Sunday, February 27, 2011

What pistol should I buy?

Of the 300 plus people who have taken my classes, probably close to half don’t yet own a pistol and are taking the class, at least in part, to learn about different pistols so they can make an educated purchase.  Of the many friends and acquaintances I have that know I teach firearms safety, most ask me the question at one time or another—“What pistol should I buy,… what do you recommend?”

I used to give a very quick and specific answer to this question.  Whatever I was carrying at the time, a choice usually based on a cursory analysis and often influenced by marketing,… well that was the pistol I liked best, so that was the pistol I recommended.  I’ve been at this for a while now, having spent over 20 years in the Army and then buy-sell-trading my way through revolvers, semi-autos, plastic guns, wonder nines, 10mm’s, single action only, double action only, single/double action, etc., etc., etc.  As a result, I have handled, fired and possibly carried a very broad variety of pistols, so hopefully from my experience there will be some useful information here for a potential pistol buyer.

For he who is wondering what pistol to buy, a couple of preliminary questions need to be asked and answered.  What is the pistol for—self defense or hunting, fun and relaxation?  How much do you want to spend?  Pistols can be purchased for $100 up to thousands, but a good average rule of thumb is that a quality self-defense capable pistol will cost $500 with accessories.  Are you right or left handed?  Do you have the hand and arm strength of the average male, more or less?  How big is your hand and how well does the pistol fit in your hand?

Handguns were traditionally designed for right handed use by persons with above average hand and arm strength.  Exceptions to this are many, with several models being built to accommodate the needs of people with different characteristics.  Still, far and away the best means of evaluating a pistol is by firing it, and second best is handling it without firing.  For this reason, it’s always best to rent various pistols you might be interested in buying to get an idea of how the pistol fits you.

I always offer my services free of charge to those who complete my courses in the selection of a pistol.  I am usually already at the main gun shows in our area so it’s no trouble to take a look at a specific pistol and help evaluate how it fits the buyer’s hand and intended use.

Cruising the gun boards,,,, as well as the many brand-specific boards, can give you lots of detailed information on specific brands as well as their various models and styles.  So if you’re doing your own research, please take advantage of these great resources. 

My CZ-75 Compact
Now, my recommendations for defensive pistols:  at the moment, my top choice is the CZ-75B, far and away my favorite handgun design.  It’s the pistol I use for competition and general purpose use.  The ‘CZ-75 Compact’ is my carry pistol.  Both of these are steel, relatively heavy, but accurate and very easy to control with the 9mm cartridge in which they come standard.  These CZs are single/double action and can be carried cocked and locked.  They are affordable at $450 to $550, although prices are inching up, and factory 16rd magazines, holsters and other accessories are readily available for them. 

Ambidextrous controls on the 9UC
Next I would recommend the Bersa Thunder Nine.  This is also a larger, heavier pistol, but is accurate and very controllable in 9mm.  A compact version, the Thunder 9UC (for ultra compact) is available as well.  These pistols too are single/double action with a decocker so they cannot be carried cocked and locked.  These are among the best buys on the market at $300 to $400.  The drawback to these is the limited choice of holster and the lack of available affordable magazines, though the stock magazine holds 17rds.

The Smith & Wesson M&P series, the Springfield XD series, and the FNP series like the Glocks, are very popular, available in multiple lengths, calibers and features, and all run in the $500 to $600 range.  I find all of these a little blocky and uncomfortable to carry, though all of these pistols are wildly popular and readily available.  Magazines, holsters and accessories are readily available as well.

Kel-Tec's "small nine" the PF-9
Many people like small pistols for ease of carry and concealment.  The drawback to such firearms is that they are more difficult to shoot accurately than full-sized pistols.  However in this area I recommend the S&W J-frame revolvers or the Kel-Tec pistols, especially the PF-9.

Your questions or comments?


Ammo said...

I am totally agreed with you that small pistol are easy to carry but they are difficult to shoot more accurately. In my opinion,Webley Raider .177/.22 Pneumatic Air Rifle is much better than other guns

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