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Old 07-14-2010, 02:59 PM   #1
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Buying Your First Handgun

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig8/clark-d4.html

Buying Your First Handgun

by Dick Clark
by Dick Clark

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Okay, so something has finally tipped the scales of your judgment in favor of acquiring your first handgun. Maybe you know someone who was just victimized by a criminal. Maybe you have a new family and feel the urge to make yourself ready to protect them. Whatever the reason, you have decided to buy a handgun. Here's how to do it.
Legality
For most United States citizens, purchasing a handgun is as simple as going to your local gun store, choosing a particular gun to buy, showing photo I.D., filling out the background check form, and then paying for the gun upon approval from NICS (usually instantaneous, but may take as long as three days). There are a few states where this procedure is more cumbersome due to some requirement imposed by statute. To check your state's particular rules, simply ask a local gun dealer or refer to Handgunlaw.us. Each state's rules vary, so I won't cover them here, but some states restrict not only who may purchase and possess a handgun, but what particular models are permitted for such possession within that state. Restrictions may apply to so-called "assault pistols," those that are capable of accepting high-capacity magazines (usually 10+), or those that the state may classify as "Saturday Night Specials."
Possible Applications
The first, most obvious question that you must ask yourself is "What role(s) do I expect this gun to fill?" The possible answers include competition or target shooting, hunting, home defense, and self-defense outside of the home.
Competition or Target Shooting
I can neatly avoid providing any useful information on this point because anyone who plans to spend cash on a "race gun" or high-performance target handgun is likely already familiar enough with weapons to have no need for my advice. It suffices to say that there are handguns designed for fast presentation, sight acquisition, and follow-up shooting that are advantageous for competition use, but not practical or economical for defensive uses. Likewise, there are target handguns that are designed for precise shot placement that may be too bulky, of insufficient caliber, or otherwise unsuited for defensive applications.
Hunting
Hunting handguns may be used to take a number of different varieties of game, from squirrel to deer to wild boar to bear. Regardless of the quarry, a hunting handgun is almost always a bulky sort of implement, either because the gun is chambered in a large caliber that requires a heavy frame and barrel, because optics are mounted, or both.
The most common hunting handgun type is the large-caliber revolver. Many states permit deer hunters to hunt with pistols and revolvers above a certain caliber, usually .40. The .44 Magnum cartridge is well known for its ability to take down even large, dangerous game like bear, and it may be found employed by all manner of medium and large game hunters. Revolvers in a large caliber like the .44 Magnum are undeniably intimidating and effective enough for use in home defense, but are too bulky for most personal defense applications where discreet possession of the handgun is preferred.
Single-shot handguns utilizing either a break-action or bolt-action occupy a small but growing niche within handguns designed for hunting use. Predominantly manufactured by companies like Remington, Savage, and Thompson-Center, these guns are extremely specialized and are designed for one thing: to accurately fire a rifle bullet out of a package much smaller than the average rifle. The recoil is often tremendous, the time for a second shot is long, and the speed for target acquisition is as slow as it would be with any scoped weapon. These specialized firearms may be used for hunting or for long-range target shooting, but they have little application outside of these areas.
Home Defense
For many users, a handgun is the best weapon for home defense. The handgun is more easily wielded than a shotgun by individuals with a slight build, and the shorter length of a handgun allows greater maneuverability in close quarters than a shortened pistol-grip shotgun. In considering a handgun for home defense, there are several questions that you should ask yourself before proceeding:
1) Does the gun fit in my hand comfortably? Is it comfortable for the largest and smallest potential shooter?
In a life or death situation, confidence is a necessary component of a potentially life-saving action. Having good positive control of the gun in your hands is essential to confidently wielding it against an attacker. Additionally, you must be able to hang on to a gun in order to fire it safely and accurately.
2) Does the cartridge caliber/load make the handgun's recoil too severe for the people most likely to need to use the gun in defense?
