Five Tips in Choosing a Handgun for Self-defense
Selecting a handgun for everyday carry self-defense is a personal choice. It’s a selection only you can make for yourself but I can offer some advice on my experience teaching others to shoot. Everyone has an opinion about which handgun is the best. The opinions vary from person to person but you will need to decide which is best for you. You will be the one carrying it and you will be the only one that has to feel comfortable with it.
Before getting into specifics, be sure you follow these 3 basic fundamentals:
1) Consult knowledgeable shooters. 2) Research and, if possible test-fire various makes and models. 3) Purchase the pistol from a reputable dealer.
1. Price and budget – My wife often comes with me on trips to gun shops. She has a good eye for quality and more than likely the handgun that catches her eye is usually out of my price range. I’m more of the fit, form and function kind of guy and tend to look closer at the price tag than she does.
Handgun prices can range from modest to very expensive. Decide on a price range that works for your budget, and then look for guns in that range. Stick with the well-known manufacturers. A cheap, off-brand gun can turn into a real expensive paperweight, or worse, it can fail at the moment you need it.
2. Availability and price of ammunition – Most shooters will be comfortable shooting a 9mm handgun. It is probably the most popular caliber and has the most economic ammunition. A .380 is a smaller cartridge but usually is more costly.
3. Pistol fit and ergonomics – Make sure you can reach everything and you can hold it naturally. It needs to fit your hand and have a recoil you can control. This is something you will have to decide for yourself and varies from one person to the next.
4. Pistol size and weight – The handgun must be small enough and light enough that you actually carry and have it with you when you need it. Keep in mind though that the smaller a handgun gets, the harder it is to shoot. If you are a new shooter stay away from smaller “pocket” pistols until you have more experience.
5. Simplicity of operation and ease of cleaning – Hopefully you will train monthly and clean your handgun after every shooting session. Ask the salesperson at the gun counter to “field strip” the handgun you’re interested in. If he lets out a heavy sigh or rolls his eyes - enough said. If it’s a pain to break down to clean and you have to say a prayer prior to reassembling, you may want to rethink your selection.
Narrow your choices to a few guns then find a local shooting range that has them available to rent. Shooting is the only sure way of knowing if it’s the one for you. Once you've found one that feels right, buy it, practice with it, and learn to shoot it safely.