Choosing the Best Handgun for You

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For the ladies, and the guys too: Deciding which gun is best for you.

How many times have you walked into a gun shop only to be greeted by a gun store Rambo with too much testosterone and not enough common sense? It’s happened more than once to my wife and I. Most of the time they have a personal agenda and try to steer you to this gun or that gun regardless of how it fits you personally. If you want a compact gun it has to be this Glock or Sig Sauer and if you want a full sized gun it has to be this 1911 or a Heckler & Koch. This may be because they have the most mark up on this weapon and get more cash when they are sold or it may be because they just prefer this brand or that the other. The truth is far too few people know or understand the basics of purchasing a weapon for a specific use.

English: A Smith & Wesson Military & Police ha...

Smith & Wesson M&P(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My wife and I recently purchased her first handgun. We looked for a very long time and to be honest, I got rather frustrated doing so (one of the reasons for our consulting service). She is tiny and wanted a tiny gun to go along with her tiny frame. The problem is that she also wanted an effective fighting sidearm that would protect her and our family. Things got difficult very quickly when she had her heart set on several guns that simply didn’t fit her. We looked at a lot of guns from sub compact Glocks to smaller caliber guns like the Walther PPK and PK 380. Nothing seemed to fit her and accomplish the end goals we both had in mind.  One of these guns was a Walther PPQ. This is a great gun, but it didn’t fit her hand well and the ergonomics of the frame didn’t disperse the recoil well through her upper body. It was actually painful for her to shoot it. She went through a few others and even shot my Beretta 92 several times. This process turned into several weekend trips and visits to almost every reputable gun shop in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Credit: LampostCCW

Credit: LampostCCW

One thing that most first time buyers don’t consider is that the smaller the gun the more recoil it has, even in a smaller caliber. It’s simple physics, and a compact .380 will have as much or more recoil than a larger 9mm on a full sized frame. The smaller the gun, the less ammunition it will also carry. So think about the purpose of your handgun. My wife is of the same mind as I am. If either of us has resorted to using a gun, then the situation has gone terribly wrong and we want as much firepower as possible. So after shooting many guns and having several long discussions with both myself and the owner, Rob, at Clayton Guns, she ended her search with a Smith and Wesson M&P Pro in 9mm. Yes this is a full sized gun, but with careful consideration it can be concealed easily.  Fortunately, after dealing with the general bravado from many gun shops, we met Rob who is a wealth of information and had no agenda other than to get my wife the right gun for her.

This brings me to my first point; find a shop you can trust and have someone with you that really knows  their stuff when it comes to the basics of handgun manipulation and control . Just because a gun looks cool and comes highly recommended by a magazine article doesn’t mean it will fit you and be the best gun for you.  Shoot or at the very least hold as many guns as you can to test fitment to your hand. Many of the newer polymer guns have interchangeable back strap panels. Try them out and get a feel for the guns.

Then decide on the purpose of the gun. Are you carrying it in a holster, purse or pocket? Do you open carry or do you always carry concealed? Will this be your only gun or will you have multiple guns for multiple situations. Only after you decide how you will use the gun can you purchase a weapon that will fulfill its main purpose.  You then need to make sure it isn’t what I call an orphan gun. Orphan guns are more unusual or unpopular guns that don’t have huge aftermarket support. If you buy one of these guns then accessories will be difficult or impossible to find. In the best case scenario you will pay top dollar from a custom holster maker so that you have equipment that fills your needs. The only other option is to build your own holster system with Kydex or use a one size fits all nylon holster that isn’t what you really want or need.

9mm-357sig-40sw-10mm-45acp-45gapThe caliber of your gun is the next thing that you really need to decide on. For the guys, buying the largest caliber possible to compensate is just plain silly and really dangerous. Male or female you need to choose a caliber that you can easily control, especially if you are not an experienced shooter. If you can’t make quick follow up shots or you need to adjust your grip after shooting several rounds, then it isn’t the gun for you. I’ve said this before and I will say it again, there is no magic caliber. The “one shot stopping power” of a particular round is somewhat a fallacy that causes people to make decisions that hinder their ability to learn the basics and become competent marksmen. I’m a really big guy and can handle anything you put in my hand, but I choose to carry a 9mm due to the fact that I am at my best when shooting this round. I can cut the 10 ring out of a target and transition between multiple targets quickly and it has more than adequate stopping power when using modern ammunition.

So now you have a gun that fits you, you know how you intend to use it, and you’ve decided on caliber; what’s next? Now it’s time to train, try different holsters and modes of carry. Make your weapon an extension of your body. Your life depends on your ability to be proficient with your new purchase, so get to work!



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