Recoil that is so strong as to be uncomfortable can make a shooter anxious and tends to dissuade the shooter from practicing regularly. Both of these may mean that the handgun is less useful when a situation requiring decisive action arises. As physics dictate, a cartridge generally generates more felt recoil as the mass it has to displace decreases. Therefore, larger, heavier guns will typically have less recoil than smaller guns chambered in the same cartridge. In a smaller pocket pistol, .380 ACP may be the largest round a shooter feels confident with, whereas the same shooter might be completely at ease with a .44 Special in a heavy, full-frame revolver. For the recoil sensitive, .380 ACP, 9 mm, and .38 Special are all safe bets that still offer reasonable power.
3) Is the cartridge for which the gun is chambered effective enough to insure that I will be able to stop an attacker?
There is much debate over caliber selection within defensive handgun circles. Many shooters argue that anything less potent than 9 mm or .38 Special is unreliable for self-defense. Except for extremely petite or physically weak shooters, I would tend to agree that cartridges like .32 ACP, .25 ACP, .22 Short, .22 LR, .22 Magnum, and even the .380 ACP are all too impotent for a dedicated home defense weapon. While they are all superior to a pocketknife for self-defense, I think it is worth the slight extra recoil to move up to a more effective "major" caliber, including 9mm (although this round's effectiveness is sometimes questioned too), .38 Special (also criticized as impotent), .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .44 Magnum, .44 Special, and .45 ACP, among others.
If you buy a minor caliber, you will definitely have to purchase the more expensive defensive ammunition in order to improve the round's efficacy against an attacker. Standard full metal jacket or "hardball" ammunition will work satisfactorily for defense work if in the largest calibers, such as .44 Magnum or .45 ACP. This should not be a major consideration, though, since I would generally recommend defensive ammo for regular carry because those rounds frequently feature corrosion resistant nickel-plated cartridge casings and are manufactured to tighter specifications.
4) Does this manufacturer have a reputation for reliability?
Unless you are really pushing the poverty line, it is hard to justify buying a gun that might work when you need it. Stay away from guns manufactured by unknown or disreputable makers. My short list of quality handgun makers would include: Sig-Sauer, Heckler & Koch, Ruger, Glock, Smith & Wesson (revolvers), Colt, Kimber, Para-Ordnance, Kel-Tec, Walther, Springfield, Beretta, Browning, and Taurus. Some of these are better than others, but each has established a reputation for reliability and safety. There are other companies that make good guns, but the companies listed above have history of consistent excellence for at least the past ten years, and many for over a century.
Self-Defense Outside of the Home
In addition to the considerations listed above, the selection of a handgun for self-defense outside the home requires the added consideration of concealability. If a gun is too bulky to be worn comfortably on your person, you are less likely to carry it often and therefore less likely to have it at hand when the need for it arises. Be sure to select a gun that isn't too heavy for you to easily carry. For some, this means selecting a handgun chambered in .380 ACP or some other smaller caliber. While these calibers may not be optimal, they are preferable to being empty-handed in a situation where a gun could save your life.
Action Type
Handguns are most commonly available in one of two action types: revolver or semi-automatic.
A revolver holds five, six, or more rounds of ammunition in a rotating cylinder behind the barrel. When all the rounds are expended, the shooter must swing the cylinder out, eject the spent casings, and load each of the chambers with a new cartridge. The only revolvers that you should consider are "double action" (DA), meaning that you need not cock the hammer before pulling the trigger to fire a round.
A semi-automatic holds ammunition in a magazine, usually vertically inserted into the grip. When you pull the trigger to fire, the hammer strikes the firing pin, discharges the cartridge, and uses the force of the fired cartridge to cycle the action of the gun, reloading the chamber with a fresh round from the magazine. Semi-automatic pistols may be single action (SA), double action, or double-action only (DAO). A DA semi-automatic will fire if the user pulls the trigger when the hammer is at rest and there is a round in the chamber. The trigger pull for the second shot will be shorter and lighter because the action of the gun automatically cocks the hammer. A DAO has the same, heavy trigger pull each time, and the hammer is always at rest.
As with revolvers, I would recommend that most first-time buyers avoid SA semi-automatics simply because the learning curve is slightly steeper and the time required to bring the weapon into action is longer since the hammer must be manually cocked prior to the first shot. The most popular SA semi-automatic is the M1911 .45 ACP designed by John Moses Browning and manufactured most famously by Colt. While this venerable design has much to offer, I cannot recommend it as the sole lifeline for a beginning shooter.
When choosing between a revolver and a semi-automatic, remember these factors:

Semi-Automatic
  • may be reloaded more rapidly by simply removing empty magazine and inserting a fresh one (and, depending on the model, either racking the slide again to chamber the first round or releasing the slide from its locked position)
  • usually has a higher magazine capacity
  • may be flatter and therefore more concealable
  • more likely to have a manual safety
  • malfunction/misfeed may require more steps to remedy
Revolver
  • cleaning is easier because disassembly is usually not required
  • in case of a misfire, simply pull the trigger again
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Old 07-14-2010, 03:19 PM   #2
what did I miss?
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very handy! I am actually in the process of purchasing my first handgun. I have experience shooting but just never purchased. I have decided to go with a Glock 17.

I want something that my GF and I can shoot often without breaking the bank. I can alway give the pistol to her and upgrade later!
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Old 07-14-2010, 03:24 PM   #3
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Very informative. This will help a lot of our members that seek to responsibly own a firearm. Another thing, if I may humbly add, is that you practice shooting your firearm. Some thinks that once you bought your gun and a box of ammo they just put it their bedside drawer and call it good. No its not enough.

Please do attend a Handgun Safety Course, practice, then if money and time is available attend an Advance Handgun Handling Course, practice then continue to hone your skills and practice. Did I mention to practice?
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Old 07-14-2010, 03:31 PM   #4
What's the matter, Colonel Sandurz? CHICKEN?
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nice post matt! this has been coming up a lot lately here. sticky!
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Old 07-14-2010, 03:45 PM   #5
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Good post. Might quash some arguments, and help some of the prospective owners.
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Old 07-14-2010, 04:01 PM   #6
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To piggyback on the handgun handling and safety classes, also look at shooting IDPA (Int'l defensive pistol assosciation), great real world scenario based training.
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Old 07-14-2010, 04:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kinetik873 View Post
To piggyback on the handgun handling and safety classes, also look at shooting IDPA (Int'l defensive pistol assosciation), great real world scenario based training.
Does anyone still have the video scenario facilities? I used to use them when I was in Portland and Denver- live rounds on a paper screen where a video is projected onto the screen, with shoot/no shoot decisions to be made....?
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Old 07-14-2010, 04:23 PM   #8
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Thanks for the info. I've been looking at buying my first handgun and the more knowledge the better. Great post.
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Old 12-01-2010, 08:55 AM   #10
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Great write up! Glad you posted this. Took me quite a bit longer to learn all this off searching the internet. My advice for first time handgun buyers(if you want it):

1. Go hold lots of guns. When you approach the case with weapons just ask they guy if you can look at a few guns. He will say yes and ask you what you want to hold. At this point let him know what ones you want to hold or ask him what his advice is for you in your situation. In my experience guys who work at gun stores love to talk about weapons but everyone has their own idea on whats best for you. Only you will know. but you can learn a lot from the people working at a gun shop. They love to answer questions and DO NOT be embarrassed that it is your first time. They are happy that you are interested in guns at all. Some stores even let you fire the gun before you by it. Go there if you can find someone with a shooting range in their store.

2. Dont break the bank! you will want a new gun soon enough. No doubt the one you want will cost more.

3. Get a longer barrel. Im talking around 5". It will be more accurate and will help you LEARN to shoot. Also IMO a heavier gun will take more recoil and not leave as much for you. If you want a small concealed gun think about getting a 4" barrel first to learn with. If you know what you want then get it!

4. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot your new gun. It is the only way to learn. It is better to shot say 100 rounds once a week than to shoot 300 rounds in one day. It will leave you tired and weak in the arms. Your shot will drop. I know cause I have so much damn fun shooting I cant stop till my arms hurt.

