Buying A Handgun For The First Time - Every doctor has been asked a medical question at a party, and I'm sure mechanics have been asked auto repair questions in social situations. When people find out I write about guns, they ask things like, "I'm thinking about getting a gun. What's the best first gun for me?"
My usual response is to finish my seat at my desk, take my drink, and say, "Well, that's like asking what the first car was. The transportation needs of a sixteen-year-old in the city are vastly different from those of a sixteen-year-old on a farm in the Midwest." For the most part, that is correct. The first gun that is good for sticking cans on the back porch is quite different from the best first gun for shooting pigeons out of the air. People buy guns for different reasons. The best first gun for one type of shooting sport is likely to be different from the best first gun for another.
Buying A Handgun For The First Time
We can make some educated guesses about who buys guns and why. You buy it. For example, a survey of new gun owners conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation shows that shooting and self-defense are the biggest motivators for gun purchases. So we'll assume for the rest of this article that you're looking for a gun (preferably a handgun) for target shooting, home defense, and personal protection.
Best First Handguns For Beginners
This is where the first problem arises. The retail experience inside most gun stores is nowhere near as pleasant as it is in other types of stores. Instead of grouping firearms by price, size or intended use, most gun stores group firearms by brand name. This may help the store when it needs to count inventory, but it is very confusing for customers looking for a gun for the first time.
Additionally, a lot of brand-specific technical jargon is thrown around. This makes the choice very difficult. Panic and doubt start to set in, followed quickly by analysis paralysis, caused by all the decisions you have to make.
Just rest. We are in the golden age of guns now. Your chances of picking a really bad gun are slim. Better yet, there are many guns designed specifically for those looking for something that is easy to shoot, carry and store, while still having enough firepower to protect their lives when it matters most.
If that's your situation, I recommend starting with a compact, multi-frame pistol that's chambered in 9mm. Good examples are the Glock 19, Smith & Wesson M&P9c, Sig Sauer P320 Carry, Ruger SR9-C and FNS-9 Compact. All these guns are very reliable, safe to handle and easy to use.
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Instead of focusing on one brand over another, let's talk about the features that these guns have in common.
The guns I'm talking about are full-size service pistol versions, such as the Glock 17 (a very common handgun for law enforcement) and the Sig Sauer M7 pistol (a variant of the P320 that was chosen as the US Army's new service pistol). The larger, full-size versions of these guns work well in military and law enforcement belts. However, as soon as the call comes for a smaller, easier to hide version for other applications. This allows the creation of compact 9mm polymer frame pistols. Speaking of…
All of these pistols have a frame made of a high-strength resin-type material (polymer), which forms the base of the gun. The frame holds the trigger mechanism and magazine in place. It also provides a place to attach the slide, barrel, and the rest of what makes a gun a gun. Contrary to what you may have heard, polymer-framed guns are not detectable. Handle metal or x-ray machine. The slide, barrel, magazine, internal workings and ammunition all identified metal detectors. The gun itself shows up clearly on the x-ray.
The advantage of the polymer frame is that it weighs less than metal and does not rust, but it also holds the parts of the gun securely and firmly. Glock was the first company to popularize polymer frames in handguns. Almost every gun manufacturer has followed their lead.
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Speaking of Glock's innovations, they were also the first company to popularize the practice of shooting pistols. I'm a fan of hammer guns, but I recognize that shotguns have advantages. Different for the first pistol owner. For example, their safety is often built into the firing mechanism itself. This means the gun will not "BANG!!" until you make a conscious decision to pull the trigger (you remember the four rules of Safe guns, right?). This is useful if the gun is necessary to protect life, because you don't have to think about throwing the safety when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
In addition, the striker's shooting action gives you a trigger that corresponds to every shot. The trigger pull on a striker fired gun is not as nice as it is on a hammer gun. However, less training is required to master the alignment of the rifle-fired rifle compared to other types of mechanical pistol.
The 9mm cartridge is an excellent balance between magazine capacity, recoil and power. If you're new to firearms, you've probably heard people say that police use handguns chambered in .40S&W. Or, maybe someone will extool the "man-stopping" firepower of the .45 ACP round.
Glock 19 holds 15 rounds of 9mm. A 1911 .45ACP magazine holds 8. Is the .45ACP twice as effective as the 9mm? Not really.
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The truth is that modern bullets in 9mm cause the same damage as bullets in .40S&W or .45ACP. As a result, the police force switched to 9mm from the .40, leaving their officers with more rounds and less time to shoot. The same thing goes for the .45 ACP round. Don't get me wrong, I love my 1911; It is one of my favorite guns. However, it only holds eight rounds in the magazine, compared to, for example, fifteen rounds in the Glock 19.
The modern compact 9mm is as close to the pinnacle of accuracy, firepower and concealability as ever invented. All of these guns are small enough to carry regularly and hold enough rounds to get the job done. However, they are still easy to shoot. And since they fire cheap 9mm cartridges, they are perfect for practice and training. This helps you not only be a gun owner, but an educated and competent gun owner.
You might be tempted to think that a small 9mm pistol like the Glock 48 or Sig P365 is the best first gun for you. Resist that temptation. Although smaller and lighter than the other guns I've mentioned, that reduction in size comes with a price. A smaller size means less mass to reabsorb. There is also a small gun to hold while the gun recoils.
You should first learn to shoot well with a 9mm revolver, then switch to a smaller, more comfortable carry gun.
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Pocket pistols are a great idea for those who can carry a gun at work, but some people work in an office environment that makes concealing even a compact 9mm a difficult task. However, everything I just said about the subcompact 9mm is very true with pocket guns. Yes, they are a great option for discreet carry. No, they are not your best choice for a first gun.
Also, it's hard to argue with the power that long guns like pistols or rifles have in home defense situations. However, what they give you in firepower is at the cost of flexibility. They are not easy to use as you move around your home. They also have limited (if any) use outside of your home, because today people tend to frown when bullets are thrown into the mall. If you think a long gun might be right for you, that's fine, but you should also look at how owning a gun other than your long gun gives you more options for personal protection.
Whatever firearm you choose, treat it regularly and purposefully. The gun is not a talisman of self-protection that repels evil. Instead, it is a tool that responds to the user's abilities. The more skilled the user, the better the results when it matters most. Buy the best first gun for you, then take it to the level so that you can be the best shooter possible.
Before joining the team, Kevin Creighton led marketing for several companies in the firearms world. Kevin has been a gun writer since 2006, writing articles about the new reality of gun ownership in the United States for publications such as American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated, BearingArms.com, Beretta.com and also Downrange TV. He is an active competitor
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