I have been teaching firearm training classes for 5 years. That is a relatively short amount of time compared to many of my mentors. Just the same there is one recurring topic that most students really want to discuss with me… What Gun To Buy. I try to avoid this topic of conversation for several reasons. First off, there are far to many opinions among gun enthusiasts to make this a safe topic of discussion. Gun people are extremely passionate and opinionated and I just assume avoid a discussion about why any certain make is the best thing since sliced bread. Also, I believe that each individual has unique needs in a handgun and that makes it difficult to give meaningful advice. All that being said, I am outlining some basic principles that I believe can lead anyone to buy the correct firearm for their situation.
First, please understand that you need to shop based on your need. There are many different uses (even within the self-defense category) for which you may intend to use your firearm. Some of these may include: hunting, backpacking, to keep in the car, to keep in the house, to carry on my person, to carry in luggage or in a handbag/purse, etc.
Beyond determining your need you also need to consider your body type and economic situation. I’m 5′ 8” and about 170 lbs. I don’t have a lot of upper body muscle and can’t handle some of the higher caliber weapons as effectively as I wish. Some of us have small fingers, fat fingers, etc. Your economic situation is crucial to consider not just when considering the cost of the weapon but also in considering the cost of the ammunition. Your tendancy to get out and train with your firearm may be the single most important factor in saving your life. May sure you select a firearm that you can afford to shoot often.
The last generic consideration, before I outline the 3 factors, is your level of expertise. The more trained and proficient you become the more your needs in a firearm may change.
With those considerations in place let me put forth three important factors when selecting a caliber of weapon.
- Stopping Power – Effectiveness. Without neglecting the next two factors, you want to get the most powerful weapon you can. There are some calibers that nobody would debate as to their efficiency. For example, the .22 long rifle round is not something you would want to bet your life on. The .45 ACP is something you could almost guarantee is going to stop someone. Anywhere in the middle is debatable depending on who you ask.
- Ammo Capacity. More ammunition is always a good thing. Some calibers of handguns, although effective, may reduce the total amount of ammunition you can carry in the firearm. Common examples are the .38 Special and the .357. Both are debatable in their effectiveness but perhaps too big of a round to be practical for concealed carry.
- Size. You must select a firearm that will be comfortable to carry and to use. In the concealed carry world there are as many different types of holsters and options to conceal as there are handguns to choose from. Don’t buy a Desert Eagle if you plan on carrying it on your waist. Your back will ache after a few hours and you may have an issue with sitting down and standing up. Also, consider your body type as we discussed earlier. Buy something appropriate for your strength and size.
Its not easy to find the perfect gun for your and for your needs. This is made much less easy if you are trying to buy one firearm that will serve many needs. Handguns aren’t cheap but remember that your life may be on the line and this is the tool that could save it.
Jacob S Paulsen