Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Handgun advice

I'm looking for advice regarding a first handgun. Yes, it's for me.

Now, I have actually owned a handgun in my life. A handgun. Owned a revolver. Left it with the ex-wife many years ago. She also had a handgun or two -- revolvers -- but she obtained them, I didn't. Except for that one that was left with her, as I mentioned.

Wife (number two) has several. Lots of revolvers, some shotguns, couple of rifles. She either bought them or inherited them. Anyway, she obtained them, not me.

I've never been much of a gun person. That is, never went to the range, never bought handguns (except for that one cheap revolver just to have for home protection). Only fired a handgun once, and that was, gosh, 40 years ago. It was a friend's and I really don't remember why.

Fired a rifle that my father owned. Little .22 that he kept for, oh, I don't know, birds, rattlesnakes, whatever. Only fired it a few times. And, that was well over 40 years ago.

Of course, in the Army, I fired some M16 rifles. Had an M16A1 issued to me briefly (nope, never fired it full auto), then M16A2 rifles for the rest of my time in service. I was an okay shot. Qualified as Sharpshooter but never as Expert.

I've recently fired a few weapons at a local indoor range. I'm not a great shot, but I think I'm decent at close range (7 yards). I'd probably ruin some bad guy's day, or at least, make it not turn out quite as well as he had planned. I've had no handgun training, of course, but I know some weapons basics from the Army and apply those.

Anyway, never owned a lot of firearms. But, I'm wanting to have something for personal protection around the house ... and when out of the house. I'm on the road a lot every week, and I'd just feel better if there was some protection available when I'm in certain places. And, yes, I've applied for a Georgia Firearms Licence, which is required to carry in public outside of home or vehicle, whether concealed or open. Georgia is a "shall issue" state.

But, as you can tell, I'm no expert. So I'm curious as to what would be a good personal carry weapon. Should I go with a 9mm? .380? Something smaller for a first weapon? Or is larger better? Should I forego a semi-automatic and get a revolver?

What would you suggest as a first weapon?


  1. I would suggest, as an instructor, you find a local shop that rents pistols and revolvers at a range, and try out a few different types and models, with the help of a knowledgeable and capable instructor. You can find out what fits you best, and what your comfortable with. If your not comfortable with it, you won’t practice much. If you don’t practice, you’ll suck with it.

  2. For carry, something light and compact, but of sufficient firepower is the holy grail. 9mm seems to be the most popular choice. Personally, I switch between a subcompact .40 semi auto and a 5 shot .357 snubnose, depending on the situation,

    Practice is going to be critical, so make sure to secure a good place to shoot, as well as practicing drawing until the muscle memory is sharp. You don’t have to be a quick-draw expert, but you should be able to bring out the weapon clearly and smoothly without snagging a handful of clothing with it.

  3. First, don’t take any advice you get, especially very specific advice too seriously, including mine. Concealed carry is intensely personal. That said: Caliber, go with 9mm at least. Get the largest pistol you can conceal. The larger the gun the easier it is to shoot accurately. Small guns can be miserable and discouraging to practice with. Speaking only for myself, I find that inside waistband holsters (ISWB)work best for everyday concealed carry. Find a gun range that rents a variety of pistols. Start with medium size guns in 9 mm. They are easier to shoot than small guns and easier to conceal than full size. I am a 5’8” 175 lb. male who carries a full size S&W M&P in an ‘aliengear’ ISWB holster. It works for me but probably not for most.

  4. Why do you want one? Daily carry? Concealed carry? Concealed carry inside the waistband or hip? want one just to start out with to plink targets until you get more comfortable? Make sure you know before you start, because you’ll be asked why, not because people are looking to test your intentions, but because it helps them help you pick the right one and train you accordingly.

    If you’re looking for home defense and don’t have a particularly high exposure profession, I’d lean towards a revolver. Misfire? Go to the next round. No need to clear. More accurate than magazine fed, because there’s fewer moving parts. This is just one guy’s opinion. I chose magazine fed pistols because of my plan.

    Test fire different calibers and models. As SniperDroid mentioned, you may find a local shop that rents handguns for test fires. Your local range probably has a guy there who is a no-poop expert on firearms and can give you a soup-to-nuts lesson on how to unholster, grip, sight, and holster. Some ranges/clubs have “Practical Shooter” clubs on site.

    Don’t be embarrassed with questions. No “gun guy” wants you walking out his door and doing something you both regret because you thought it was a dumb question (like, “Can I conceal carry full metal jacket rounds? Hollow points?” What is the difference?). “Gun guys” rarely get impatient with questions from novices. I’ve never found one that makes snide comments after, either.

    The ammo you fire is as important as the weapon you’re firing. You can skimp if you’re just out blasting (Tula, for example), but when you’re training and carrying – you want quality, quality, quality. Quality rounds are more consistent and reliable. You want as little chance of a misfire as possible.

    I have three 9mms. There is relatively little kick for a guy, especially if you’re on the bigger side and you learn proper technique. I like the lack of kick vs a .45 because it’s easier for me to reacquire the target and fire a second accurate round.

