Tips For Choosing The Right Handgun

Frequently while working with students I asked, “what do you shoot?” or “what do you think I should get?”

My usual response, “it depends, let’s talk!” There are a lot of considerations when choosing your personal handgun.  While it can be confusing here are a few tips for  choosing the right handgun for you.

First let’s talk about safety.

Anytime you are around firearms, always follow these safety rules.

Treat all guns as if they are loaded and always perform a clearance check.  Anytime you are around firearms assume they are loaded, and YOU physically check the firearm to make sure it is unloaded. 

Never point your firearm at anything you aren’t willing to destroy.  You should pay particular attention to the muzzle end of the gun. Think as if there is a laser attached to your gun.  Anything that laser touches, someone or something will be harmed or destroyed.

Keep your finger off of the trigger and outside of the trigger guard until you are on your target and ready to shoot.  This one can be a challenge.  When we were young we would grab a Nerf gun or squirt gun and blast away.  We must retrain our brains that when we pick up a gun keep the index finger off the trigger and rest it along the slide until we are ready to take a shot.

Know your target and what is beyond.  Be aware of not only what’s behind your target you need to be aware of what is beside, and in front of your target (also around the target).

Safe Storage is YOUR Responsibility. You firearm is your responsibility. When it is not in your control you must keep it secured in a safe or other location where NO one, expect your, has access.

Now that you have made the decision to buy a gun, you need to consider several factors in order to decide what type of gun.

This an important tip in choosing the right gun for you.  Also don’t forget to purchase basic equipment including eye and hearing protection, a good cleaning kit and a range bag.

Tips for choosing the right handgun include, Why do you want a gun?  There are a variety of reasons people choose to purchase a gun.

Recreation – Shooting is a fun and rewarding hobby.  Shooting is also a perishable skill!  You can maintain and improve your gun handling skills by regular training. A large caliber gun is not needed for plinking.  It is a lot of fun and you can get a lot of practice with a 22 caliber handgun.

Self protection/home protection – A gun must be reliable, safe, comfortable and easy to carry.  Your size, shape, occupation, clothing style are all considerations when choosing a firearm!  If you are to planning on carrying a firearm, consistent practice with a reputable Instructor is a must if you are new to firearms a reputable instructor is a must.  Your instructor can also help you with the process of choosing the right gun for you.

Your job – If your occupation requires you to carry a firearm, it must be reliable, safe, perhaps have a higher magazine capacity and be chambered for a cartridge with adequate stopping power.

Collector’s piece – Perhaps you have inherited a gun or purchased one at a charity auction, received a limited edition piece, or just found an interesting or unique gun that would be nice to have.  Regardless, all of these firearms must be safely and securely stored.

Competitive shooting – Make sure you understand the competition rules to determine what is or is not allowed.  Having a gun that “can grow” with you as you move through the different levels of competition is nice.  Find some experienced people in your area that compete and pick their brain on what has worked well for them and what issues they may have had in building their competition rig.

Should I Buy New Or Used?

One of the tips in choosing the right handgun is, should I buy new or used? There are advantages to both.  While a used firearm may be cheaper you may not know how well its previous owner took care of it.  If you are new to firearms, perhaps take a knowledgeable friend or reputable instructor with you while purchasing.  When you purchase a new gun it will have a factory-backed warranty and the authorized dealers have experience and are happy to support you after the sale. They can also provide continuing gun knowledge.

Pistol or Revolver

Put some thought in to how much time you will be able to spend training.  Revolvers are typically heavier and hold less ammunition than pistols but they are very reliable and seldom malfunction.  They are simple to load and unload and easy to maintain.  It should be noted that some people find revolvers difficult to shoot because of a heavier trigger weight or shape of the grip.

Pistols have a larger magazine capacity (more ammunition) and are faster to load and reload than revolvers.  There are more options in shapes, sizes and calibers.  They have a flatter profile and are easier to conceal than revolvers.  Depending upon the caliber, they may have lower recoil than a revolver chambered in a comparable caliber.

On the other hand, semi-automatics can malfunction more when compared to a revolver.  You must learn how to handle (clear) a malfunction whenever it occurs. Cleaning, field stripping and general maintenance is more complex than a revolver and will require practice.  Some find that operating the slide on a semi-automatic is challenging.  “Racking” the slide is required when loading the gun and clearing malfunctions.  Good technique will make it easier. 

 Try Before You Buy

Visit a gun store and try the guns for feel and comfort.  (We like to try shoes on before we buy them, right?!) ALWAYS follow the safety rules!  Does the grip fit your hand nicely? Is the grip too short or too long?  Will it be more concealable (if you want a concealed carry gun)?  Do you have proper placement of your finger on the trigger? Does the weight of the gun feel balanced in your hands? Another suggestion is to see if the gun store has gun rental at their range.  Once you have narrowed your choices rent several guns on your list. Perhaps group them by size and caliber.

Following all safety rules, shoot several guns that you are considering and write down your experience with each gun.

Hiring a reputable Instructor in your area can also help guide you through this process.  Purchasing a firearm is an important decision and an investment.  Doing your homework is well worth your time!

Financial Considerations

It’s one thing to consider the cost of your new firearm but have you though about ammunition cost?  Incorporate the cost of ammunition in your budget.  You will need to regularly train to become proficient.  For sport guns you will go through a lot of ammunition during training.  If you plan to conceal carry you will need a holster or one of the other methods like a concealed carry purse, belly band or a few new pieces in your wardrobe that doesn’t show your gun (printing) through your clothes.  Again consider professional instruction as you get started.

As you become more experienced you may consider purchasing accessories including extra magazines, a red dot sight or trigger modifications.

It can seem a bit overwhelming when starting out, so here are just a few brands to look in to as you begin.

Bushnell Red Dot

Crossbreed Holster

GTM Original Handbags

Go Outdoors Range Bags

Hoppes Gun Cleaning Kits

Walkers Hearing Protection

Walkers Eye Protection

The Big Picture

Understanding your “why” for owning a firearm as well as incorporating these tips for choosing the right handgun will help narrow your choice of which handgun to purchase.  Take the time and necessary steps to find the right fit for you.  You always want to choose a gun that will be reliable.  You don’t ever want to have a gun malfunction when you need it the most.  Understand the costs involved as well as the maintenance involved in taking care of your investment.

Learn and commit to memory the Safety Rules and apply them EVERY time you handle a firearm.

Understand how to safely store your firearm.

Get proper training, join a shooting club, grab a friend to regularly train with.

Shooting a gun is serious business but when done safely and responsibly but it is a very fun hobby, very empowering and boost for your confidence.  Become a life long learner, follow your industry favorites, watch videos and be sure to check out other articles and information from Shoot Like a Girl!

Don’t forget responsible firearms ownerships starts with safety first. You can read more about safety in the article, The Four Rules of Basic Firearm Safety.

SLG2, Inc may receive a small commission for any purchases made from article links.

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