Back in 2012 I bought my first firearm. I spent a lot of time researching to find the right gun for me, and I discovered there is an overwhelming amount of information and if you ask people for help you will find varied and contradictory opinions about every detail. It is for that reason that I decided I’d write this post to help new gun owners with some of the questions they will face.
I think this is the most important issue. Guns by themselves are not dangerous but they can become dangerous in the grasp of an inexperienced handler. Statistically, a person is more likely to hurt themself with their own firearm than to ever face a situation where they’ll need a firearm, but this should not dissuade you from owning one. Being prepared is A Good Idea(tm).
When you are just starting out, you will discover that “Trigger Discipline”, which refers to keeping your finger off of the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you are ready to fire, is a lot more difficult than you might imagine. Most people do not spend all day paying close attention to the location of their fingers, because they aren’t handling firearms. The best solution for poor trigger discipline is a manual safety switch, often called a thumb-safety, because it is activated by your thumb.
MYTH: Thumb Safeties impair your ability to fire
With proper training, operating the manual safety on your firearm will become second-nature. People who tell you that it’s “too much to think about” are wrong. You won’t be thinking about it, because you are going to practice a lot with your firearm unloaded. In short time you will find it is no longer an issue.
I want to emphasize that this recommendation is mostly for new gun owners. Once you have a few years of experience handling your firearms every day, you may decide you are ready to move on to firearms that do not have manual safeties. That is up to you, nobody can tell you if you’re ready for that except you.
TRUTH: Magazine Safeties are BAD
A magazine safety is a device which prevents a firearm from firing if a magazine is not loaded. That’s fine for a range-only weapon, but for a self-defense weapon that is a life-threatening feature. It is possible that you might accidentally eject your magazine in the stress of an actual self-defense situation, and you want your firearm to still fire, there will still be a round in the chamber and that round might save your life. Make sure your carry weapon does not have a magazine safety.
If you’re buying an automatic, and I recommend you buy an automatic, I think Capacity is of the utmost importance. If you’re getting a gun for self defense you can expect you will need to fire 3 to 5 shots per assailant, and you should not assume that you’ll be assaulted by a single person. If you find yourself forced to defend against a group of 3 people, that means your magazine needs to carry 15 rounds. You do not want to be faced with reloading your gun during a firefight.
This is similar to my recommendation about safeties. A decocker is a nifty feature which makes a hot gun cold. A decocked double-action gun can still fire if you pull the trigger, but requires a stronger pull usually. Glocks do not have decockers, and as a direct result are the most common gun in negligent discharge situations. Whether you need one of these is debate-able but I suggest that it doesn’t hurt to have it.
You don’t need to buy a $1000 HK or 1911 to have a good self-defense sidearm. I recommend shopping in the $400-$550 range as a lot of very capable sidearms are in that price range. Smith & Wessons, Berettas, and so on. You can find good guns for less than $400 but your chances of getting junk increase as the price decreases, and when you’re talking about defending your life, reliability is critical.
This is important, maybe most important, but I’m listing this last because you should first narrow your possible choices using the above criteria before moving on to comfort. Once you have a short-list of firearms to buy, go to a range that rents those specific models and try them out. See how they feel in your hand. If the rental model has a lot of mechanical problems don’t assume it’s the gun’s fault, it may be a very used gun and perhaps isn’t as well maintained as it should be, so try it again at a different range with a different gun.
My first gun was a Beretta PX4 Storm, I actually do recommend this sidearm to people as a first gun, it’s got all the features you could want, including an adjustable ‘backstrap’ to fit various hand sizes. It comes in compact and full size versions and they all use the same magazines, it’s lightweight due to a polymer frame, it’s affordable and it’s very safe.
You’ll hear a lot of different opinions about what to buy. I’ve heard them all myself. So while these are my opinions, I am also considering all the various things you are going to hear from people who disagree with me. A lot of people disagree with me about Glocks for example, but those same people will not tell you that Berettas or Smith & Wessons are not also good. So you’ll have to decide for yourself, I hope that this article has been helpful. Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions I haven’t covered here.