    I will eventually move to the .40 for better stopping power. I chose the 9mm because I have children and I trained them to shoot on a 22LR pistol (no kick, but very little stopping power) and now a 9mm. As they grow and leave the nest, I’ll gift them one of my 9s and an AR, because I love my kids that much.

    Glocks have no safety. While that may unnerve someone in the military who has “safety, safety, safety” drilled into his head, a lot of coaches train you to carry a hot weapon. Still, it’s something to remember.

    Your well known brands (Colt, Smith and Wesson, and Beretta, for example) have reputations to protect. You’re not going to go wrong.

    Taurus has made a really strong push in recent years to match quality of the household names. There’s still some snobbery (somewhat deserved), but a lot of it is hangover.

    You should probably stick with a brand known for quality and availability. Likely more reliable, easier to add parts like sights, and more likely to find an armorer for that make. You should rely on an armorer to install sights, unless you want to invest a lot of time and money in tools.

    You may be fine jumping to a .40 out of the gate, or even a .45. I chose a different path, because it fit my plan. Like you, I fired thousands from the M-16 and a couple hundred from a 9 in the service. I couldn’t hit a barn when I started, but could pick off a fly at 100 yards with a rifle.

    Happy shooting.

  5. Not THE most important consideration, but I’ll mention it anyway – cost of ammo. 9mm is cheap & plentiful. .45 is expensive and plentiful. I like being able to pump a couple hundred rounds through my 9mm Glock at the range without having to think twice about the cost.

  6. Ruger SR22 semi. If you’re a bit rusty shooting a handgun, the Ruger LR packs plenty of punch for self-defense, and with its reduced kickback, offers the less experienced shooter a reliable weapon that’s easier to handle accurately.

  7. Some very good discussion on how much caliber matters here:

  8. Have been shooting since I could walk and struggled with this too. So I’m sympathetic.

    Some of the best advice I received: “Better a pea shooter you can hit with, than a cannon you can’t.”

    I wouldn’t recommend a specific gun or caliber as these are deeply personal choices that you will have to arrive at through thought and trial. Finding a place where you can try various weapons via rental or friends is good. Also, 1 shot is not a trial. Try 50 or 100.

    Think about the whole sequence of your experience. How easy to carry either on your person or in your car? How well does it conceal? How easy to access/draw? How well can you shoot it? How will it be stored when not on your person?

    One last thing. Just doing range time is not being prepared. It’s important, but just one piece. Take the time to practice (with dummy rounds) safely loading and unloading your weapon. Remember, this will happen in your home where your family lives. Practice accessing your weapon, again with dummy rounds, with the clothes and holster you wear on a regular basis. Plan on refreshing this practice on a regular basis.

    Finally, get quality training. I’m sure that goes without saying.

  9. Indeed, a 22LR can be a viable home defense weapon. The lack of kick means you can put a magazine of rounds into a quarter-sized hole at 10 yards or closer. You can also get hollow point.

    I have a friend who is a weapons trainer for a major infrastructure site and he thinks it can be a good plan. You can get an AR style rifle that fires that round. And talk about cheap to train and shoot.

    Of course, it all goes back to what you are comfortable with and what you can fire quickly and accurately.

  10. I’m 5′ 7″ 165lb and I can carry a full sized M&P9 in an aliengear holster, like an above commenter, I agree with others who recommend to carry the biggest handgun you can because it’s easier to use in all ways. It may not be the easiest to carry though. Most of the time I carry a M&P9 compact because it’s a perfect blend of size and concealability. I’d recommend handling different guns and seeing what fits your hands best but if you want to conceal, something in the size range of the M&P9 compact is the way to go. You can find similar guns in .40 and .45 if 9mm isn’t your particular brand of vodka.

    I would say that surgeons can’t tell the difference between 9mm, .40 and .45 unless they pull a bullet out, so there seems little reason to me to sacrifice capacity for a larger bullet than 9mm.

  11. Consider joining United States Concealed Carry Association-they even have an insurance program to help you out with the law if ever, Lord forbid, you have to use your weapon to defend yourself or family.

    Welcome to the brotherhood!

  12. One thing to add to the good advice above. It won’t matter what you get if you leave it home because it is too big, too heavy, doesn’t fit your hand, or the ammo is too expensive to practice, practice, practice.

    Renting at a range, if available, is the best thing you can do. Do not cheap out on either gun or holster. There is also no need to spend several thousand dollars for a super custom 1911.

    I personally wouldn’t go with less than 9mm and I have a definite preference for semi-autos (7 of those to 1 revolver (which I inherited)) but there is absolutely nothing wrong with revolvers. My next gun will be a revolver for carry as a trail gun because we hike in rattlesnake country and, as far as I know, semi-autos don’t really work with snake loads.

    Whatever you choose, get to the range and shoot it as often as you can, stay safe and keep your powder dry.

    PS – one correction to a comment above. “Glocks have no safety” is an incomplete statement. Glocks have several internal safety mechanisms. What they don’t have is an external safety lever (or decocking mechanism). The same can be said about the S&W M&P line, Kahrs, Springfield XD (which does have a grip safety), Sig P320 (the Army’s new gun), or the H&K P7, among many others. All modern firearms have several safety mechanisms, most of which prevent them from firing unless the trigger is pulled. The most important safety mechanism is between your ears.

