Which Pistol to Get?
Are you thinking about buying a handgun but have no idea how to go about picking the right handgun for you? You’re not alone; most people have no idea how to go about making an informed decision on what handgun to buy. This applies to some people that already own and shoot firearms as well. They walk into a gun store and just pick what looks “cool”, or they end up choosing what handgun to buy because their cop friend told them to get that gun, or because they read about it online, or maybe even because they saw it in a movie. To make matters worse, there are a lot of popular misconceptions on what guns certain people should buy… For example, a lot of people think that women should all buy small pink guns, or that big guys need to buy huge “Dirty Harry” style guns.
When choosing what handgun to buy, there are several important factors that you need to consider, and several things you want to do before you actually make the decision to buy a handgun. So if you are new to guns and want to buy your first handgun, or even if you already own guns, but want to make a more informed choice for your next purchase, then this article is for you.
The single most important factor to consider in buying a handgun is its “purpose” or its intended use. What do you want the gun for? The answer to that question will narrow down your choices on what gun to buy. Do you want the gun just for fun target shooting at the range, for home defense, for carrying on you daily, or for some other specific purpose? For example, the guy who wants a back-up handgun to shoot a charging lion in an African safari will most likely choose a totally different gun than the guy who wants a gun that he can carry concealed on him every day.
In general, if you want a gun to carry concealed on your person, you will most likely go with a smaller size gun that is easier and more comfortable to carry on you daily. If you want a fun range gun for target shooting, you will most likely choose a full size gun that is easier to hit targets with and doesn’t have to be reloaded as often as a smaller capacity gun.
There are several other factors to also consider when buying a handgun such as price, availability of ammunition, pistol fit and ergonomics, simplicity of operation, ease of cleaning, safety, reputation of manufacturer, availability of aftermarket parts, and warranty. You need to consider which of these factors are important to you and then use them when selecting the pistol. If you are on a budget and price is a big factor, then there are still a lot of good guns out there for you, but you are most likely not going to be considering pricey 1911s. Pistol fit and ergonomics can also be very important, for example people with small hands complain that they can’t get a good grip around Glock pistol grips, or people with large hands have problems comfortably holding really small subcompact guns like the S&W Bodyguard. For some older people with arthritis, it’s hard to operate/rack the slide on a semi automatic pistol and therefore simplicity is an important factor for them and most likely the simplicity of a revolver is better for them. Some people don’t want to waste a lot of time cleaning and maintaining their gun, so they are better off with guns that require little maintenance like the Glock. If you have children, then safety is a big consideration and you might want a gun that has both active and passive safety systems along with a keyed safety. Some gun manufacturers offer lifetime warranties, and that is something you may want to take into consideration as well when selecting a pistol if warranties are important to you as a consumer.
Lastly, once you have narrowed it down to a few guns, there are a few things you should do before making a final selection. First of all, before buying any gun you should at the very least hold the gun in your hand and manipulate the controls to make sure the gun is a good fit for you. If possible, also test fire the guns.
Recoil can be a serious issue with a gun and you won’t be able to know the type of recoil you are dealing with until you feel it with live fire. A common mistake for shooters is going with a higher caliber than they can control. If you insist on going with a big caliber, I recommend starting with a smaller caliber, getting consistent results, then moving up to a bigger caliber. A big mistake for a beginner shooter is starting with a .45 when they couldn’t hit the target with a .22. I personally shoot 9mm because I feel it will get the job done for self defense and offers me a higher magazine capacity (smaller caliber means more ammo can fit into the magazine). However, as I mentioned earlier, if I were to go on safari to hunt big game and needed a back-up pistol – obviously 9mm wouldn’t cut it.
Consult knowledgeable shooters as well. Ask people who own those specific guns if they have any complaints about them or any dislikes. If you don’t know any knowledgeable shooters, usually the guys at the gun store might be able to point you in the right direction. Nowadays you also have the internet to help you research the gun, firearms forums and blogs, to get the insight of those who have fired, or owned those guns before. Also, it is recommended that you buy the firearm from a reputable dealer.
To quickly summarize this… when considering what gun to buy, first ask yourself, “What do I want the gun for?” then figure out which of the other factors are important to you, and use them as part of your process in selecting a firearm. Afterwards, hold the gun in your hand, rack the slide to test resistance, hit the magazine release and see if you can reach it well, look down the sights and see if you are comfortable, pull the trigger and see if you feel comfortable with the pull (ask first before dry-firing), test fire if possible, if for concealed carry test out how it will feel when concealed with a test holster and/or method, ask knowledgeable shooters about it, research on the internet, and then buy it from a reputable dealer/store. Now you’re ready to make a more informed decision when selecting a pistol.
Below is a checklist to help you in your selection process:
What PRIMARY reason do I want my handgun? Pick only one:
1) Concealed Carry
2) Home defense
3) Security / Law Enforcement / Military
4) Target Shooting
What caliber am I looking for?
1) .44 magnum (revolver)
2) .357 magnum (revolver)
3) .38 special (revolver)
Am I content with availability and price of the ammo at that caliber?
For the purpose I just listed, what size gun do I want?
2) Full Size
5) Pocket Carry
What ammo capacity is the minimum you’re willing to accept?
1) More than 15 rounds
2) 10 to 14 rounds
3) 6 to 9 rounds
4) Less than 6 rounds
Do I require a safety on my gun?
Do I want a Revolver or Semi-Auto Pistol?
2) Semi-Auto Pistol
Is the gun warranty important to me?
What is my budget?
1) Over $900
2) $700 to $999
3) $400 to $699
4) $200 to $399
5) Under $200
With the actual gun in my hand:
1) Does it fit well in your hand?
2) Can I manipulate the safety confidently?
3) Can I release the magazine or revolver cylinder confidently?
4) Does the magazine insert well or does the revolver cylinder close well?
5) Can I engage the slide stop confidently?
6) Can I release the slide stop confidently?
7) For a semi-auto, can I rack the slide confidently?
8) Do I like the trigger pull? (ask first if you can dry fire)
9) If a hammer is present, can you cock and decock the hammer confidently?
10) How do you like the sights? Are you able to acquire targets confidently?
11) Optional overkill test if you have snap caps (fake dummy ammo) – Do you like the the way the magazine loads and does the magazine lock into the gun when inserted with a full magazine?
Have you checked for reviews with the following people:
1) Knowledgeable shooters
2) Reputable gun stores
3) Internet forums and articles
4) Youtube demonstrations and reviews
Are accessories, extra magazines, and after-market parts available and at a suitable price to your liking?
At the range with a rental (if possible):
1) How do I like the recoil?
2) How does my hand feel after taking multiple shots? Is it acceptably comfortable?
3) Is it too loud to shoot comfortably?
4) Are you able to shoot well by your normal standards?
I hope this list helps! If you have questions, feel free to contact me
Contact me if you would like to check out our complimentary no-cost gun class. We also have a wide range of different courses we’re offering, such as our 2 Hour Express Concealed Carry Class – or alternatively, our 14 Hour Intensive Concealed Carry Clinic.