Choosing Your First Handgun- Whatever Gun Feels Best, is the Right One?
Ever see an online post where the person asks for help selecting a handgun for concealed carry? If there are more than 3 reply comments, I am willing to bet one of them goes something like:
“the one that feels best is the right one for you.”
“the one you shoot best is the best for you.”
Advice on Choosing Your First Handgun:
There is no shortage of people willing to give their advice on a wide range of topics. That is not necessarily a bad thing. However, advice like the above example is not particularly helpful.
It's not that the advice is wrong per se. And I don't think for a second think that the one offering the words isn't doing it with the best of intentions.
What “Feels Best”
Let's address the “feels best” advice.
What does “feels best” mean?
Are we talking about ergonimics?
Of course, grips come in different sizes, thicknesses, and shapes. These factors can cause a gun to feel different when holding it. Also, paired with the individual's hand size, one gun may “feel better” because the dimensions allow them to control better things like the magazine release, slide stop, etc.
So instead of offering “what feels best,” the advice should be a gun that allows manipulation of the gun's controls.
Does “feel best” mean the grip texture or stippling?
Indeed, the aggressiveness or roughness of the grip texture affects how a gun “feels.” I wouldn't recommend a person choose a gun based on how the grip texture feels. One can easily change the grip texture to be more or less aggressive.
So maybe instead of saying “choose what feels best,” we should talk about the importance of grip texturing and choosing an appropriate texture for the desired application.
Perhaps what “feels best” means perceived recoil?
What feels better, especially to a new shooter, less or more perceived recoil? Almost inevitably, the answer is less. So does that mean I should choose the Glock 44 chambered in .22LR over the Glock 19 chambered in 9mm for my everyday carry (EDC) defensive concealed carry gun? Hardly.
Instead of recommending they choose what “feels best,” we can offer information on choosing a self-defense handgun caliber. Then as they learn the fundamentals of grip, they can appropriately balance control of the handgun with appropriate caliber selection.
Grip space is limited on micro-compact handguns. So, people with large hands often have fingers dangling off the grip. This can certainly be described as not “feeling good.”
When advising someone choosing a handgun, direct them to something sized appropriately to allow good hand/grip contact with the entire palm and all fingers.
What you “Shoot Best?”
What it means to choose a gun that “you shoot best”?
What does that mean? Shoot best out of what? What is the standard you are using to determine all this?
Someone with minimal skills likely will more accurately shoot a gun with a single action trigger. It's lighter, shorter and thus, the new shooter is less likely to induce movement when they press the trigger. So technically, they may “shoot better” with this gun. However, that doesn't mean everyone should carry single action 1911 semi-auto handguns.
Learning to engage/disengage a manual external safety adds a layer of complexity to learning the fundamentals. Additionally, someone new to concealed carry may not have the handling skills to holster and manipulate a single action gun safely. This isn't to say single-action guns are a no-no for new shooters. Not at all.
And I am not saying a new concealed carrier can't carry a 1911. It's only to say a new shooter may shoot a handgun with a single action trigger better than one with a double-action trigger. But that doesn't mean that should be the determining factor in selecting one over the other.
Instead, let's educate them on the basic difference in operations between a single and double action semi-automatic handgun. Then explain the pros and cons of both. Then, based on their experience and comfort level, they can determine which action is suitable for them.
Anyone who has solid handgun shooting fundamentals can shoot any handgun with acceptable self-defense accuracy.
Therefore, new gun owners need to avoid associating “shooting well” with a particular gun and focusing on where it belongs on developing proper fundamental skills that allow them to shoot any gun well. Then they can refine their selection to the individual characteristics they prefer.
Choosing a gun based on these simple factors will likely get you a better “first gun” purchase for a new gun buyer.
- Manufacturer – Get a firearm from a well-known manufacturer with a good record of reliability. Glock, Sig Sauer, Smith, & Wesson, and H&K. You will have the ability to purchase holsters and after-market sights, etc.
- Size – A size of grip that allows the entire hand to make grip contact. Being able to establish a solid grip is very important for new shooters learning the fundamentals. Don't be trapped into think you need to select the smallest gun possible.