  13. I recommend the Glock, whatever size fits your hand best. While there is no safety that prevents the trigger being pressed, if the trigger isn’t pressed it will not fire (a master armorer stated “you could throw it against a brick wall all day long and all you’ll get is a sore arm.”). When you’re in a self defense situation, having to turn off a manual safety can add stress to an already stressful situation.

    As for caliber, studies have shown that once you’re at .30 caliber or higher, the difference between calibers is minimal. It has to do with the wound track. A .45’s wound track diameter is less than 10% larger than a 9mm’s. Shot placement is what matters, and if you’re totally cool under all kinds of self-defense situations, a .22 will do the job if you can hit an immediately incapacitating spot sufficiently close enough that the wound track will do enough damage to incapacitate.

    So pick a caliber that you’re comfortable with shooting, and can afford to shoot at least 50 a month. Shooting is a learned, and perishable, skill. You HAVE to practice regularly, or you might as well not have the gun.

    But as someone already said: get instruction, and try a variety of guns to find the one that fits you best.

    Also, tactical 511 sells clothing designed to help conceal weapons. I have some, and they work well.

  14. Since you are not a gun person and will probably not shoot just to go shooting much may I suggest a plain vanilla six shot four inch barreled revolver in .38 Special or .357 Mag.The manual of arms for a revolver is so much simpler, there are no buttons or levers or anything else, just pick it up, point it, put your finger on the trigger and pull.They are safe, you can tell if it has live ammo at a glance and as long as you don’t pull on the trigger it will never go BANG!

    There are still tons available on the used market if money is a concern. The advantages of the semiauto pistols are mainly of concern to cops and soldiers. A bigger ammo supply and quick reload, Not one civilian in a million will ever need that and a couple HKS speedloaders will do for that millionth. Looks to me like you do not spend days and nights with a patrol car strapped to your butt so I seriously doubt you’ll ever kick in the door of a drug house. All of the alleged advantages of the semiautos are negated by the fact that the revolver can sit in a drawer for years and still shoot when you need it. I retired during the Great Migration from wheelguns to autoloaders, I was able to keep my revolvers until I pulled the pin. A couple of facts that few like to talk about is that since the Great Migration negligent discharges have gone way up and, when the chips were down, hit percentage has dropped. Here is a little added bonus, get your .38 or .357, practice with the generic 158 gr round nose lead, that’s very inexpesive, then load it with the old FBI load, the Remington or Winchester 158 gr. lead hollow point Plus P.

  15. if you can only have one gun, a .357 4″ medium sized revolver is the only choice. Ruger, S&W, Colt, that’s the first tier, then Taurus or Rossi. Don’t buy anything else.

    You need to make educated choices beyond that, requiring more than a web forum can give; but whatever else you end up with, this will always be a treasured part of your collection.

  16. For house protection …. consider the Mossberg 20 or 410 gauge pump shotgun with a legal short barrel and pistol grip . It can be stored under a bed or in a rack to side of bed and concealed under bedspread / quilt . Easy to use . For instance you can stand in bedroom and hold gun out in hallway … no aiming required …. and fire a round . Most people will not wait around for another discharge before skedaddling . Moreover the racking of a round is an intimidating sound .

    Store the weapon by racking a dummy ( spent ) shotshell into chamber and releasing ( firing ) the hammer . Leave it there . Load real rounds in magazine . Then when you need to use …merely pull pump back and forth to load weapon . If you store it as such ….. make sure you live in empty nest . No children around who out of curiosity are not familiar with guns and thus might want to see what they are all about .

  17. As a first gun I’d recommend getting a revolver either a 2″ or 4″ barreled 357mag It gives you some versatility In ammo.

    You’ll probably want to stay clear of “ultralite” alloy framed revolvers, while super easy to carry all day recoil Is bad(just my opinion) may want to test drive one to see If It’s for you.

  18. I have been carrying concealed for about seven years. I found the toughest thing was finding a holster that fit my clothes, my body and my firearm. About two years ago I got a Desantis Insider. It meets my needs very well. This holster fits inside the belt and pants and requires a shirt/jacket that hangs amply over it. I had to change my wardrobe to some extent to get shirts that were suitably long. I also had to take the laser sight off of one of my guns so it would fit. I had to practice a lot with the holster to feel proficient in safely and quickly accessing the firearm. The bottom line is that the firearm is one a piece of a larger system. All the parts need to be considered and are interdependent.

  19. My 2cents. For home protection, nothing beats a .12 gauge shotgun with buckshot or large pellet bird shot.

    One has to figure, in home protection or self-defense, you will (or should be) aiming to shoot someone who is no more than 6-8-10 feet away. A .380 is nice because it won't "go thru the walls" like a .357 or .45 would and perhaps injure an innocent person. Some people ridicule a .380 as not being powerful enough, yet I just finished reading an article on the net by a gun smith who said a .380 packs the same punch as a .38 (as you'd use in a revolver). Hope this is helpful.


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