Selecting a Handgun
If you are new to shooting or have
been at this a while, you need to consider a number of
selecting a handgun. This
article will focus on the new shooter who may be buying his
or her first gun. First and foremost you need a gun
that will meet your needs. Take a trip to your
friendly neighborhood gun store or head out this this
weekend's gun show. Running a quick web search should
find a few.
"So, why do you want a gun?" The
reasons vary and can include - Self Defense, Hunting,
Collecting, Target Shooting, or Competition. I am sure
there are other reasons, but let's start with these.
Self Defense - You need a handgun which is
moderately comfortable to conceal upon your person and carry
all day which you can shoot reliably to stop an attacker.
The ability to practice with this gun is important so
you must be comfortable shooting this gun enough to ensure
if you are in a life or death situation you will be able to
place your shots where they need to go. This means at
least a hundred rounds or so in a single range session.
Some tactical training classes are 1,200 rounds over the
course of a weekend.
Hunting - While most hunting is not done
with a handgun, but there is a segment of those who do use a
handgun to hunt both large and small game - you need a gun
which can quickly and humanely kill the animal you are
shooting. Less practice is required
perhaps than for self defense, but you still need to remain
Target Shooting/Plinking - If you are headed to the range simply
to put holes in paper targets then you want something you
can shoot often, with little recoil and minimal cost.
Stopping power is not a concern so a .22 often times will
Competition- What type of events will you be
competing on? You need to review the rules for the
event to ensure you will be in compliance with the rules.
Some of these rules may include caliber, magazine capacity,
barrel length. weight of the gun and modifications.
Collecting- What type of gun will you be collecting -
historic, innovative, manufacturer specific, model specific,
caliber specific... there are many types of gun to collect,
but this article will not really delve into that much.
Revolver vs. Semi-Auto
The modern Revolver was developed by Samuel Colt in 1836
long before the semi-auto and is a simpler machine.
The first benefit is - with less moving parts there is less
opportunity for the gun to fail, but failures do occur from
time to time. The revolver is usually easier to
manipulate, the shooter only needs to open/close the
cylinder, pull the hammer, pull the trigger - none of these
are require much strength leading this to be a gun often
recommended for those with less hand strength (often older
folks, women and those with limited dexterity).
Revolvers had been and continue to be offered in a variety
of calibers, but the majority of revolvers are produced in
.22LR (Long Rifle) .38 Special or .357 Magnum. Other less
popular calibers include but are not limited to.44 Magnum,
.45 Colt, and .500 S&W Magnum. Other calibers are available,
but finding ammunition for them may be problematic. A
revolver usually has a capacity of 5 or 6 rounds. With
no manual safety, a revolver is arguably less safe, but as
long as you follow the fundamental gun safety rules this
should not be large a factor in this decision.
The modern Semi-Auto was developed by John Browning in 1896
and it a more complex machine and more opportunity for a
failure to occur. That being said, modern
manufacturing processes and metallurgy have created pistols
which are incredibly well built, and failures are few and
far between. As with the revolver the shooter must be
able to manipulate every feature of the firearm with ease -
this includes racking the slide, retracting the hammer and
locking the slide back. The spring used is different
in every firearm - some are easy to retract and others are
quite difficult. Semi-Automatics are offered in a
slightly wider range of calibers including .22LR .380ACP,
9mm, .40, .45ACP, and .357 Sig to name a few.
Semi-Autos typically have a larger capacity 10-16 rounds is
not uncommon. Many Semi-Autos do not have a manual
safety, but many do.
The smaller and lighter the gun the easier and more
comfortable it is to conceal on your person, but the smaller
and lighter the gun the more you, the shooter will feel the
recoil. Many people pick up a 2" barrel Scandium
notice that it weighs less than a pound or about 12 ounces,
and think it would be easy to shoot, this is simply not the
case. Because of how light the gun is; there is little
mass to absorb the recoil - so the shooter absorbs it all.
A gun similarly sized made of steel might weigh about 34
ounces - which is more than twice the mass so less felt
recoil. Of course a 4" barrel .357 might weigh 39
ounces, so the conceal ability and comfort would be
decreased, but the ease of shooting would be increased.
When you are looking at guns - hold it out at arms length
for a few minutes, how do your arms feel? If the gun
is too heavy you may need to look at a smaller sized gun perhaps.
Caliber selection is very important you need to strike a
balance between what you can shoot comfortably hand having enough
power to do the job. A bigger bullet,
means more powder, means more recoil. A .22 is likely
easiest to shoot, but if chosen for self defense, it would
likely not be big enough. In self defense your goal
is to stop the threat, not to KILL, but sometimes killing is
necessary to stop the threat. A .22 is big enough
to kill an attacker just as dead as a .357 Magnum or .45ACP,
BUT it is not as easy to do so. If you shoot ten
rounds of .22 into your attacker it may be enough to kill
them, but not immediately if perhaps they are on drugs - so they may kill you back before
succumbing to his/her injuries. A laeger caliber will
kill more effectively. If you can
shoot a larger caliber you should, if a .45ACP or .357
Magnum is too big
(either the physical size of the gun or felt recoil) for you then look at .38 Special, or
If you don't know which is best for you try a few guns
either rented at a range or borrowed from a friend (or by
If choosing for self defense, you should select the largest
caliber that you can shoot, carry and train comfortably.