Handguns are firearms designed to be handheld, in either one hand or both. Major handgun sub-types are the revolver and pistol. Other sub-types include derringers and pepperboxes (which we will not cover at this time).
Now that we classified what a handgun is, we will now cover things to consider when purchasing a handgun.
#1 What size handgun can you handle?
Before deciding on what kind of handgun to buy, one must first ask what size handgun they should buy! Sizes range from full size, compact, and sub-compact.
Full size – This means the handgun has a larger barrel length and a larger grip. The longer barrel will reduce recoil/kickback after each shot while the larger grip offers maximum control. If a person has a weak forearm or finds that their compact handgun has too much recoil, they should switch to a full size handgun.
Pros: Best control. Light recoil. Max ammo capacity. Very accurate
Cons: Big and heavy. Hard to conceal
Example: Colt M1911
Compact size – The compact size handgun is sized between the full size and sub-compact. Often used as a secondary weapon for law enforcement, compact handguns have a smaller barrel length then the full size. However, the frame of the handgun is often the same size as the full size handguns.
Pros: Lighter then full size handgun.
Cons: Less accurate then full size handgun.
Example: Glock 26 Gen 3 (9mm)
Sub-compact size – These handguns are the smallest of the three and ideal for concealed carry. Although they are portable and can fit easily in your pocket, they do have draw-backs. They are hard to rack and have the highest amounts of recoil (even more if the handgun is a revolver!). Also, some states may have laws against them, so check your state’s law book if you plan to use any sub-compact handgun for concealed defense.
Pros: Maximum concealment. Generally the lightest handgun.
Cons: Small grip. Heavy recoil. Small ammo capacity.
Example: Ruger LCP .380
#2 Rent before you buy!
We see it everyday. People going to a gun shop and purchase a firearm without first ever trying it at the range. Why do people do this? Simply because the salesperson said it was what they should buy! Here are top two reasons why you should not listen to a word a gun salesman says:
- They get a commission for every firearm they sell. That is right, just like a dirty car salesman who would sell their own mother just to get you to fork over your money. What they say about the firearm itself may be true, but the reason for YOU to buy it today may be false! They generally push customers to buy a firearm that has not been selling well that month. All this just to earn a little extra cash in their pocket without any care about your needs! If you really want help picking out a firearm, contact us or search the rest of this website for our top firearm picks!
- You can NOT return the firearm you just purchased. Once you buy that new/used firearm from that gun salesman, it is yours for better or worse! If you find out later you can’t handle the handgun or just hate it, your only hope is to advertise online or have that same gun shop sell your firearm for you for a fee. Also, be sure to check with state laws on proper gun transfers if you plan to do it alone.
So, do not listen to the salesman at the gun shop! Do research about the gun and if you are still interested in buying it, go rent it! Most gun shops have a separate department dedicated in firearm rentals. If you like the firearm after 100 rounds, then go buy it! If you are still on the fence, move on to something else to rent. When purchasing any firearm, you either hate it or love it. If you love your firearm, you will be sure to take it to the range and practice often in improving your skills. Skills that will save your life if put to the test someday if needed. However, if you hate your firearm… well, might as well be a paper weight because it won’t do you any good if you don’t practice with it.
#3 How much does ammo cost?
Many people forget the most important part of owning a firearm, and that is the price of ammo it takes! As consumers, we gravitate to newer and better things that can do it all! Take printers for example. No one ever thinks about how much those ink cartridges cost until after the printer runs empty on ink. Printer ink is crazy expensive and so can ammo if you are not careful! Say you buy yourself a .50 A.E. cal Desert Eagle (which you should NEVER buy for self-defense purposes) expect to pay ~$1.30 per bullet vs Ruger LCR 9mm ~ $0.20 per bullet at Wal-Mart. If you are on a budget like most people, then price of ammo should be a big factor when purchasing a handgun. We talk in more detail about ammo in the ammo section of this website.
#4 What “size” ammo should I get?
When we say “size” we mean caliber of a bullet. Caliber is a term used to indicate the diameter of a bullet in hundredths of an inch. So, a bullet that is 45 hundredths of an inch (.45) in diameter is called a .45 caliber bullet. Without going into too much detail, we recommend handguns that can handle the following calibers: .380 auto, 9mm, 10mm, 38 super auto, 38 special are great for concealed carry. By concealed carry, we mean a firearm you will carry with you everyday and out-of-view. Please refer to state laws if a concealed carry permit is required.
Why we chose these calibers of bullets for handguns is not because of economics but of life or death situations. If you have a bad guy running at you with a knife, you do NOT want a .357 , .45 , or .50 caliber handgun for defense purposes. Yes, they have larger diameters which will put larger holes into the threat, but they provide draw-backs.
- Increased Weight – Bigger the caliber handguns tend to be heavier. In life or death situations, every ounce of energy counts. So you want a lighter gun if possible.
- Bigger Flash and Bang – With your adrenaline pumping, you want a steady hand and your eyes always on the target. These Bigger calibers generally require more powder to push the bullet, which will produce a bigger flash that may disorientate your vision along with the loud bang that follows. You are not at the range with ear muffs to protect your hearing and tinted safety glasses! So, if your shot misses, you will lose precious seconds by re-focusing on the bad guy which could cost you your life.
- Over penetration – If you are forced into a position to defend yourself from a threat, you want to make sure you not only hit that threat, but your bullet does not go in and out the other end. We call this over penetration. When a bullet over penetrates, all that energy behind it goes with the bullet. That is not a good thing because you want that energy to stay inside the threat thus causing maximum damage. To reduce the likelihood of over penetration, make sure you use hollow point ammo to reduce over penetration!
Now that we covered the bigger calibers, let use cover why you do NOT want anything smaller then .380 :
- Not as reliable – Calibers like a .22 are very cheap to make. For that fact alone, you get what you pay for. Not to say .22 are all that bad as they are great for improving technique at the range. However, trusting ones life on an unreliable cartridge? Why risk it?
- No “stopping power” – Shot placement is by far the most important thing in dealing with any threat. Would you agree that a shot to the heart from a small .22 will stop a threat vs. a missed shot from a 9mm? The answer is yes! However, shooting targets at the range is very different when you shoot to save a life. Here is the scenario: You are going up against a middle aged male 6’2 height and weighs 235 lbs charging you. He is closing in on you fast with just 25 feet of space between you and him before noticing he is holding a knife! Knowing you only have seconds to respond, you one-hand draw from your side holster, and fire two shots. Would you rather those two shots be from a .22 or 9mm in this situation? Answer should be 9mm. Why? Without time for aiming, you want a bigger caliber (hollow point) that increases your chance of stopping the threat. The smaller caliber bullets will still do damage, but again without having time for aiming, might require several shots to equal the same amount of damage if shot in same general area of the threat.