need all of those guns? Now, I myself only own two: a shotgun and a rimfire pistol, but the question has been asked of me nonetheless.

Think of it this way: guns, to those who are interested in them, are sort of like a cross between tools, shoes and pokemon cards.

In the strictest sense, they are tools, i.e. mechanical devices which enhance and expand a human being's ability to affect its environment. In the case of guns, that effect is one of putting holes, both large and small, in portions of the surrounding environment, but it qualifies definitionally as a tool. Much like other kinds of tools, there are several major categories of guns, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Think screwdrivers: phillips, flathead, square, torx. They all do essentially the same thing, but you can't make a torx head fit into a flat slot.

Ladies (and some gentlemen), you no doubt have several pairs of brown shoes, several black pairs, a couple blue. And that pair you already have would look okay with your new purse, but this other pair would look better. It's not a question of necessity with shoes. It is a question of taste. And so it is with guns. You might carry a .40 Glock around with you all the time, but every now and then, you're going to take your 1911 out of storage, just like you'd pull out a pair of prized shoes that'll only go with just this one outfit that you adore. And I mean this analogy with no condescension. Really.

And finally, the Pokemon cards. It is true that a lot of people who are into firearms suffer from the collector's itch. Actually, I think that most people do, whether it be antique tin matchbox trailers that they seek, or a full set of a certain brand and style of kitchen gadgetry, or all the back issues of Hot Dog magazine, or the complete run of Sex in the City on DVD. Humans like to collect stuff. We like to get the complete set, even though 90% of that set is of redundant functionality and little utility. I know people who own over thirty guns. And they're perfectly normal people. Now to me, that seems like an enormous amount. I have no use for it. But that's because I'm an eminently practical person. I would consider owning one firearm from each of the major categories a complete set, as it were. That would satisfy (I think) my collector's itch to fill all the mental checkboxes. But, the people that I know who own this large number of firearms know each gun to a level of detail that differentiates them in their own experience. Just like a kid who would go to the mat to argue that having both Blastoise and Wartortle Pokemon cards was, in fact, not redundant. Or why having, say, a pairing knife and a chopping knife wasn't. Or two pairs of black shoes.

And the answer to the original question: What do you need all of those guns for? It depends on how you see them. As tools, you need a certain small number to acheive basic functionality. That accounts for, say, five guns. Then, as fashion, you might want a few more. Yes, this gun would be just fine, but that one would be slightly more suited to how I feel today, and it looks cooler, too. I'm not the fashion-conscious type, so this one doesn't apply to me, but I can see it accounting for at least one to two more guns from each group. And finally, as a collection, there really is no upper end to quantity of guns someone might "need," limited only by their financial resources. How many does a person need? Each person will have their own mix of the need for tools, fashion, and a complete collection.

Postcript: So, what are the major groups of firearms I've been talking about? Well, that's kind of subjective. I break them down into five groups, but it's not the five that most people would use. And why five? Being a practical person (tools), it's just the level of meaningful detail with which I choose to divide the categories. Some people would say there are three. I know folks who would probably break it down to eleven groups. Once again, it's in your level of perceived usefulness.

Anyway, you'll have to wait until tomorrow. If you are into firearms at all, it will be old hat for you, and you'll most likely disagree with the way I slice things - feel free to yell about it if it bugs you badly enough. But if not, tomorrow's post will be a great primer for you, and afterward, you might even be able to fake your way through a conversation with people who know something about guns.

I'm one of those collector guys, I suppose. I'm not quite at 30, might be someting like 28. I forget, really.

I started out trying to fill niches with my firearm purchses, but it sorta spiraled out of control after that. I bought a 9mm CZ-75 for my first pistol, and bought a .45ACP Glock the next day. Small and fast or big and slow? Get both! Okay, so I didn't start out too practical, but I really did try. I got a shotgun next and then a rifle. Bases covered, right? Nope.

Gotta have a compact pistol to go with the full sized pistols, then you need a sub-compact pistol, and then you need a really small pocket pistol too. No, really, you do! Trust me. :)

Now, ya can't just have a bottom-feeder pocket pistol either, better get a wheel gun or two to round out the collection.

Then you discover the world of military surplus weapons. There's a bunch of old bolt actions out there from around the world that can be had a really good prices. That's where the madness sets in. Your gun purchases in this area ($80-$200) might actually approach nice women's shoes prices. Dunno, as I don't shop for women's shoes, but it does fall within my impluse by range for guns.

Then one month after hitting the range 3-4 times a week you realize that you're burning a bunch of ammo. Gotta get some plinkers to cut down on ammo costs! So you need a semi-auto 22 pistol, a 22 revolver, a 22 bolt action rifle, etc.

Of course, ya gotta have a lever action rifle too...

Gun nut? Maybe... just got a fascination with history and engineering really. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)
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