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Smaller Gear Can Be a Better Choice

May 2010 -- Banacek

So you go into a sporting goods shop and head over to the brightest, most conspicuous display. Under your breath you are muttering: "Shiny ... shiny ... shiny..." Of course. We all do. But is the biggest and best and most expensive shiny what'sit always the right choice?

Maybe not. We are in a shooting club so let's talk mostly about stuff we like, and actually use often.

A young fellow just last week was eying the semi-autos and pondering whether a 45 ACP or 9 mm was a good first choice for a pistol when learning to shoot. No. First comes a .22 rimfire. The ammo is still relatively cheap and will allow sufficient practice to improve his trigger and breathing control and relevant shooting skills. And without the recoil, that would greatly slow down his learning curve.

And not the most expensive brand and model either. Most any .22 on the rack will outshoot this lad for a long time to come. But the choice must be for a good enough quality firearm that will keep up with his improving skills. So in the beginning, any bad score or thrown shot is most likely the shooter's fault -- not the gun's -- and thus presents the new shooter with an opportunity to learn from his mistakes.

Some folks will disagree with the choice of a rimfire, perhaps because they have forgotten how long it really took to get really good with a centerfire. They pride themselves on their latest (and expensive) big bore. The louder and nastier the better to impress, or intimidate, the shooter at the adjacent firing point. Kinda smacks of the mentality of Tim The Toolman, but everyone to his/her personal taste and wallet capacity.

Truth be known, lots of owners of big nasty calibers whether rifle or handgun really can't shoot them very well. When these guns come up for sale used, they are often in near new condition. Or heavily fouled from extensive firing of reduced lead loads.

The young fellow above also asked about a centerfire rifle for deer hunting. As you might expect of me by now, I suggested he first practice with a rimfire rifle to learn to shoot. Only then should he get a centerfire rifle. Caliber? Obviously an adequate cartridge for deer, like a .308 or .30-06, but not a Tim's Binford 900. I told him he will likely end up buying some of the latest fad big bangers during his shooting lifetime (nearly everyone did, including me). But he probably will always keep -- and love shooting -- his original first choice if it was a good one.

There is an old saying: "Beware the man with one gun, he knows how to use it." But that's another subject for another day.

Okay, elsewhere we have a review of Bushnell Custom Compact binoculars. Small and light enough to always have with you. Quality of optics good enough so you will see clearly and not get eye strain and headache from prolonged use. And not so expensive that they will be left behind because there is a cloud in the sky that looks like rain, or you will be going through rough brush that might scratch your darling German what'sits.

Same deal with your camera. It does not matter if you have the funds for a 20 megapixel SLR (or whatever passes for the latest status symbol). A compact 6 or greater megapixel camera will take beautiful snapshots at the usual 4" by 6" size, and will far exceed the quality needed for web purposes. A 6 megapixel camera will give 8" by 10" prints at 300 dpi, which in truth you rarely ever order. So save the expensive (read big, clunky, delicate) overkill camera for photo expeditions which have a specific purpose, like a short hike to film wildlife. The reliable inexpensive camera that fits in a pocket is much more likely to be taken along regularly -- fishing, hunting, to the range, on picnics and hikes ...

So whether we are talking about guns or knives or binoculars or cameras or tents or canoes or ... there is a balance test. On balance, we want good enough quality at a reasonable price. And we want features like ruggedness and portability that make it likely you will actually use these items a lot.

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