Choosing a gun can be a bit overwhelming when you realize how many options there are out there. However, there are specific factors you should take into account when selecting a firearm, which will help you narrow down your options. The first thing to consider is the intended use of the firearm. For the purpose of this series of articles, we are going to assume the firearm is for self defense, and discuss the factors you should consider as you shop for your concealed carry handgun.
The first question you need to answer is, should I carry a revolver or a semi-automatic? Both options have pro’s and con’s, and there are several things to consider before answering this question. The revolver is more simple to operate (less moving parts), and in the case of a misfire the only thing the shooter needs to do is pull the trigger again. When shooting a semi-automatic, if there is a misfire, the shooter will have to perform a few steps which are easily learned. Also, because a revolver doesn’t depend on the spent round’ exhaust gases to advance the cylinder to the next cartridge, it is less likely to malfunction due to a poor grip than a semi-automatic is. Some people prefer revolvers because they find it difficult to rack the slide of a semi-automatic, unlike the cylinder of a revolver, which is relatively easy to swing out, while others are not affected by this. A negative aspect of the revolver is its limited ammunition capacity (5-6 rounds depending on the model), whereas semi-automatics tend to hold more ammunition (especially the compact and full-sized handguns) and are easier to reload. Revolvers can be single or double action which, among other things, will determine the weight and length of the trigger pull, while there are a wider variety of action types in semi-automatics (single action, traditional double action, double action only, and striker-fire).
Once you have decided between a revolver and semi-automatic, you must move on to the second critical factor: the pistol’s size. Do you want a full size, compact, or subcompact? This is a critical factor for many reasons. For starters, the gun must have a grip that is adequate for your size hand because if you cannot grip the handgun properly, you will not have the hold control necessary to consistently and accurately shoot it. The size of the gun will also determine the ease of concealability; a smaller gun will always be easier to conceal properly, without creating bulges in your clothing. The weight of the gun is also determined, in large part, by the size of the handgun, which in turn will affect two things. The larger and heavier a firearm is, the less it is going to tend to recoil, which makes it easier to control. However, the more a gun weighs, the less likely you’re going to be to carry it around all day.
Another important feature to take into account is the pistol’s design, and I am not referring to the color or fashion-sense of the gun. One critical aspect of the design of a gun is the grip angle. Because each person’s hand and wrist are different than the next, the angle of one pistol’s grip may be more or less comfortable and natural than that of another. How do you know what angle grip will work for you? Pick up one gun after another, hold it with a proper grip, and decide which ones feel comfortable in your hand. Point-shoot accuracy will also be affected by the design of the firearm. To determine the basic point-shoot capability of a gun, take an UNLOADED gun, hold it with a good grip (and safe trigger finger position), close your eyes, and point it in a safe direction. When you open your eyes, the sights should be lined up where you wanted them, or at a distance of five yards, they should be no more than 1-2 inches above or below center. If they are left or right, this can be corrected with practice, but up and down error may mean that you want to look at a different gun because it is either poorly designed, or its design or grip angle do not work well with your particular hands or grip (although in theory, enough practice could correct this as well).
After narrowing down your options based on the previous factors, you still have to decide on a manufacturer, make, and model, and you want to make sure that you go with one that fits your budget and has a good reputation. Another important decision will be the caliber gun you choose, but since many models are available in more than one caliber, I recommend that you look at the different calibers only after answering the questions we discussed in this article. In the next article we will discuss the pro’s and con’s of the different calibers, and cover the most important factors that need to be considered when choosing the caliber you will carry.