By definition, a polite human society is an armed society. Millions of Americans are interested in buying a gun, and people come by searching for what kind of gun to buy.
I don’t know! It depends on what you want to do with it.
The gun you need for an elephant hunt is much different that the one you need to pot rats in your alley.
Lately, the most common answer is to respond to an emergency. With all the problems we had after Katrina that is understandable.
A rifle or shotgun is the cat’s meow after a hurricane, while you are a settin’ and a rocking and encouraging looters on their way. For that duty, very little beats a good pump shotgun. Or a really evil looking black rifle.
But when need to get up and get around hits, long guns are mighty unhandy for a quick trip to to the Hiway Robbery for batteries or ice. And they are not all that convenient for most other emergency uses, either.
Long guns are especially unhandy when you are loading fresh supplies in your car’s trunk – and a critter with a steak knife and a grin comes around the front of your car. You have less than two seconds to react before you join your ancestors.
Even with the extra speed fright gives you, long guns are slow to get into action. At seven yards or less the one hand gun is your personal life preserver.
So my first pointer on handguns is pretty simple. If you feel that you may leave your own property during an emergency, go to the the appropriate place and get a Concealed Carry Weapons Permit. Now, before you need it.
You aren’t likely to be troubled for it during a genuine emergency – but you really should get accustomed to day to day carry during a non-crisis. And that requires a CCW.
Next, you need a life preserver that feels comfortable to your hand. If it’s not comfortable, you probably will not practice loading and handling the piece – so you are much more likely to be the loser in a serious predatory attack.
What kind should you get? That depends on you. Semi-automatic pistols require some strength to operate. Can you “rack” the slide to load and empty the chamber? If it is difficult, you are likely to remove the magazine but fail to empty the chamber, leaving you with a very dangerous one shot pistol.
Even worse, some guns will let you shoot the magazine dry and quit with the slide closed. If you cannot work the slide, you will be unable to reload, leaving you with a clumsy lump of metal in your hand.
Hold the grip in your shooting hand, right for righties, with your trigger finger down the side of the frame. See if you can push the slide all the way back with your other hand. Without placing your hand over the ejection port of the piece. You will need to do that both to load and to unload the pistol, so if that is difficult for you, give that pistol a pass.
Another consideration is the size of your hand. The semi-auto’s slide is sharp and comes back with authority – and tiny semi-autos and large hands are not a compatible combination. Slide bite will give you a pain in the web of your hand every time.
What about the little semi-autos with “tip up barrels?” It’s true that the tip up barrel makes loading easier – but the only ones I have found are in .22 and .25 caliber. They still have a reciprocating slide that can bite even normal size hands, and the sub .30 calibers are a little small, even for threatening someone.
PERSONALLY, If I were buying my first pistol I would look for a medium caliber that had a grip that fits my hand but not so small the slide would cut my hand when I fire it, and that locked the slide back when the magazine is empty. But there are other opinions, just as there are also revolvers to consider.
As an aside, several people I know keep their semi-auto unloaded with the slide locked back by their bedside. The loaded magazine is on top of the valance, out of sight of children. A well practiced “grab the mag, stuff it in, and release the slide lock” is their two second emergency drill. Yes, their “early warning system” is a yappy dog in the house.
Double action revolvers are usually much easier for beginners to operate. Swing the cylinder out, load it, swing it back in, pull the trigger, the hammer comes back – BANG! Swing the cylinder out, empty it, look to see all the holes are empty, swing the cylinder back in, and practice your gun handling in perfect safety.
As long as the cylinder is empty the revolver cannot fire, and as long as the hammer is down the revolver should be safe unless you cock it or pull the trigger. So the double action revolver is probably the simplest and safest for most of us.
Single Action revolvers? Are fine for the Miniver Cheevy’s who feel they should’a charged San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt. While some SA revolvers have a transfer bar action and are safe with a full cylinder, many “cowboy guns” MUST be carried with the hammer down on an empty cylinder. Either way, a SA revolver that MUST be manually cocked before every shot is not something I would recommend for an ordinary person.
New or used? As long as it is mechanically reliable, one major point is in favor of used. Older guns do not have the “lock” feature that may disable a handgun when you most need to use it. Many who chose new disable the lock with a drop of RED Loctite. Good insurance.
