1st time handgun buyer's guide

This is a discussion on 1st time handgun buyer's guide within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I know there are a lot of experienced handgunners on here, but we also get a lot of people that are completely new to handguns, ...

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Thread: 1st time handgun buyer's guide

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array jeep45238's Avatar
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    1st time handgun buyer's guide

    I know there are a lot of experienced handgunners on here, but we also get a lot of people that are completely new to handguns, or firearms period - to those people, at times the choice of a first handgun can be an overwhelming experience. I put this together for those people.

    I wrote this over the weekend, and will be putting it on the counter at work (I work at a small town gun shop - 2 or 3 of us behind the counter, lots of customers). Right now it seems that there are a lot of people that are purchasing firearms of all kinds for the very first time in their life - mostly for defensive purposes (many claim house gun, but are very interested about concealed carry and do not want to admit it openly at first for some odd reason). I also get a lot of people who are coming in to purchase a handgun as a gift for their loved ones (without their significant other there).

    First off - the person who is going to be shooting the gun should be the one picking it out and hand feeling it, getting an idea of it's operational style and, if it is to be used for defensive purposes, the specific quarks about that gun when it comes to clearing jams and other misc. topics.

    On Friday I spent about 40 minutes each with 4 different customers, 2 couples, 2 individuals, who wanted to purchase firearms but did not understand the difference between semi autos, different calibers, etc., so I went home and decided to put together a packet that will be laid out on the counter for them to read if we are busy with other customers, or to take home for further reference and reflection.

    I know this does not address caliber, or new vs. used, or how things can be carried - that was the intent. I do NOT want somebody making a purchase decision based on caliber - I want them making that decision based on how they like the platform, as odds are we'll be able to get it in a caliber of their choice, or at least recommend a good caliber for their given use. I also did not address new vs. used - I personally prefer used guns, not only for the money savings, but they also tend to already be broken in when I get them.

    Without further ado, here is my 1st timer handgun buyer's guide.


    First time handgun buyer’s guide
    Arms + Accessories
    3400 Harrison Ave
    513 - 481 - 4444

    If you’re reading this, it’s probably because this is your first time purchasing a handgun. It can be a very confusing path to follow, but is also very rewarding once you realize that your purchase fits you well. At Arms and Accessories we are here to individually answer all of your questions and direct you towards the best firearm within your budget. This is meant as a quick guide to become familiar with the basics of handguns, the different reasons why many people own handguns, and the pros/cons of different firearms.

    Things that should be considered in a handgun is who is going to be using the handgun, physical capabilities of the shooter, as well as the handgun’s usage. Example uses are:
    • recreation /training firearm
    • home defense firearm
    • hunting firearm
    • personal defense firearm

    The followings are broad generalizations.
    Ultimately only you can determine if a handgun is right for you


    Dedicated recreational/training handguns traditionally have the following traits:
    • highly visible sights
    • cheap, low caliber ammunition
    • low recoil

    Dedicated home defense handguns usually are:
    • .38 special or 9mm caliber or larger
    • larger ammunition capacity
    • easy to shoot accurately and quickly

    Dedicated self-defense handguns vary greatly, but these traits are fairly common:
    • fit the shooter’s hand well
    • easy to acquire sights and shoot quickly and accurately
    • function well with hollow point ammunition
    • easy to maintain/clean
    • highly reliable

    Hunting handguns are much more open, but the following standards are set by the State of Ohio:
    • 5 inch minimum length barrel
    • straight walled (no bottle neck) ammunition
    • .357 caliber or larger


    The Revolver


    Important note:
    Excluding “cowboy style” revolvers, almost no revolver requires the hammer to be manually cocked before every shot. There are also many revolvers that have hammers that are not exposed and can NOT be manually cocked.


    Pros
    • Not ammunition sensitive
    • Easy to clean and maintain
    • Extremely reliable
    • Does not require a lot of hand strength to operate properly
    • Is not susceptible to jamming induced from improper shooting technique
    • Capable of great accuracy
    • Very intuitive to operate


    Cons
    • Lower ammunition capacity than most semi automatics
    • Slower to reload than semi automatics
    • Wider than semi automatics, a factor if the gun will be concealed
    • Improper grip can cause increased recoil and muzzle flip




    The Derringer


    Pros
    • Typically small and compact
    • Some can easily change calibers
    • Fairly cheap
    • Reliable


    Cons
    • Must be manually cocked before each shot
    • Only holds two rounds
    • Difficult to fire quickly and accurately
    • Very slow reloading procedure
    • Difficult to get a good shooting grip on




    The semi automatic


    Pros
    • Offers highest ammunition capacities
    • Fast reloading procedure
    • Easy to shoot quickly with proper shooting techniques
    • Reliable with proper maintenance
    • Can be very thin and easy to conceal
    • Variety of different methods of operation – can suite many different people’s requirements


    Cons
    • Improper shooting technique can cause malfunctions, increased recoil and muzzle flip
    • Some can be picky on ammunition selection
    • Cheap magazines can cause many problems
    • Worn springs can cause malfunctions
    • More complex than revolvers or derringers
    ~Mike F.
    http://www.ConcealedCampus.com
    http://www.a-human-right.com/
    "Quemadmoeum gladuis neminem occidit, occidentis telum est."

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Array Sportsterguy's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Excellent purchase aid. I'm going to print it and take it to work to pass out to my co workers who are buying for their wives and themselves.

    Thank you
    Sportsterguy-NRA Life Member

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    Join the NRA today, or don't complain when your guns are taken away!

