August 24, 2007

Vol. 1   No. 15

Choosing a Handgun

OK - you managed to spend about 10 hours in a classroom, hit a paper silhouette enough times to accumulate 175 points, and got at least a 70% on your written exam.  It's been almost 60 days since you submitted your application, fingerprint cards, photos, notarized affidavits, and proficiency certificate to the State of Texas.  Your license should arrive any day.  (You did remember to send in the license fee, didn't you?)

Have you picked out a handgun to carry?

Which handgun will be best for you?

Let's start with the basics:

  • Reliability - The only handgun you should consider is one that will function properly every time it is used.  When you press the trigger, the last thing you want to hear is "click"; that sound might really be the last thing you hear.

Don't be impressed by lifetime warrantees.  Putting your handgun back in good working order at no charge will be of little value, if it failed to function properly when you needed it to defend your life.

Give more consideration to quality than you give to price.  My [somewhat less than serious] advice to anyone who wants to cut corners on quality, to save a few dollars is:

If you're going to buy a cheap handgun, buy a heavy one.  If it's heavy enough, a cheap handgun that fails to function, might still be capable of stopping an aggressor when thrown.

If cost is an issue, I believe your interests would be better served by choosing a high quality used handgun, over a a lesser quality new handgun.  If you choose to purchase a used handgun, I would strongly suggest you take the gun to a reputable gunsmith to make sure it is in top working condition.

Choose a handgun from a manufacturer with a good reputation.  Even then, you should be mindful of the fact that even the most reputable manufactures have produced handguns that they later wished had never gotten off the drawing board.

If you decide to get recommendations from your gun owner friends, keep in mind that your friends might have difficulty with admitting that they made a mistake when they bought their gun.

  • Controllability - You must be capable of maintaining control of the handgun.  Only if you can maintain control will you be able to make the handgun function properly; particularly in a stress situation.  Major factors contributing to controllability are:

    • Size - Make sure the physical size of the handgun does not prevent you from being able to achieve a proper grip.  Just because your friend or neighbor tells you that his Glock 22 or Para Ordnance P14 is easy to control does not mean that the same will be true in "your" hands.  If you have smaller hands, get a smaller handgun.

    • Caliber - Choose a caliber you can control.  Forget about the myths associated with large caliber weapons being capable of knocking a person to the ground, etc ...

      • Hits with a 9mm are a lot more valuable than misses with a .44 Magnum.  Remember -  "only hits count".

      • Another factor that is too often overlooked is that, if you are uncomfortable with a large caliber handgun, you will not be as likely to take it to the range and practice.

Once you get past the two major considerations of Reliability and Controllability the rest is pretty much "bells & whistles". 

  • Revolver vs. Semi-automatic - Choosing between a revolver or a semi-automatic doesn't make as much difference as most people would lead you to believe ...  Although you could fill a book with the pros and cons of handgun types, hopefully, the book will have the following caveat on the last page:

    "In the final analysis, the handgun that will work best for you will be the one you feel most comfortable with.  It will be the one that, through practice, you have developed confidence in."

    My suggestion would be to skip the rest of the book, read the last page, head for the range, and try some different guns.

  • External Safety - When you are stressed, one of the first abilities you will lose will be that of performing "fine motor movements".  In most cases, the release of an external safety is an example of a "fine motor movement".

If you choose a handgun with an external safety, it is imperative that you always practice your first shot from the "safety-on" condition.

  • Double Action/Single Action - If you choose a handgun that is normally carried in a condition requiring it to be fired from a double action condition, it is imperative that you always practice your first shot from the "double action" condition.

  • Night Sights -  Chances are, if you can see your target, you can see standard sights.  If it's too dark to see your sights, it's probably too dark to see your target - what will you aim at?

  • Magazine Disconnects - Why bother?  Follow the rules of safety, and don't depend on mechanical devices to keep you safe.

  • Laser Sighting Devices - See Newsletter, 2007-05-28.

Practice, Practice, Practice


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