Selecting your first handgun from an ocean of options can be very time consuming and seem like more of a chore than an enjoyable shopping experience. The biggest challenge at the present time is usually finding a good selection at your local gun shop (LGS). When financial troubles or pandemics, in this case, hit the streets panic buying sets in to make the availability of inventory slim.
Even though inventories are greatly diminished, there are still plenty of options to utilize to select the right pistol for your needs. Turn to your local shooting ranges and friends at this point. Most shooting ranges offer a variety of services including renting their inventory to the public. This test drive opportunity will tend to tell you more about what you like about a pistol and what you don’t like, however, without educating yourself regarding what to look for in a pistol, you will not be able to form a quality opinion.
Due diligence is needed on the new gun owner’s part. Ask questions. Ask LOTS of questions, but make sure to weed out the fluff of mediocre opinions from fact in order to select a good quality answer. Talk to professionals, NRA Instructors, Range Safety Officers, etc. in order to have a good base of answers to form your own opinion.
The first and foremost criteria to examine before you even spend your precious time and money test driving a handgun is to decide the primary purpose for which the gun is intended. Will the purchase be destined as a home defense measure, a conceal carry self-defense pistol, sporting and competition, or a collectible, etc.? What serves admirably for one purpose may not be adequate for another. For example, a single shot derringer is clearly not suitable for a home defense firearm. Even a basic revolver, arguably, may not be the best choice for you as a home defense gun, as will be discussed a little later.
The majority of new gun owners will likely make their first handgun purchase with personal defense in mind. Some of the most popular types of guns for this purpose have been semi-automatics, which are the types virtually all police forces use world-wide, or revolvers. There are pros and cons to each type for personal defense.
Let’s look at modern day semi-automatic pistols first. There are either hammer fired pistols or striker fired from which to choose. These handguns afford the user a choice of carrying a larger number of cartridges or rounds at the ready as a standard package. A standard capacity magazine, which is issued with the pistol when purchased new, often is able to hold in the neighborhood of 13 to 17 rounds. This is a good option in a self-defense pistol for the following reason.
When any individual is placed in a high stress self-defense situation, such as a home invasion, it is a fact that dexterity, accuracy, agility, focus, and rational thought are greatly diminished as a whole. This is just a natural fight or flight response of a human being. If the defender has a very small payload of ammunition at the ready then that means there is a reduced chance of accurately stopping the threat in the first several shots. This is why training, training, and training needs to be used with any gun designated as your self-defense firearm. When accuracy, dexterity, and focus are reduced, muscle memory is one, but not the only thing, which can carry a defender through to safety.
The second type of commonly found pistol is a revolver. Revolvers are the most recognized handgun in America as the type of gun that won the Old West, but is there a place for revolvers in the present day as a self-defense pistol? Surprisingly to some, the answer can be yes. Revolvers are a tried and true option, which utilize the most reliable action of any pistol because of the mechanical design and method of operation. The common trade-off is having less rounds immediately at your disposal in a fast-paced and high stress situation.
The standard revolver commonly holds about 6 cartridges. As mentioned before, this is why training, training, and training is so important. Some designs are available that are able to hold 7, 9, or even more than 10 shots, depending upon the caliber or size of the bullet, but should not be relied upon as a substitute for practice.
The other major consideration when selecting a self-defense gun is the caliber or size of the bullet and how easily obtainable it is. The caliber of bullet best for self-defense has been hotly contested over the past several decades. Even the FBI and professional police departments across the nation have flip flopped on the calibers used in everyday duty from 9mm to .40 caliber, to 10mm and back to 9mm. Currently the predominant opinion in the firearms industry is that for the average situation, 9mm is the best all-around caliber to use based upon the variety of ballistics data.
One of the best steps a potential new gun owner can take is to register for and attend an NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Course from a Certified NRA Instructor or obtain training from another endorsed and bona fide instructor. Many instructors may only cover semi-automatics or both semi-automatics and revolvers. Again, due diligence is necessary on behalf of the new gun owner. Some instructors may make available a variety of pistols to the students to assist them in deciding what type and model of pistol is best for them. This often results in saving the gun owner from expensive buyer’s remorse.
All of the information discussed above is useful when selecting a pistol for the new gun owner, but the next step is to actually hold the potential gun and shoot it. Often times a pistol will fit and feel good in the hand of the purchaser, but once shot may not be quite a good match. Selecting a pistol is much like choosing a car. You just don’t know if you’ll like it until you experience the way the gun shoots. Reading about firearms is no substitute for actual first-hand experience, so get out there and start learning.