Packing Heat: Ten Factors for Picking Your New Handgun
Maybe this is the first time you’ve decided to purchase a handgun, or maybe you already have a dozen. The premise for this was aimed at that potential first time buyer, and for making a sound decision.
This advice is from a certified Instructor with 20 years experience, who’s trained people from all walks of life. This will not stop people from being upset, and that’s fine, but consider this- if we are at least talking about things, let that serve as an impetus to DO some things, too. Rather than back bite, we need to stand together as enthusiasts. If that were some sort of disclaimer, let’s move forward, now.
Let’s set revolvers aside for now. There is a place for them, but for most new shooters, they are too small in capacity, too lumpy to hide, perceived recoil can be atrocious and reloads can be nightmarish under stress.. The goal is to put more good people on the streets armed, not people who tried to shoot, and got scared enough to give up carrying because of the wrong guns.
For all of you out there who doubt these words, find a reputable dealer and ask how many obsolete revolvers they take in for trade. Chances are, they are a significant portion of the used firearms for sale. The day of the wheel gun is over, just like the typewriter, VCR, and “beepers”. Also deliberately not included are .22 rimfire, up to and including .380. None of those are viable.
There are ten factors for consideration and I feel this is the correct order. Hopefully this will clear away a lot of the nonsensical clutter you may have looked at, or have been told,only to become perplexed.
#1-Fit. The gun has to fit you, and that’s all there is to it. Right now there’s a boom on some really nice, small carry pistols. This is a great time to be in the market for a carry pistol. There are also far more bad candidates than good, which leads us to Point 2
#2-Track record of the firearm. Whenever possible, you want a firearm with a pedigree of actual usage. A good indicator is military torture testing, not a redneck YouTuber maybe dunking it in his litter box. Look for ISO testing- where there were at least 20,000 rounds put through test firearms for military testing. That’s a pretty good indicator that there’s more to the gun than a “rugged” bearded Cover Boy, or scantily clad Cover Girl posing seductively with it. This is rubbish, and worthless.If this is all that’s behind the gun, move along.
#3-External Safety- Ridiculous and unnecessary. Safeties like this are made by Man, and Man screws up all the time. The facts are exactly this- YOU possess the 3 best safeties for the gun- the first rides between your ears, and the other 2 are your trigger fingers. You must have all 3 engaged anytime you’re handling a firearm.
#4-Type of Action- This is an easy one- you need DAO- Double Action Only.Any and all actions require training and proficiency as well as mastery. This is not a pursuit to be taken lightly. Carrying a gun is a life changing sequence of events, and if you don’t have what it takes, consider pepper spray, or civilian legal tasers, or something that’s not a firearm.This isn’t a part time gig, as there’s too much at stake.
#5-Capacity- You want the gun to hold as many potent rounds as possible. Ten rounds is a dandy place to start, but for some, this is the limit. My condolences. Don’t ever believe that 5 or 6 rounds is enough. That is outmoded/suicidal/John Wayne thinking. (By the way, he did movies. Movies.)You also need to have spare mags with you, in case of magazine malfunction.Bad Guys rarely travel alone, and there will be no “time out”.
#6-Caliber- there is 1, and it’s 9millimeter. Anything less is inadequate, and anything more is superflous. The difference from 9mm to all the wonkiness in between, included the oh so precious .45ACP, is 3 measly percent. The 10mm is a viable thumper, but most can’t handle it in combat capacity.Hence the equally worthless .40 S/W was spawned. It took almost 30 years, but it too is finally dying. Fewer rounds in the mag, more expensive ammo, more perceived recoil, resulting in less accuracy? Sign me up for that, Coach.Nine millimeter is the most common pistol round on Earth. That pretty much says it all.
#7-Maintenance-As you’re just starting out, you need something simple. You have to keep the firearm serviceable, and in this day and age, there’s absolutely no reason for complicated pistols, but they’re out there. What would be even better is to buy a recognized brand and take a civilian Armorer Class, so that you really understand how all the parts work in concert. That puts you one step closer to mastery.
#8-Spare Parts- The best thing for you as a new shooter is to have spare parts, and know how to install them. Don’t waste cubic dollars on all of the overpriced go fast aftermarket stuff, either. Keep the gun stock, and maybe add night sights. You can trick out a future gun. For now, learn and master the fundamentals.
#9-Accessories. Here’s where you can get nutty and spend too much. Get plenty of spare mags, and mark them, half for range use, the other half for carry. Get yourself a good holster and magazine pouches.Buy proven defense rounds, and rotate them through your magazines. Practice with your “old” carry rounds to know the difference in recoil, and shoot mostly practice ammo. Don’t ever carry practice ammo…just don’t.
#10- Cost. Cheap stuff ain’t good, and good stuff ain’t cheap. Far too many people make cost the number 1 factor, and that’s not good. This invites compromises. What is your life worth, to you? Spend wisely once, and you won’t regret it.
