The world of Defensive Weaponcraft has been overwhelmed by opinions about the best handgun for self-defense or the best caliber or the best load, etc. Anyone who reads any of the gun magazines for very long could get a headache trying to sort out the conflicting opinions.
Anyone who reads any of the gun magazines for very long could get a headache trying to sort out the conflicting opinions. And they are just that: Opinions. Some of the folks expressing their opinions on the subject are well seasoned armed professionals who have extensive experience carrying weapons in harms way, and some of these opinions are being expressed by people who couldn’t find their own butts with a search warrant. And a lot are expressed by folks who fall somewhere between the two extremes. So what is an honest Joe or Jane Citizen who is contemplating buying a handgun for defensive purposes to do? (I haven’t included police or military in this equation because they are mostly required to carry whatever their departments or services dictate.) You need to define the problem and the relative parameters.
To begin with, you need to understand that a pistol is really a poor defensive weapon. The effectiveness of a defensive weapon is predicated on how quickly it can incapacitate an attacker (notice I did not say kill). And that is a function of how much power can be applied to the target. Adequate defensive power can be applied to a target with a center fire rifle or a large bore shotgun. All defensive pistol calibers are marginal at best in regards to defensive power. But how many of us are able to carry our AK-47 or Rem. 11-87 SP shotguns around with us all day?
The one advantage a pistol has is size and weight. A pistol can be readily concealed, and proper carrying techniques can make it handy, comfortable to carry, and quick to deploy. Which means that there is a good chance you will have it with you when you really need it, while your rifles and shotguns remain home in the gun safe.
So, accepting its limitations, how does one go about selecting the right handgun for defensive use that you can effectively carry on you? Let’s consider some criteria.
Ergonomics= That’s a ten dollar word meaning that the pistol will fit your hand and is comfortable to shoot. Find an indoor range that rents pistols and try different models, and shoot them. The pistol should fit your hand so that you are able to place your trigger finger where you can press the trigger straight to the rear, and the recoil will come straight back in an axis that aligns with your shooting arm. It should also not be painful to shoot. I read once that a famous firearms instructor was once asked what he thought the best defensive handgun was, and he answered “The one you have with you when you need it”
Sights= Fixed or adjustable, they need to be large enough to see properly and to get quickly aligned on the target. Try aligning the sights on a WW2 era G.I .45 in dim light and you will see what I mean.
Action type= Single Action revolvers belong in the “fun” or “collector” category. Not for serious self-defense. A quality Double Action revolver is fine, especially for brand new shooters. They are simpler to learn on, and are not as ammunition sensitive as auto-loaders. In autos, the action type really doesn’t matter (single action, double- action, double-action only), but new shooters should keep it simple and avoid all the bells, whistles and levers. That’s why I am partial to Glocks.
Manufacturer= Selecting a handgun by an established manufacturer is important. Whether it is domestic or imported, insure you purchase a model made by a company that has been in business for a long time. All of the major firearms manufacturers will warrant their products.
Where to look and get advice= Ask a number of experienced shooters what handguns for defensive use they like and why. You are going to get an amazing variety of answers but it gives you a starting point. Talk to different handgun instructors. Check out different gun stores. A word of warning here. By gun store, I mean a shop that specializes in the sale of firearms. Most of the people there are knowledgeable. Avoid getting advice from the kid behind the sporting goods counter at Wal-Mart. The odds are that last week he was working in the appliance section
O.K. You now have some criteria to begin a logical search for the defensive handgun that is ideal for you. But what about what caliber to get it in?
That is a whole different subject.