Factors for Selecting a Handgun a guest op-ed post by Stephen Pineau of 21st Century Gunfighter
For many individuals, buying a handgun is often a decision that is made under the influence of misinformation, misguided drivel from internet 'experts' or just an overall lack of personal experience. Oftentimes, this leads to a confusing buying experience and a purchase which, down the road, is found to be less-than-desirable. With that said, there are a number of inarguable facts that exist about handguns and how we use them as shooters. With these points in mind, the following set of criteria is one that is structured to be as objective as possible - avoiding all bias towards certain brands or manufacturers. Using the following bullet points as step-by-step checklist (or perhaps a better word would be 'filter'), you can make a more informed purchasing decision and navigate your way through the confusing world that is the modern handgun market.
Fit – How well does it fit your hand? “It doesn’t matter if it shoots plasma beams and prints money; if it doesn’t fit your hand well….forget it."
The criteria of fit should include your ability to easily reach and manipulate the controls on the firearm. (Magazine release, safeties, slide lock levers, decockers, etc…) You should handle the firearm you are considering and establish a solid, correct two-handed grip on it when making this decision. It is STRONGLY ENCOURAGED that you seek the consult of a reputable instructor as to whether your grip is correct during this test drive. Even if you THINK your grip is correct…just ask. Be open to learning. This initial factor should eliminate about 25-30% of market firearms
Cost of Training – Double Action / Single Action v.s. Striker-Fired Yes….This IS a cost of training consideration. We as individuals only have access to limited time and resources and therefore must allocate those resources and time to their greatest effect. No matter how you spin it, DA/SA firearms require TWICE the amount of training (time and ammunition) to achieve the same level of proficiency as their striker-fired counterparts. This is also to include the manipulation of external safeties and de-cocking levers.
Cost of Training also includes caliber selection. Of all typical handgun calibers, 9mm offers the greatest value in terms of training costs. For those interested in selecting a handgun for defensive use, understand that there is overwhelming evidence that illustrates the negligible difference in the terminal effects of 9mm vs. 40S&W vs. .45ACP when using modern, bonded, defensive ammunition. This is to include the rounds individual abilities to defeat intermediate barriers (such as auto glass and common building materials). This factor should eliminate an additional 25% of market firearms
Bore Axis – Rooted purely in physics, the relationship between the top of the beavertail (grip) and the centerline of the bore is directly correlated to the felt recoil and muzzle rise experienced by the shooter. Even an experienced shooter, utilizing perfect grip and stance, will have greater difficulty in mitigating the recoil of a handgun whose bore line is higher above the grip than one whose is lower; even in the same caliber. The phenomenon is a fulcrum effect; it should eliminate approximately 15% of remaining market firearms
Purpose of Use – What are you planning on using this firearm for? This consideration is largely going to impact size more than anything else. Self-defense? Perhaps a compact.
Competition? A long-slide model will serve this role best. General training / Multi-purpose? A full size will be tough to go wrong with. You can compete with it and still carry it comfortably. The previous factors should have you narrowed down to a couple different makes and models, and this factor should give you a pretty good direction on which size model is going to fit your needs best. Depending on what you determine your POU for this handgun to be, this consideration should eliminate an additional 10-15% of market firearms.
Support – How easily are spare or aftermarket parts obtained? This should be an active consideration when choosing a handgun. Guns have parts and, like cars, these parts will wear out over time. Additionally, you may find that swapping out the sights or the trigger may be something that you’d like to do down the road. This will not be easy if you purchase a firearm with limited industry support. Additionally you cannot fail to consider the availability for support equipment - QUALITY CCW holsters, magazine pouches, et al. Are spare magazines readily available? What is the reputation of the manufacturer like when it comes to customer service? This is a very important consideration. It will require some internet research and consultation with other shooters or instructors on your part. However, as it has long been said, Time devoted to recon is seldom wasted. This factor will easily cut the field by an additional 10%
Cost – Cost is arguably the biggest factor of them all, at least for many shooters....Or is it?
For most, a firearm is a serious investment. Perhaps not to the degree of a house or a car, but it’s up there. The “buy once, cry once” rule applies. Choose wisely. That’s why this list exists.
Fortunately, by following these criteria in order, you should have eliminated nearly 95% of market firearms once you’ve gotten to this point. More than likely, you are looking at a handgun with an MSRP of less than $600