You’ve reached that point where you feel you need to own a firearm; a home defense handgun to protect yourself, property, and family… whatever the case may be. How do you start the process; because the act of picking your first pistol can be an overwhelming task Experienced shooters go back and forth between makes and models all the time, before deciding on their next purchase.
For the inexperienced shooter getting the right weapon can be a very taxing process. Hopefully, I can throw out a few ideas to make the decision a little easier.
So, when it comes to your first handgun, what constitutes the “right gun?” To me, the biggest factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the fit…how does the gun fit your hand? If it doesn’t feel good in your hand, you’re probably not going to like shooting it, and that means you’re not going to shoot it well.
Before all this happens, however, you need to do research. This means going to different places on the web, and checking on gun reviews. Perhaps you could type “best first handgun” in a search engine, and start there. If you have a friend who owns firearms, ask that person. The vast majority of gun owners thoroughly enjoy helping a person out when it comes to choosing a firearm.
Do not get hung up on caliber! There are way too many people who feel that a certain caliber is the end all when it comes to handguns; that everything else is garbage. This is very apparent in the 9mm/.40/.45 debate. Truth be told, when using modern day HP ammo… there isn’t much difference between the three, and that’s coming from a 1911 .45 ACP guy.
You really need to make an effort; if possible, to shoot a variety of handguns. Hopefully, you get the chance to shoot both revolvers and semi-auto in a variety of calibers. Some gun shops have ranges, and many times they’ll let you shoot some of their weapon, if you explain the reasoning. Perhaps your friend has a few different pistols that they will let you shoot.
Hands on, live fire training is the best way to establish a foundation from which you can use to make the decision on what weapon you want. Would you buy a new car without driving it first? No, you wouldn’t, so why would you go and buy a handgun without making an effort to first get some live-fire training; especially if you’ve never shot a handgun before? So, you’ve done some research, and hopefully shot some handguns, so the next step is you need to go out and find one that’s available in your price range. So, let’s go to the local dealer!
You walk into your local gun shop, and…you’re blown away by the amount of weapons they have. Don’t sweat it; you’ll get the help you need. After all, you are a potential sale. There you are trying out a few different handguns, and this takes us back to first important point in the article: fit. The gun needs to fit your hand; it needs to feel good and comfortable. For simplicity and reliability; it’s hard to beat a revolver, but you really like that 9mm in your hand… it just feels right! That brings up another important point, but first let me share with you a story.
I have a friend who teaches the Ohio concealed Carry course. A few months back he received a call from a gentleman inquiring about a class for him and his wife. After explaining the course, and asking a few questions to determine if the man and his wife were eligible for the license, a date for the class was agreed upon. The man went onto explain that he had purchased weapons for both him and his wife, along with ammo. The weapons were a very good make in a good defensive caliber.
Class day arrived, and as the instructor started teaching the various actions of pistols, he decided to use the client’s weapons as a demonstration tool for the semi-auto portion. After demonstrating how to load and work the slide, he hands the weapon to the wife for her to try out, and… she did not have the hand strength to “rack the slide.” If you’re set on a semi-auto for your first handgun, make sure you can properly operate the slide! If you can’t do that, the firearm is useless in your hands. Well, you could throw it at someone, I guess.
Another possible consideration is size. Many people down the road end up getting a concealed carry license, so a full-size 1911 probably wouldn’t be a good choice to start with. I don’t want to get into the big “best caliber” debate, because to me the “best caliber” is the one you shoot the most accurately. That being said, the smallest caliber I would buy is a .380 for personal defense. That’s just my opinion.
Once you get your gun, you need to practice with it. You’ve picked this weapon for protection; it’s only going to be as accurate as you are, so practice makes perfect! Take a firearms class, or even a concealed carry class. Some states; like Ohio, have mandatory classroom/range time as part of the course. You don’t have to apply for your concealed carry license once the class is over, but what you do get is valuable training with your handgun, and a better understanding of how it works.
It’s also vitally important that you know how to take apart and clean the gun. You can find this out by reading your manual, and once again searching for information on the web. Hopefully, I’ve given you a little bit of useful guidance to help you with making your selection. Gun ownership is a right guaranteed to you in our constitution…congrats on exercising your 2nd Amendment rights!
Steve Dailey is land surveyor, and lives in NE Ohio. A Marine Corps veteran, Steve is married, has two sons, and three grandchildren. In his spare time, Steve enjoys pistol shooting, and being a member of Northeast Ohio Carry; http://www.neocarry.org/; a 2nd Amendment advocate group serving NE Ohio.