5.Use fun targets! take the old TV to the dump (stop trashin our kids play ground) and get some cheap cut outs of celebs, or get one of your mother in law printed on cheap cardboard at the local Copyworks!

All this is in my own unprofessional opinion
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Old 12-01-2010, 09:13 AM   #11
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I like to get the silhouette. There several to choose from. They are good size target and if you look around you can buy them in bulk and get them cheap. I also like them because you can use them to shoot at different spots so one target can last for 100 rounds or so. (Head, Shoulder, Arm, Chest, Hands etc). Like it was stated before don't over do it. The more you shoot the worst you might get and this can discourage people. I know my wife likes to shoot more when she is getting a good grouping. When she is having a bad day we leave early or switch to a lighter gun such as a .22. I also take more then one caliber (because I have several). I always take what I carry to practice with. Then I take something cheaper such as the .22 to plink a little.
Practice with the target at different distances. When I or my wife are not doing well we move the target up a little until we improve and then move it back. I also recommend a speed loader. Otherwise you can wear your finger out.
My 2 cent
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Old 12-01-2010, 09:21 AM   #12
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x2 for practice with a .22 handgun. Fun, Fun, Fun. Shoot all day and not get tired, or break the bank. .22 Does not shoot like any other caliber handgun.

9mm and 45 are great calibers to start with. IMO. A .40 is loud and has a greater recoil than a 45. It could be the guns I have fired and the way they are designed to handle recoil but I think a .40 is just damn loud and has to much recoil. Great as a carry weapon as it has the same stopping force as a 45 up close and the noise will scare just about anything.
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Old 12-09-2010, 12:07 PM   #13
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video

Mike @ TheFirearmsChannel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HNX6evsDd4

Found this video on youtube and I think he makes some good points.

Personally, MY first handgun was a Sig P229 9mm and I LOVE it. Bit pricey but it was perfect for ME. Relatively inexpensive to shoot, small enough to conceal carry, not so small that it's awkward to shoot, easy to disassemble and clean, reliable/durable, accurate, inexpensive magazines (mec-gar), has a .22 conversion kit, just all around everything i wanted, but I paid for it. In hindsight i got lucky that the gun I paid $900 for, fit me so well. In the end, buy the gun that you think you will regret the least and it will probably work out for you.

$.02 Happy spending!
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Old 12-09-2010, 09:41 PM   #14
This is TW. One never knows what is a joke anymore
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also got a question when it comes to magazines and storage. Say for instance i have 2 magazines for a handgun. One is loaded with 13 rounds of ammo while the other one is empty. Do i have to switch out the ammo with the magazines every so often or can i leave one magazine always ready? ive heard that leaving ammo in a magazine for long periods of time can weaken the springs in the magazines...
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Old 12-09-2010, 10:16 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skunk View Post
very handy! I am actually in the process of purchasing my first handgun. I have experience shooting but just never purchased. I have decided to go with a Glock 17.

I want something that my GF and I can shoot often without breaking the bank. I can alway give the pistol to her and upgrade later!
X2
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Old 12-10-2010, 02:12 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beastlytaco View Post
also got a question when it comes to magazines and storage. Say for instance i have 2 magazines for a handgun. One is loaded with 13 rounds of ammo while the other one is empty. Do i have to switch out the ammo with the magazines every so often or can i leave one magazine always ready? ive heard that leaving ammo in a magazine for long periods of time can weaken the springs in the magazines...
Leaving the magazine spring under tension for long periods of time is not what ruins them, it's the constant unloading and reloading.
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Old 12-10-2010, 04:22 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beastlytaco View Post
also got a question when it comes to magazines and storage. Say for instance i have 2 magazines for a handgun. One is loaded with 13 rounds of ammo while the other one is empty. Do i have to switch out the ammo with the magazines every so often or can i leave one magazine always ready? ive heard that leaving ammo in a magazine for long periods of time can weaken the springs in the magazines...
I always leave my mags loaded minus 1 or 2 rounds from full capacity.
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Old 12-12-2010, 12:09 PM   #19
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have you ever had issues with springs in the magazines?
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