Comfort Zone Guns

I love getting new guns. There’s nothing like rolling into my favorite gun store with money to spend. Or having my FFL text me that they have a package for me. I enjoy bringing them home, running the actions, and learning what makes them tick. Few things make me smile like a smooth action and a solid lockup. And, of course, I love hitting the range to see if they’re as good as I hope. I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to sample new guns, even if I don’t always get to keep them. I’ve run lots of guns that I otherwise would have admired from afar, and my modest collection would be even more modest. I run various guns for various situations because I can. Sometimes, just for variety’s sake.

Marlin 336 rifle
Despite many choices, I find myself returning to my “comfort zone” guns. (Author’s Photo)

But I usually find myself relying on four guns that I obtained outside of my job. I think of them as my “comfort zone.” These are the four guns with which I have the most experience in their chosen roles. And they do have roles. Most of my other firearms are “fun guns” to a certain degree, even though they can fill certain roles themselves if I need them. But I always come back to these for some reason.

When I noticed that trend, I started wondering why. The answer is pretty simple. First, they all run. I know that if I maintain them properly, these four guns won’t let me down. Second, they’re familiar. I’ve run these guns so much that my muscle memory is deeply ingrained. I can access their features in the dark and reliably reproduce proper fundamentals without thinking about them. That familiarity breeds consistent results downrange. Finally, they are effective for their assigned roles. They will do their jobs if I do mine.

My Comfort Zone Guns

So, what are my four comfort zone guns? I’ll hit each one briefly below. I want to stress, however, that I’m not saying you should rely on the same guns I do. This list came about organically. Two were bought for a specific purpose. I got one because it was a cool gun on sale, and the other has just always been there. Your comfort zone guns, if you have them, will almost certainly be different from mine. I’d say they will meet the criteria and fill similar roles to mine, but they will fit you and what you do.

These guns fill four broad roles: concealed carry, home defense, hunting, and general use. I have others for each role if I want them, but these are my “old reliables.”

Sig Sauer P365XL
The Sig P365XL is my go-to carry gun. (Author’s Photo)

Concealed-Carry Guns

I have numerous concealed-carry guns. Size-wise, I’ve carried a Beretta 92FS, a Ruger Max 9, and many others in between. But I carry my Sig Sauer P365XL at least nine times out of ten. My son bought the Sig as my Father’s Day gift three years ago. It’s perfect for how I carry, I shoot it well, and it goes “bang” every time I pull the trigger. All those things are important individually. But they combine to give me a confidence that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

My P365XL has become comfortable to the point that I rely on it automatically. As my comfort level grew, my other carry guns had longer stints in the safe. These days, they’re mostly range toys, though I carry a couple of them in special circumstances. But if something bad goes down, I want a gun that I can run just about automatically, so I always return to the Sig.

Man with concealed carry pistol
(Author’s Photo)

Home Defense

My primary home defense gun is an IWI Masada 9mm pistol. I bought the Masada in the spring of 2020 for that express purpose. That was before my writing days, and I only had a couple of handguns, none with the capacity I wanted in a home defense gun. The Masada’s 17+1 capability met that need. The gun’s other features appealed to me as well. The 6-lb. trigger is good without being too light, and it’s always consistent. The grip angle and texture are right where I like them, and the ambidextrous controls mean I can use it with either hand in a bad situation.

And IWI is a quality brand. I was confident that I could trust the Masada, even at its very attractive price point. And I was right. I’ve run this gun for four years now, and it’s never let me down. The Masada’s solid simplicity helped me develop and maintain muscle memory, which I enhance by running dry fire nightstand drills with my Mantis X10 Elite. I may be a bit of a geek.

IWI Masada pistol with Streamlight weapon light
This IWI Masada was purchased specifically as a home defense gun. (Author’s Photo)

My Masada’s role is so established that I’ve never even owned a holster for it. Like the Sig, I run the controls almost automatically, including the weapon light attached to the generous accessory rail. I’m about to throw myself a curve, though, since my eyes aren’t what they used to be. My Masada will soon wear a pistol optic, but that’s a good reason to drill with it even more. I’m certain it will remain firmly in my comfort zone.


