On average out of every 10 students or shooters I deal with, about 3 or 4 have a newly purchased handgun they are trying to shoot they are not comfortable with, and are not able to shoot it safely or accurately. Let me clarify I am not referring to a beginner student that just does not know how to shoot. Im talking about someone that purchases a gun because they think it will be a good gun for them by reviews, price, looks, or a recommendation. Don’t get me wrong, all those reasons are very important and yes, those subjects need to be researched however; all the “research” in the world will not tell you if that particular gun will be comfortable for you to shoot.
I am going to gear this toward the selection of concealed handguns for protection through concealed carry. This is important because there is a huge difference between a full size frame you might use for target practice verses a gun made small enough for you to carry on or about your person throughout your daily activities.
If you are a beginner my advice is to learn how to shoot a handgun 1st, before you purchase a handgun for concealed carry purposes. By using the comparison between a rifle(long gun) vs. a handgun(short gun) we know a long gun is way more accurate than a pistol at longer distances. The same deduction can be made comparing a full size pistol with a longer barrel to a smaller concealed carry pistol with a shorter barrel.
There are 2 things that will greatly magnify shooting errors or mistakes that effect the impact of your bullets. Those reasons are 1, the distance between the gun and the target and 2, the distance between the front site post and the rear site notches.
- The further you are from the target the more exact you have to be with your sight alignment and your sight picture. The distance will greatly magnify any errors in your shooting causing the impact of your bullets to be off the mark you are aiming for. In other words if you are shooting from the 7 yard mark and you are missing the mark by 4 inches it might not seem like very much, however when that same shot is made from 15 yards that 4 inch difference will be more than doubled and your mark will be missed by more than 8 to 10 inches.
- The shorter the barrel, the less pressure there is to stabilize the flight of the bullet at longer distances. That also means the distance between the front and rear sites is very minimal. Here is an exercise to demonstrate this. Hold a ball point pen or pencil in your hand with the point pointing up. extend your arm fully out and place the very point of the tip on a light switch that is about 6 to 10 feet away like it is the front site post of your gun. Just hold it still. you cant hold it still. You will notice a slight arc of movement up and down and or side to side but you are probably still able to keep the point of the pen within the switch plate cover. Now move your hand about an inch from your nose and try keeping the point on the same switch plate. It is bouncing around and almost impossible to stabilize within the plate. That is the same issue with a smaller gun. The short distance between the front and rear sights make shooting accurately very challenging.
Understanding that very small handguns designed for conceal carry are not conducive for a new shooter to learn on. It is possible however most attempts end in severe frustration, and many dollars spent on ammo. Several students have picked up a small pocket gun because they have small hands and think the little gun will be easier to shoot. It is just the opposite. Do not buy a gun because it looks CUTE. I have a small .380 that has more kick than my full sized frame pistols because a small pistol puts all the recoil on your arms because it is so small. With that being said learn how to shoot before you decide on a gun you want to purchase for carry purposes.
Once you are at that point and ready to purchase a gun, how do you know if you are getting a gun you can shoot. With any purchase there are several things to consider, and research. Lets get started and check out the main things you will need to look for in your selection. With so many things that can be considered I am narrowing the criteria down to 4 requirements that all might play off each other and need to link up together.
- CONCEAL-ABILITY For obvious reasons concealed carry handguns are made smaller because they are easier to hide. Strapping on a full size 1911 and throwing your shirt tail over it might hide the gun but not the shape.(printing) Dont get me wrong I have concealed a full size pistol many times. Yes its easy in the middle of winter when you have many layers of clothing on. Most of the time you will probably want a smaller pistol that can be concealed easier.
- EASE OF USE/SHOOT-ABILITY Pick your gun out by shooting one first if possible. Try and find someone that will allow you to shoot the gun you are thinking about getting. Everything you research might point to that exact gun but when you purchase it and try to shoot it, it just doesn’t feel right or is not comfortable for you to shoot. It might shoot great but you cant operate it. I have dealt with countless students that cant pull the slide back on there semi auto. Some purchase a revolver and cant pull the double action trigger. There are far too many reasons why someone cant operate their gun from they are not trying to operate it the right way or they just have a gun that is far beyond their skill level.
- STOPPING POWER Stopping power is how well that bullet will stop a threat. I personally don’t get too wrapped up in stopping power. I prefer to carry at least 9mm however, a well placed shot no matter the caliber can still eliminate a threat. A .22 almost killed Reagan in the 80s, and the news cycle is always full of accidental killings of smaller caliber firearms. If you are comfortable carrying a larger caliber and can shoot accurately and safely, by all means carry that. Some folks do not have the skill level or the confidence to carry a larger caliber. Here in Texas the last legislative session removed caliber restrictions for our License to Carry. They did this to not discriminate against someone that does not have the ability to work and handle a bigger caliber.(elderly, handicapped etc..) I wouldn’t recommend a .22 if you have the skill lever to carry something more powerful but if you don’t, yes I would rather see someone have a.22 rather than nothing. Another point in stopping power is the amount of rounds that you will have. There are less rounds in a larger caliber for obvious reasons. You might want a smaller caliber as a trade off for more rounds.
- AFFORDABILITY As with anything any purchase you make, you have to be able to afford. There are several brands and models or good reliable handguns that are affordable. There are several cheaply made and very inexpensive fire arms as well. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Do your research on this part if you are a new shooter. Im not going to go into brand specifics on here but don’t mind advising outside this blog. I am not saying go buy a custom pistol for 1500 dollars. Should you ever have to use your gun in a self defense situation, you will loose that gun to an evidence locker for months to years to possibly never getting it back or just not wanting it back. Do you really want to loose that $1500, or family heirloom to an evidence locker where it will NOT be maintained? Their are plenty of reliable and dependable handguns on the market for 500 and under. Most of my primary carry guns are around a 300 value.
Taking all the above into consideration research and pick out your firearm. Do your best to actually shoot that model before you purchase one for yourself. At a minimum find one at your local gun store and put your hands on it. Operate it and ask if you can dry fire it. Make sure it feels okay and is within your skill level. Try and get some competent instruction and coaching.
On a last note I feel I would be derelict in my advice if I didn’t touch on the cosmetics of a gun purchased for carry purchases. Understanding that the cosmetic look of your gun has nothing to do with its function, but it might affect the outcome of a jurors mind should you find yourself on trial after using a gun that had a cerekoted blood splatter pattern on it. A pink gun might look cartoon-ish to some that dont know fire arms. A simple thing like bling, or color might make that juror think you dont take gun ownership serious because it looks like a cartoon. Imagine an incident that involved yourself and another that had a gun as well. During the trial those jurors will probably be looking at 2 guns on an evidence table the entire time. If yours is pink and raspberry with bling on the grip, and the other gun is just a plain Jane black gun, what gun is everyone looking at the entire time. Yes you guessed it, your pink one. It might be cute, and thats great if thats your style. Use it for target practice but do yourself a favor and dont use a gun like that for self defense. Im not saying you will loose a case but you will be placing another speed bump in the path of your lawyer that he or she will have to drive over.
Until next week, keep em tight around the x ring,