Once you have made the decision to purchase a firearm, there are many things to consider before you buy. There are many aspects and features available on the variety of firearms available for purchase and having working knowledge of these features will greatly assist you in determining which firearm is right for you. Do you want a hammer fire, striker fire firearm? Do you want a single action or double action? Do you want a manual safety? Do you want a de-cocker? Are night sights, fiber optic or 3 dot sights right for you? Do you want a magazine disconnect? What caliber is best suited for you? It is important to understand each of these features when considering which firearm is right for you.
The first consideration in purchasing a firearm is what is your intended purpose for the firearm? If you are simply purchasing a firearm for target practice, then a .22 handgun may be for you. 22s are generally easy to use and the ammunition is relatively inexpensive. However, a 22 may not be the best choice for a self-defense firearm. If the purchase is intended for defensive use, then you will have to consider whether you will be carrying the firearm or if it will be used primarily for home defense. When carrying a firearm, it is helpful to have a compact or sub-compact firearm (meaning the firearm will be smaller in size, but not necessarily smaller in caliber). However, if the firearm will be used primarily for home defense, you may want to consider a full-size firearm (but not necessarily a larger caliber firearm) that will be easier to handle, use and will have a higher ammunition capacity. Each different use may lead you to a different firearm purchase.
Another consideration is whether you are interested in a semi-automatic pistol or a revolver. Each firearm has distinct advantages and disadvantages. For instance, a revolver is relatively simply to use, is unlikely to jam or malfunction and depending upon the caliber of the firearm has very good stopping power. However, a revolver also tends to have lower ammunition capacity (usually around five or six rounds), and depending upon the model and caliber, may have significant recoil. For the average shooters, revolvers are also typically much slower to reload and also tend to have a longer and harder trigger pull, which may make it difficult to fire for shooters with weaker hand/finger strength or arthritis. The generally shorter barrels of defensive revolvers also make it somewhat more difficult to accurately fire, especially for those new to shooting.
A semi-automatic handgun utilizes a magazine to load the ammunition, which requires the user to manipulate or rack the slide. If the shooter has weakness in hand strength, some firearms may be more difficult to manipulate than others. However, with proper training, many semiautomatic firearms can easily be loaded and unloaded. Semi-automatic firearms may also jam from time to time, but proper maintenance and having a proper shooting platform tend to minimize this issue with modern semi-automatic firearms. The benefits of semi-automatic firearms are significant, including higher ammunition capacity (with some model able to hold up to 21 rounds of ammunition). Semi-automatic firearms are also much easier to reload and allow the shooter to carry additional magazines of ammunition without being bulky.
Another consideration that is important is your budget. Prescott Gun Club is a firm believer that you are better off having one good quality firearm, rather than two or three inferior firearms. When using a firearm for self-defense, you have to ask yourself: what is your life worth? Save your money so that you will be able to purchase a quality firearm with the features that are right for you. It will pay for itself in the long run with reliability and longevity.
A reputable gun store will not try to force you into purchasing a firearm or tell you what you need. When purchasing a firearm, the retail staff should be willing to show you at least five or more models of firearms, explain the differences of each model and have you work with the firearm to ensure that you can manipulate, load/unload and use the firearm properly. If they are not, find a new gun store that is willing to spend the time with you. It is also very helpful to shoot a variety of firearms before you purchase one. Most ranges will have rental firearms available that will allow you to try to before you buy.
No matter which firearm you ultimately decide to purchase, it is imperative that you make an informed decision about the right firearm for you and even more importantly, receive proper training on safety and use of your particular firearm. QCBN
By Donald S. Grier
Donald Grier is an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and owner of Prescott Gun Club, 1200 Iron Springs Road, Prescott, Arizona 928-910-3457.