- Action type – single, double, double action only, double-action/single-action. My recommendation is to make it simple. Choose a striker-fired handgun from one of the above-listed manufacturers. Learn the fundamentals first and go from there.
- Manual external safety – yes or no? This is a personal preference, and here is a resource to help determine what will suit you.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of criteria for buying your first gun. However, a person can use these 4 criteria to help them make a more informed first-time handgun purchase.
Far too often, people end up regretting their first gun purchase. Or they end up sticking with a sub-optimal handgun because they have already invested in a handgun and they can't afford a new gun. Through posts like this and articulating helpful advice, I hope that we can reduce the number of regretful handgun purchases.
Feel free to share your struggles in buying your first gun or the advice you wish you received before making the purchase.
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I’ve advised people to take the time to find an indoor range that rents various models and calibers. Shoot what seems to be of interest, and then decide what you’re comfortable with.
My thought is to try various weapons that you have the ability to actually shoot then make a list of what you liked and didn’t like and compile that data to help decide. Just my .02.
I carried a Glock 26 for a few years and honestly hated shooting that gun.
I ended up getting an extension plate for the magazine that allowed 12 rounds and my pinky to rest on it.
The extension plate made the grip almost as long as the Glock 19 but still had the 3 inch barrel.
I honestly find that shooting 9mm in a 3 inch barrel makes things more difficult than they have to be. Small frame, tiny barrel, short sight radius.
Since then I have upgraded to the Glock 19 and love it. Shooting a 4 inch barrel and above is much better than 3 inches or 3.5.
I hear you. I’m considering trying out the Walther PDP Compact. Though I’ve come to shoot fairly well with my G26 with a red dot (but unfortunately no BUIS; did not mill slide) and appreciate the concealability.
Your information was very appropriate, but I would disagree with your comment about choosing a stiker fired firearm over a 1911 style. A striker fired firearm is in fact compound single action weapon with most having no manual safety. A 1911 firearm is a single action weapon with manual safeties. As you know a Glock striker is patially cocked with no lock while a true 1911 is cocked and locked. My Glocks run around 5 to 8 pounds with slack travel. My Ronin is 4 lbs wth a crisp break and no creep or travel. Really the only difference is one has an exposed cocked hammer the other has a hidden cocked striker. I have spent 40 years as a sworn police officer and 30 years as a range officer. As most civilians will not practice and have poor safety habits: finger on the trigger, ect. I recommend, for beginners, a striker fired as the trigger has a greater travel distance before releasing the striker. If the person is dedicated and willing to practice to develope muscle memory I recommend a quality 1911. Your information is excellent and I enjoy your insights. Stay Safe.
If a shooter cannot hit the target, it really doesn’t matter how the gun feels, what the caliber may be, how many rounds it carries and so forth. The [new] shooter MUST feel comfortable the gun, be able to operate it (load and unload, cock and unlock as well as shoot) and be able to hit a target with it. A miss by a .44 Magnum does no damage except perhaps to the ears and a hit by a .22 long rifle can kill or incapacitate an assailant.
Way back in the 1960s as. 15 year old I went with my Dad to buy my first shotgun. In stead of a lot of trying this and that, he simply picked a Remington semi-aoto 20 ga off the shelf and announced, “This is it. Learn to shoot this one, then you’ll know what to look for in the next one”.
Good advice. Very few lucky people make the right choice the first time. I would recommend a full frame striker from either Taurus or Ruger as a place to start. These are easier to handle, and easier to conceal than most people give them credit for. For domeone who is certain a full frame will be too large, go ahead and get a compact. Learn to shoot it (minimum of 500 rounds). Then you will know based on your experience what to look for.
Best case, you did het it right the first time. Worst case, you’re left with a $300 safe queen instead of a $600 safe queen.
Just my .02 worth.
Walther and CZ didn’t make it to the list of reliable manufacturers?
The pistol that you will carry daily, can shoot accurately, and is reliable is the right pistol. There is no such answer as: You need a Brand X etc.