I am first just going to address the various kinds of gun owners. What most people actually use gun for, not the criminals who make the news.
First off, anyone who is big into any hobby looks like a weirdo to anyone not into that hobby. When I show people my Boba Fett collection they either reply “Sweet Jesus” in awe, or “Sweet Jesus” as in “we need to get this adult male help”.
When it comes to gun owners, lets first just break down the various levels:
I have a gun. This person owns a gun. Maybe a couple. They don’t use it. They got it maybe from a relative or spouse (living or dead). Maybe they got it several years ago but never use it now. They don’t have a problem with owning it, it just isn’t their thing. Maybe its and old shot gun and once a year they will go on a skeet shoot with the boss or something.
Casual Users. These people have one or more guns and they use them a few times a year. They would maybe do it more, but they have other things they are into and don’t want to take the time and money to really get into it.
Hobbyists. These people have several guns. Maybe even a whole lot. They enjoy it as a main hobby. They may have a focus (hunting, collecting, competing, pure fun) or not. They like to go out as often as they can, even if that is only once a month or twice a month on a good month. They still like to read magazines and keep up on things and generally have a good general knowledge. They probably have more than one hobby that takes up their time.
Enthusiasts. This is one step higher. You know that guy who likes pot, I mean really, really likes pot. Like has pot posters, pot hats, pot shirts, every movie would be better if he had pot, etc. That’s the level of a gun enthusiasts. Again, they may focus on a specific area of shooting, or be all over the place. They may have a lot of guns, or actually just a few, but those few have been painstakingly research and customized per their preferences.
So for each level of shooter, they may fall into one or more of the following types/genres/sub-genres:
Plinker/for fun - the most common kind, they like to just informally shoot. Maybe they have private land, maybe they go to a range, but basically they set up a can or water melon or a zombie or bullseye target and shoot at it. A hit is a hit, they are just enjoying casual shooting.
Target shooter - a step up from the plinker, they aren’t concerned with just hitting the target, they want to do so accurately. So they will use formal targets made for certain distances and then be able to track their score. Now there are MANY types of target shooting from one handed bullseye pistol shooting, to bench rest rifle shooting, to standing rifle, etc etc. But basically their goal is better marksmanship.
Hunters - obviously, people that hunt animals. Of course these vary WILDLY, from the poor farmer type with a old shot gun hunting quail on his land, to AR-15 using varmint shooters, to deer hunting, to feral hogs, to small game, to expensive Alaskan moose hunts, to African big game, and everything in between. They may use the latest technology available, or prefer old fashion stalking or scouting out game trails etc.
Action shooters - these sports are gaining in popularity, especially with the rise of the AR15 and modern pistols. Action sports typically have a course set up of cardboard and steel plate targets, and you have to shoot the course and are timed and scored. I shoot USPSA which is a pistol sport. That sport alone has like 8 different classes of shooters, from revolvers to single stack limited guns (like the old 1911) to $4000 race guns that hold 25+ rounds. There is also things like Cowboy Action Shooting, where they are all limited to old style revolvers, lever action rifles, and pump or break action shot guns. And 3 guns is getting popular, where run a course with a shot gun, rifle and pistol.
Reloader - A reloader loads his own ammo. Now for many things, factory ammo is fine. They make fancy ammo for hunting and competing. It is cheaper and you can custom tune ammo if you are reloader. A reloader is a subtype and can be applied to one more more of the other types. Some examples would be a bench rest target shooter trying to eek out accuracy on the bench rest rifle. Or a hunter using the newest hunting bullet and the recipe that works best in their rifle. Some like to just experiment, trying different recipes to see which one matches best to their gun. Competitors who shoot thousands of rounds a month will get fancy progressive systems that allows them to reload that much ammo per month. They can also tweak their loads so they have a little less recoil or more accuracy.
Collectors - These people are just like collectors of anything else. They can get obsessive about it. They can be very specific, or just basically get anything they catches their fancy. They may or may not shoot them. Many are history buffs. Some gun shows are “collectors” gun shows and will include displays. So you will see a large case with like 50 Walther P-38s. They all look the same to the average person, but each one has a different model number, year stamp, factory mark, or something that makes it unique. Of course some times collectors also just have a lot of junk. So they might have amassed dozens of guns with no real traditional collecting value, it’s just what they like.
Tactical/Defense - This genre has exploded in the last 20 years or so. I am sure the fact that we had a large pulse of veterans played a part. Interest in tactical stuff picked during and after the Assault Weapon ban was passed and set. This is less about the weapons used and more the mind set. The AR15 can fit into any of the above styles I already listed, for an example, but being a tactical shooter makes them different than the other users. Tactical shooting is taking a real world approach. It is more inline with what one would expect if you had military or police shooting. They do formal drills. They have systems like checking your surroundings after clearing a course. They typically are some of the safest shooters because they do so much formal drilling. They will be the ones in tactical cargo pants and ballistic plates. Now some of these people are ex-military, some are cops or security, some just want to learn practical skills - so it ranges from hardcore to hobbyist, but again it is more the mindset.