I only hunt whitetails these days, but my deer rifle is as comfortable as comfortable can be. I began deer hunting on my own in 1976 at age 11. Dad was close enough to hear me shoot, but I was otherwise alone. My first gun was a single-shot Harrington and Richardson 20-gauge shotgun. That was my deer gun for the first two years.

Man shooting a lever action rifle
This 1963 Marlin 336 has been my annual hunting companion since 1978. (Author’s Photo)

I had proven myself to be safe and reliable by 1978, so my Dad rewarded me by letting me carry his 1963 Marlin 336 rifle. That began a long and fruitful relationship. That Marlin has accompanied me to the deer woods every year since. It has accounted for every deer I’ve ever taken. Dad didn’t officially give it to me until 2011, though he promised it to me in high school. I’d just go get the Marlin from him every fall. I cleaned it, checked the zero, and went hunting. I’d clean it again after the season and give it back. I loved that rifle so much that I just never bought something of my own. Dad had already started hunting with another rifle when I started using it, so there was no real need. And I knew he would give it to me when he was ready.

I’ve since accumulated a few other hunting rifles, but I always go back to my old Marlin. I almost feel like I’m cheating if I carry something else. So, even though I occasionally hunt with a Winchester Model 70, that choice is driven by terrain and anticipated shot range, since my Marlin’s .35 Remington chambering is somewhat range limited. If all things are equal, I take my Marlin. It’s never failed to drop a whitetail on the first shot. Ever. Oh, they may walk or run for 10 or 20 yards, but they always drop. That rifle is an old and dear friend that’s never let me down, not to mention a connection to my Dad, who passed away a few years ago. I’ll give it to my son when I’m ready. That rifle occupies the exact center of my comfort zone.

Marlin 336 rifle
My comfort zone’s exact center. My Dad made the sling for me when I was in high school. (Author’s Photo)

General Use

“General use” means different things to different people. For me, it’s just a utility rifle that fills several roles. Those roles are general plinking or marksmanship practice, pest control, or small game hunting if I feel the need. It can be a survival rifle if necessary, and I often toss it in my vehicle for long trips.

My main gun for those jobs is a Ruger 10/22 Takedown. You may think that’s an obvious or even boring choice. Maybe so, but obvious choices are obvious for a reason. The 10/22 is among the most proven rifle platforms on the planet. It’s handy, well-made, reliable, inexpensive, and just plain fun. No gun collection is complete without at least one 10/22. You can choose between the standard 10-round magazine or the factory 25-rounder. Or both. I particularly like the Takedown version because it’s compact enough for many backpacks, easily assembled, and I like the threaded barrel.

Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle
No gun collection is complete without a Ruger 10/22. Even one that’s been rednecked up like mine. (Author’s Photo)

The .22 Long Rifle ammunition is cheap, lightweight, and plentiful. You can shoot it all day without mortgaging your house. It will put food on the table if necessary. It can keep you alive if you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere.

The 10/22 rounds out my comfort zone guns because it’s good for so many things and it just plain works. I bought this one because it was on sale. It was also one of the best firearms purchases I’ve ever made. It had an ugly brown synthetic stock, so I just spray-painted it with a homemade camo pattern to match my Appalachian surroundings. It’s awesome. The only issue I’ve ever had was with one 25-round mag that just wasn’t right. I just got more mags. They all run fine, as does the rifle. This little gem gets lots of my attention because, you guessed it, I’m very comfortable with it.

Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle
The takedown function makes this a very versatile rifle. (Author’s Photo)

The Solid Core

I’ll probably never have “enough” guns. I’m not sure that’s possible. It’s like having “enough” money. For me, anyway. But I’ll always have a solid, reliable core, my comfort zone, that I return to again and again. That core may change over time, but it’s more likely to get an occasional addition than to have something replaced. Several guns reside just outside that core now.

You may be surprised that I didn’t list an AR-15. I have several, one of which orbits the zone very closely, as does my Saiga AK-103. But they aren’t quite there because I don’t need them to be. Of course, drastic change, like, say, the Zombie Apocalypse or an alien invasion, would change that. But I’m hoping that stuff waits until I get a few more pallets of ammo. Or more than a few.

But what about you? Do you have a few comfort zone guns? What are they, and what roles do they fill? Let us know in the comments.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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