How about carry? Many men carry “naked” in their pocket, exposing their life preserver to the usual dirt and trash a man picks up. A good pocket holster will keep things clean, and expedite matters when push comes to shove.
But I prefer belt carry, either inside or outside the belt. Since I am large and lumpy, inside belt carry of even the 3″ barreled Smith and Wesson Model 58 is not conspicuous as long as I wear a coat, and my favorite Remington 51 is all but invisible inside my waistband.
Some think the ladies have it easy, just drop it in their purse. I don’t, since a woman and her purse can be separated – and a loose gun is often hard to separate from the other stuff. While specially made purses with gun pockets are available, it’s my personal opinion that a discreet pocket or belt holster is better for both men and women. There are some that make the largest life preserver “disappear” even while wearing light summer clothes. Of course – the weight remains. The flat semi-auto carries 8 to 16 cartridges, and is normally a bit easier to carry concealed. But getting the first round in the chamber can be difficult during a clip change, and getting the safety off can be a problem unless you practice regularly.
The bulgy revolver holds only six (less commonly, 5 or 7) cartridges, but the safety issue should not arise. And revolvers can also be carried out of sight and out of mind.
Since you do NOT want to participate in a war six shots is NOT a major disadvantage. The sight of a gun in an intended victim’s hand will turn most predators into outbound missiles. There are several rather comical surveillance videos on the web of out of shape perp’s making sub 30 second 300 yard dashes with the thought of hot lead for incentive. Does it always work? No.
But unless you are a street cop, you should not meet a coked up crazy who will not turn tail at the first sign of unexpected resistance. Few handguns are sufficient for that sort, so if someone breaks in your house, try to go to a long gun. Buckshot leaves an oozy corpse, but that is what a housebreaker has asked for.
For normal use one shot at not much more than arms length should promptly and properly puncture perps who do not promptly pass from your personal space. Period.
And if you are in so much trouble that you need more than six shots – you will most likely run out of time before you empty the cylinder, so you will need prayer much worse than a big magazine.
What caliber? Well, the size of the cartridge is a fairly reliable indicator of power, and the larger and more powerful cartridges need larger, heavier, and harder to conceal guns. The more powerful the cartridge, the more kick and the more live fire practice you need for proper control. And many casual shooters do not tolerate recoil well. Men more so than women, if my experience is any guide.
Gun sales clerks seem to have a thing about bigger being better. I have already mentioned the .22 and .25 as unsuitable for emergency situations. If that’s what you have, so be it. but if possible, a larger caliber is like a larger insurance policy. You have it when you need it.
For my nickel, it’s much better to have a mid-power cartridge in a handy package such as a 380 ACP, 38 Special, 9 MM Luger, or .40 S&W that YOU can handle comfortably instead of the higher power .45 ACP’s and .41 Magnums that I prefer. And that a lot of gun salesmen will push, whether you can handle it or not.
The hairsplitters will differ, but I would put the .380 as the minimum self defense cartridge, while the .357 Magnum loaded with .38 Specials, the 9mm, and .40 S&W are a step up, and are all in the same medium power range. I consider the .357 Magnum, .44 Special, and the .45 ACP to be “high medium” in power, and really need to be worked up to rather than a beginners first life preserver.
I would make sure I was comfortable with a “big gun” before I went to the Magnum cartridges; the .357, .41, .44 or larger. (Yes, I own and shoot several .44 Magnums. It’s a fine cartridge for hunting, but the guns that take it are far too heavy for day wear. While my light and compact Remington 51 in 380 is not a hunting gun, but it has given a trio of would be perps cause for a hasty departure.)
Any of the mid power cartridges will give an ordinary criminal predator enough fear to make them go away. And loaded with quality ammunition (Hornaday’s XTP and FTX bullets are highly regarded for the .380 and 38 Special) even a single hit will be enough to stop almost anything smaller than Blalock’s bull. The larger calibers do drastically increase a predators departure speed, though.
So other than stressing personal comfort, careful quality selection, and your ability to load and manipulate your personal defense weapon, I cannot advise you further.
Those are matters to take up with the most experienced clerk at your favorite gun dealers, and your pocketbook.