Defense/CCW - this is sort of a sub-genre of tactical, but there are those who maybe are less about formal tactics and more about practical personal defense. This includes both home defense and those who chose to carry a concealed weapon. Again, this can be someone who is more of a casual user who lives in a bad neighborhood and bought a gun for protection, to an ethuiests who train regularly, like one would for martial art self defense.
Competitor - These are people who like to match their skills against others. They can be of any of these types, from informal plinking “first guy to shoot that can off the post wins.” to formal target competition or action sports or clay shooting. It can range from hobbyists doing the best with what they have, to enthusiasts with high dollar guns and custom loaded ammo. Sort of like golf. People like to play and compete, but there are all sorts of levels of competition.
Skeet/Trap/Sporting Clays - The Clay shooters are those with a shot gun who enjoy shooting clay pigeons. Shooting a moving target requires a special set of skills. Anyone can do it, but it takes a lot of work to do it well. Trap and skeet are the two most popular games. Again this could include casual plinkers, hunters who want to practice, or serious competitors. Some highschools and colleges even have teams.
Long range shooters - A special sub genre, they are generally hunters or target shooters who may or may not compete. They are typically reloaders. Shooting out past 500 or so yards requires extra knowledge of your gun, ballistics, optics, and extra equipment. But again, they might only do it a few times a years, or are out every weeked trying to get better.
NFA Shooters - A special, elite breed. The NFA (National Firearms Act) of 1938 highly restricted things like supressors, short barreled rifles, and machine guns. Depending on the state, you can still OWN these items, but you have to go through the ATF, pay a $200 tax, and prepare for a long wait. While you can still buy suppressors and SBRs, an 1986 law closed the machine gun registry. So that means there is a very finite number of these guns and pretty much only rich people can afford them. This makes them HIGHLY collectable, though a lot of people still shoot them. But this is a sort of special genre because there are those, known as “Stamp Collectors” because of the tax stamp, who are sort of their own breed. None of them are using this hard ware to kill anyone, they are the most scrutinized of all gun owners.
I am sure my brain will think of more to add - so I will add them above this line.
As for “why does this guy have so many guns?” there are many possible answers. If he is a collector then that alone is the reason. If he is interested in a myriad of sports, that is the reason. Even if he focuses on one thing along, he may still have various kinds for specific reasons. Then there is also the fact that people just want to try things out, some different. Or if he’s old, there you go. You buy a gun every couple of years and they start to pile up. Another big reason - they came out with something new. Sure it may not be any better, but people get bored and want to try a new caliber or a new design out.
The quickest way to find out is to ask the guy, but prepare for your eyes to glaze over in under a minute, as mine did when you started talking tea.
Think of guns like golf clubs. Now even if you don’t play golf, you do know that you can’t really play with just 1 club. At the minimum you need three (driver, iron, and putter). But for the average player you need several kinds of clubs depending on where your ball is. So with that, let me just run down the basic kinds of guns and average uses.
One thing to remember is guns come in a variety of sizes called calibers or gauges. So that alone can be the reason to own 10 of the same type of gun, each one is a different caliber.
Pistols - pistols come in two main types, revolvers and semi-automatics. Revolvers come in two main types, single and double action. Single action are like the old cowboy guns and have to be manually cocked with each shot. Double actions can be manually cocked or the long heavier double action trigger will cock and fire with one pull. Then there is another kind that is basically bolt action that fires rifle rounds (primarily used for hunters and target shooters). And finally the modern semi-auto magazine fed pistol, like the 1911 .45acp or the Glock.
Pistols have a wide range of uses including plinking, target shooting, competition, hunting, and defense. So there are guns specifically made for each of those categories with some overlap. So like a .22lr would make a great target or plinking gun, and you could hunt smal game, but it would be bad for defense. A small defense gun would be good for plinking, but probably not the best hunting gun. And of course these come in various calibers, some even shooting rifle rounds, as I mentioned above.
Shotguns - shot guns are the most versatile weapons out there. If I had to be stuck in the wilderness with just one gun, but access to ammo, it would be a shot gun. They shoot shot (pellets) which range in size from small ~1mm diameter bbs for hunting birds, to .32" diameter balls for hunting larger game (buck shot). They can also use slugs or sabots to hunt deer and such. They also make special rifled shot guns for these slugs and sabots, giving them added range and accuracy. They can be used for clay games, hunting all sorts of animals, or for defense. They range from $100 beaters you find in a pawn shop to $20000+ custom engraved Beretta over/unders. You can get pump guns, break action double bores, or semi autos. There are a few which are magazine fed.
Shot guns come made for a variety of purposes. You have sort of general purpose pump gun, but the they make guns specifically for trap shooting, and another kind specifically for skeet, both point and swing differently, and the trap guns are made to reach out a bit further. Then they also make shot guns for defense, with extended tubes and they forego the fancy walnut for synthetic stocks. And still more for other things like that 3-gun competition with different sights than traditionally used.
