If you were just starting out today, but knowing everything you know now...what would be your order of operation? What progression would you follow from "total newb" to "experienced shooter?"
"Man is still the first weapon of war" - Field Marshal Montgomery
For starters, go to a range where I can test fire pistols, and after several visits, decide what pistol to buy based on best feel, accuracy, trigger and without bias (it would've been an M&P in 2008, not the XD . . .something I didn't learn until 2013ish). I'd probably go 9mm or .45ca; the latter if I wanted to continue the 1911 track. Whatever the pistol series is, I'd buy a full size and a compact size for home defense and carry respectively. Both would be used for training, and both must be able to take the full size magazine.
Speaking of training, I would make time for more pistol courses, as well as first aid, culminating in force-on-force simualtions. Fundamentals and medical courses are skills I'd need to revist at least once a year. I would always take two weapons to train, since machines can break.
For rifles, I'd still buy the M1, maybe the M1A, and two mid-length 16-inch AR uppers with FSBs (maybe a full rifle for one of these). I'd also buy a Colt (S&W if I couldn't find it Colt) AR-15A4 (A2 if I could find it). The 20-inch would be an irons-only gun. The mid-length uppers would be scoped with one ACOG and one Aimpoint PRO-type optic. I would not foray into building ARs at all, except for maybe building another lower to get two. This would give me three uppers and two lowers eventually. After that, funds and time goes to magazines, bulk ammunition and training. I would still test accuracy to determine the best load for the barrels.
For competitions, I'd continue to find ranges that offer Garand matches or other service rifle matches. I'd look for and get involved in pistol matches that apply what I've learned in training, eventually looking for multi-gun matches, preferably those that don't requrie the shotgun component. Had I started this way in North Dakota in 2010, I possibly could've made run-n-gun biathalons while still living in Texas before 2015. Post 2015, I'd make good on my intent to hunt; I'd probably do away with any type of ballistic defense, and pursue the British style of load bearing (belt kit). For hunting, I would pursue night vision as well.
I don't know that I would still go down the milsurp bolt-action collection route, and I wouldn't bother with a large frame AR at all.
Internet reputations may be one thing, but cold hard data is another.
The past year I have been buying and selling too much gear! Need to just settle in (one KISS set up and 1 LPVO) limiting the AR platform at the most and know their dope inside and out. Example had a 20 inch Del-ton A4 that was dialed in rock steady set up with RIBZ BZO she was good to go from 25 to 300 yards with irons using both XM855 and M193 ammo. Spent all that time working her to trust level only to sell her off. Just had to have that A2 build, now this spring my scores have dropped at service rifle from lower 400's down into 350-370 range learning to get settled in on the new rifle configuration while at the same time trying to work up loads for an FN A4 I "just had to have". The A2 is in the shop with a bad front sight cant : / Time to STOP!! Master one rifle and just keep progressing from that point onward would be far better time served at the range, in energy, in confidence of the rifle and for sure confidence in ones work at the range. Marketing bug sucked me into a black hole now it is time to get out of that line of thinking. If you are starting out keep things simple, stay off the forums that influence you to buy and chime in on forums which encourage perfecting what you have in your arsenal. I am learning a valued lesson this summer that 3 AR's is well past my time needed to master 3 platforms. One has got to go. "2 is one" and need to be happy with that mindset. Learning from one's mistakes is great teacher.
This is an interesting discussion for sure. I've just in the last year started to become more focused and goal oriented in my shooting. I've started competing and took my first carbine/pistol class. I'm currently gearing up for a dedicated pistol class.
Looking back, I'd have bought a complete AR from a reputable manufacturer rather than building several on a budget as I did. I would have then stuck with HK USP compact 9mm that was my first concealed carry handgun rather than trading it and going through several handguns.
I would have bought bulk ammo and a dozen mags for each, a really good sling and holster, and then taken several pistol classes (make sense to me because I carry it everyday). Followed by several rifle/carbine classes. Would have waited to invest in an optic. While I appreciate Aimpoints,I'd have preferred to take my formal instruction with irons. Plus, that cost would have paid for 2x one-day classes and I probably would have still gone down the same route with LPVO's which I greatly prefer, but it took experience to learn that.
I have no doubt I would have been much better off financially.
If I had it all to do over again, I would do exactly what I have done with the exception of gear. I sought training with a good organization and progressed in this order:
Basics of Tactical Shooting (BOTS) - an intro really that covers basics of pistol, weapon manipulation and an intro to shooting and moving
Land Warfare 1
Land Warfare 2
Land Warfare 3
Active Shooter - Public Area Threat
Low Light/No Light Tactics
Combat Lifesaver 1
Combat Lifesaver 2
Force on Force 1
Force on Force 2
Force on Force 3
Travel in Hostile Environments - Nonpermissable Environements
Precision Rifle 1
Wash Rinse REPEAT
The Force on Force classes revealed to me just how big of a softy I am. I realized that if I was with my significant other, I'd pull a gun without hesitation but if I was by myself I'd much more likely just surrender my wallet. It was also the first time I had to reckon with killing someone, or rather as close to ending a life as I've been. It was not a gung-ho, I'm a badass experience and I left with quite a disorientated perspective for a few days.
Anyway, the training was squared away but as I evolved I had settled into different gear and realized real needs from what I had gathered independently. I've never regretted choosing a Glock, for sure. The first time your pistol is put into pieces and you have to race to a barrel and assemble it and put shots on target (all as a stress riser), you don't regret the simplicity of a Glock. I've had good luck with PSA AR-15's all around and so have others who shoot them.
Things like a quality holster and chestrig and all the other stuff has made a smaller but definite impact on the training results. I could have shaved off $2000 easy by settling on what I have now over the evolutions I went through.
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