If you’ve read my stuff, you know by now I’m a Glock Guy. I’ve carried a few generations of them now for going on 3 decades, and I recommend them as Choice#1 whenever someone asks. For a new shooter today, provided I could see their hands, it would be either the 43X, or 48. People with large hands like mine are better off with the 48- as that 1 extra inch of barrel keeps them from digging a ditch in a finger if they grip like I do. I can literally hear people face-palming, and getting upset, so here are my reasons for this family of pistols.
#1-Fit- We just kind of covered this. Maybe the person would be better off with a 43. If so, sweet. If not the 43, look at the SIG 365 family, or the Hellcat. None of these would be bad choices. The last 2 hold more bullets, and that’s a good thing, if legal where you live. You can also put extensions on these 3 previously mentioned pistols.
#2-Track Record- Here, I’d give the edge to Glock, as their set up is legit, and has performed reliably for quite awhile now. Here are some stats for those who like to chant “Two.World.Wars.” Well, 75 of 100 holsters today have Glock products in them. No one else is even close. Elite military units leaving 1911, HK,SIG, Beretta behind? How’s that? Granted, the new service pistol is SIG, but educate yourself by looking at what DID, and DIDN’T happen during the “testing”.If you actually go to Glock Armorer School, with the Gen5 class, the instructor told us that going forward, new offerings are in 9mm., only. That means something. The 43X, and 48 are in/will be 9mm only.If you follow the FBI and all of their testing, what cartridge did they return to, after nearly 30 years of silliness? Yep, 9mm, and, they went with Glock. Hmmm…
#3-Safety- They have 3 safeties, all of which are employed by the Master Safety (Your brain/finger working in concert). This pretty much set the path of the vast majority of pistols being made for the last 35 years.As it turns out, things tend to move forward, and the technology with steel and ballistics are far superior to even 10 years ago. I may mention this again in later articles, but it’s important. The Safety on the 1911- what’s it there for? If you don’t know, it was to keep cavalrymen (you know, guys on horseback?) from unintentionally headshooting their horses. This is not eyepoking anyone past or present, it’s the truth.I’m willing to bet a dollar that most of the 1911 fanatics out there didn’t realize that. Pretty sure we don’t have mounted cavalry in the modern day battlefield.
#4-Action- Glock is DAO. People bitch about the trigger, but it’s good, if you work at it. I’d like to tour the country and see just how many people out there just don’t have proper trigger control. I’ve got all sorts of pistols with all sorts of trigger arrangements. However, I get paid to shoot well with a Glock. Do I prefer other triggers? Absolutely, but I’m smart enough to realize that if I don’t shoot well, I’m unemployed and/or dead. When you’re practicing, look at things that way, because it’s true.
#5-Capacity- We sort of touched on this already, too. Can you ever have too many bullets? Pistols aren’t great manstoppers, and that’s just the way it is. Shotguns and rifles are great stoppers, but we can’t stick these into our pants and waddle around. With the 43X, and 48, if max is 10, you’re good to go. If you can carry more, apply extensions. In a perfect world, you and your spouse are both carrying, and using a common magazine.
#6-Caliber-9mm with proven rounds will do the job, in the right place. You want proven rounds like LeHigh Defense, HST, Gold Dot, etc. More importantly, you need to ascertain that your pistol (whatever you choose) actually digests that ammo reliably.You cannot just load the mag and know for certain you’re good to go. Here’s some more about your precious 1911- it was built sloppy to use FMJ (Thanks Geneva Convention!). The best way to accurize it is to really crank down on tolerances. To this very day, there are plenty of these that are extremely ammo sensitive. Good luck with that and your 8 bullets. Glocks by and large, will eat anything. I’ve shot many of them over the years, and haven’t had one yet that suffered from this anomoly.
#7-Maintenance- Glock is pretty darn simple. A person with a little mechanical aptitude could likely watch You Tube and work on them at Armorer level (I’m NOT encouraging that). The point is that they really don’t require tons of attention, and very little lubrication. To be fair, most modern pistols don’t.
#8-Spare parts- There are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of firearms using Glock parts and magazines. That pretty much says it all.You can get whatever you want, and I’m no detective, but I’m seeing a lot of clues here.
#9-Accessories- rather like spare parts . These are literally everywhere. You won’t have to look very far to find anything you might want or need , if you chose Glock.
#10-Cost-A new pistol is usually around $550 ish. You can indeed spend less, and definitely more.
#11- Bonus- Concealability- Year after year, the Glock 19 is touted and named #1 as the Best Overall/Do It All pistol, but to be frank, I can’t stick it in my pants. I’ve got too much tactical girth. The premise here is for the first time buyer, who might not want to add 2 inches to their wardrobe, to carry IWB. Alot of people will try this initially, not like it, go to OWB, and later go back to IWB at another point in time. This isn’t indecision so much as unfamiliarity. The Glock 19 and 43 “sisters” are the same size, but the “sisters” are thinner, and I can indeed carry mine IWB. This is another consideration to ponder, and it’s a hurdle you can indeed clear, if you choose either of these pistols.
Stay Safe, Train Often
Featured image by Mark Miller. SIG 365, Glock 43 and the SIRT Training Pocket Pistol.