Rifles - Bolt Action - The bolt action is what one usually thinks of when they think “rifle”. Especially “hunting” rifle. Of course people forget what seems more benign because it looks like a familiar hunting rifle, their design and capability and original purpose were top of the line war rifles. The Mauser action from over 120 years ago is still used on many rifles today. These require one to work a bolt to load a bullet after each shot. They usually have an internal magazine of around 5 rounds. Some now have external magazines can be made to hold more. They used to be the most common sniper rifle as they generally are more accurate then semi-automatics, but that isn’t always the case.
Again they come in a very wide range of calibers, from .22lr, to .50BMG.(Ironically, the .50 cal military sniper rifle started life as a long range shooter enthusiast rifle. It took years to convince the Army that the rifle they developed for long range competitions would have military applications.) So there are hundreds of different kinds of bullets you can shoot from these types of guns. Usually there are around a dozen or so popular calibers. Indeed some older guns have such obscure sizes, that one is forced to reload their own ammo. But as far as application, they can be used for all the genres we talked about. Most are marketed for hunting or target shooting/competition, but they still have a tactical aspect as well.
Rifles - Semi Automatics - these are things like the AR-15. They shoot with each pull of the trigger. It also includes things like the old Garand rifle the US used in WWII. Most modern rifles like this use a magazine which can easily be removed and a new one added.
Again, LOTS of different uses, from the guy who bout an AR because it sounded cool and shoots it maybe once a year, to hobbyist who likes to shoot steel plates on the weekends, to target competition, to hunters, no tactical guys. With out a doubt, they are mostly marketed for tactical, but their actual USE is MOSTLY just plinking and informal target shooting. The people doing actual tactical training with them is a minority. They make special ones for competition (Both for target accuracy, and for action shooting), and for hunting. Now before you ask “Why do you need 30 rounds to hunt a deer.” Ugh. If you bough a Corvette that can drive 150mph, are you going to drive it 150mph all the time? Are you going to gun as fast as you can between every red light? No, of course not. Most hunters put 3-5 rounds in a magazine (just like they would in a bolt action), just in case they need a follow up shot or have a dud, etc. Good hunters still only use one round. Of course there is PEST control hunting where rapid follow up shots might mean you do have a full magazines, such as feral hogs or coyotes.
But while the AR is the most famous there are probably hundreds of models that fall into this category. And again there are collectors who want historical examples, such as a FAL from Rhodenisa, or an SKS from Vietnam. Or to collect an SKS from every country that made them. (SKS is the red headed step child that came before the AK-47 and used by Communist Bloc contries. It is a horrible gun, but since the 80s they started to import them super cheap. They actually are now harder to find that cheap.)
And again, there are dozens of calibers. .223/5.56mm and .308/7.62mm are the most popular, but there are tons more. 300 BLK is the new hot round because it is a big bullet that can go sub sonic and popular with the suppressor crowd. 6.5 Creedmore is the hot new round that can be used in an AR for longer distances. Again, these guns will look basically identical, but use different bullets.
So in a real world example of my dad, he has, I dunno, like 30 guns maybe? He was never a pistol guy really, but he has a .22 lr revolver that looks like a Cowboy gun that he uses for plinking once in awhile and probably shot a rabbit or two. He has a .357 magnum Ruger Redhawk, which also looks like a cowboy gun that he used to use in Alaska. Rarely shoots it now. Since I shoot more pistols than rifles, I have gotten him to take it out a few times, but his old eyes aren’t that great.
He has one family heirloom, a Winchester lever action in .44-40. It was his grandpas. He has a couple other lever actions, a .357 and a .30-30. Both of these I know he has hunted deer with. He also has a .44mag lever action that he accidentally won at an auction. He might have a .22 as well, I am not sure on that one. He has several shot guns, probably 3 break action 12 gauges and 1 20 gauge that he uses for clays and occasionally bird hunting. He has I think one pump action for the same reason. And a .410 pump action, which shoots a really small shot gun shell, and acts as a handicap (he is damn decent at skeet shooting).
Then he has several bolt action rifles. I can’t remember all of them. .223, .22-250, 6.5mm Swiss, .30-06, .308 - I am sure there are a few more I don’t know about. All I am sure have been used for hunting, and then he enjoys making bullets for them and shooting groups off of a bench.
And finally he has a few .22lr rifles for shooting rabbits in the back yard or fun plinking. So he is only involved in a handful of genres. He doesn’t really collect anything. He shoots everything he has. Anything he gets he would want to be able to carry into the woods.
Now he also has like 30 rods and reels too. I have no idea what they are all for, but he assures me each one is different. But he goes fishing multiple times a week, but doesn’t go shooting nearly that often.
I will try to answer any and all questions tomorrow, but I really wanted to work on my Stormtrooper armor tonight.