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    Senior Member Array jeep45238's Avatar
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    Thanks for the compliment. I should have a caliber and ammunition selection guide available by Saturday, and hopefully a carry guide shortly thereafter.
    ~Mike F.
    http://www.ConcealedCampus.com
    http://www.a-human-right.com/
    "Quemadmoeum gladuis neminem occidit, occidentis telum est."

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    Senior Member Array Bob O's Avatar
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    That's probably one of the best, if not THE best presentation that covers the basics I have ever seen! Very concise and very clear.

    Bobo
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    ~John Adams

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    VIP Member Array cmdrdredd's Avatar
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    Modern designs fix almost every one of the issues presented in the cons section under semi-autos.
    No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    Laws are restrictive but sometimes necessary to maintain a civil society. Rights are nonrestrictive but are always necessary to maintain a free society.

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    Senior Member Array jeep45238's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmdrdredd View Post
    Modern designs fix almost every one of the issues presented in the cons section under semi-autos.
    No, they do not.

    Improper shooting technique (limp wristing) can cause malfunctions, increased recoil and muzzle flip - if you don't give that slide a non-moving frame, it won't get maximum velocity, and will at some point sooner or later jam.

    Some can be picky on ammunition selection - some guns for some reason will not shoot winchester white box. Others have a hatered for hollow points, but the same make/model, different gun, may love it. Things do go out of spec from time to time.

    Cheap magazines can cause many problems - really, you're going to try to argue this? 90+% of all handgun issues are mag related.

    Worn springs can cause malfunctions - really, you're going to try to argue that a handgun will operate perfectly fine if the 16 pound rated recoil spring only has 7 pounds, or the extractor spring is broken, or the trigger return spring is broken/weak? What about a very weak mag spring? Think that won't help cause some double feeds?

    More complex than revolvers or derringers - most semi's are more complex than your standard revolver or derringer, both in operations, part counts, tolerances, and stripping/cleaning procedures.

    Then again, define modern

    If modern is anything that's not flint lock, then I'll completely agree with you! Unless you can provide to me examples of how "modern designs" that are based around cheaper production and higher volume fix all of these issues, then I'm pretty sure you're mistaken. Much like in another thread tonight where a gentleman recommended an airweight j frame revolver and .38 special +p loads for a female who is a new shooter.
    ~Mike F.
    http://www.ConcealedCampus.com
    http://www.a-human-right.com/
    "Quemadmoeum gladuis neminem occidit, occidentis telum est."

  8. #7
    VIP Member Array cmdrdredd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeep45238 View Post
    No, they do not.

    Improper shooting technique (limp wristing) can cause malfunctions, increased recoil and muzzle flip - if you don't give that slide a non-moving frame, it won't get maximum velocity, and will at some point sooner or later jam.

    Some can be picky on ammunition selection - some guns for some reason will not shoot winchester white box. Others have a hatered for hollow points, but the same make/model, different gun, may love it. Things do go out of spec from time to time.

    Cheap magazines can cause many problems - really, you're going to try to argue this? 90+% of all handgun issues are mag related.

    Worn springs can cause malfunctions - really, you're going to try to argue that a handgun will operate perfectly fine if the 16 pound rated recoil spring only has 7 pounds, or the extractor spring is broken, or the trigger return spring is broken/weak? What about a very weak mag spring? Think that won't help cause some double feeds?

    More complex than revolvers or derringers - most semi's are more complex than your standard revolver or derringer, both in operations, part counts, tolerances, and stripping/cleaning procedures.

    Then again, define modern

    If modern is anything that's not flint lock, then I'll completely agree with you! Unless you can provide to me examples of how "modern designs" that are based around cheaper production and higher volume fix all of these issues, then I'm pretty sure you're mistaken. Much like in another thread tonight where a gentleman recommended an airweight j frame revolver and .38 special +p loads for a female who is a new shooter.
    1) limp wristing is not much an issue. I've never been able to jam my HKs when shooting limp wristed and sideways. Seriously
    2) a good gun should feed everything. If it doesn't it goes in the trash bin.
    3) 90% of issues are mag related, but factory mags from S&W, Springfield, Glock, HK, Dan Wesson, Wilson etc do not fail out of the box. They should last a very long time. And how do you know it's 90%? why not 85% or 99%? Do you have facts to back up a percentage? Most statistics are thrown out there to push a certain point of view. Obviously the mag is the weak link but a good factory magazine with strong springs will last a very long time and eliminate feed problems. Maybe you're referring to 1911s where the feed ramp, magazine, follower etc all have to be almost perfect.
    4) Worn springs? How long do springs last? There's people with over 10,000 rounds through an HK or Glock without replacing springs.

    Take a Glock, it's cheap, uses all cheaply made parts, simple design, with polymer which you may define as plastic. One of the most reliable designs available.

    Telling someone to buy a revolver because a semi-auto is jamtastic is crap IMO. I recommend revolvers for other reasons. Not based on the idea that all semi-autos have flaws and won't last and will jam and won't feed certain ammo etc. Like I said a modern pistol (Glock, M&P, XD, HK, well built 1911, Sig) should always feed any ammo that it's designed for and should always work otherwise it's no good.

    Anyone who is in good health can use a semi-auto pistol and learn its features as well as the field strip procedure and cleaning. Now someone with arthritis maybe can't rack the slide, but could they then pull the heavy DA trigger on most revolvers?

    I'm not trying to start a fight or anything, but any gun you buy new should always work out of the box and be reliable enough for any civilian. If not, then it shouldn't be on the market. There's pros and cons to revolvers and semi-autos, but I don't totally write off semi autos as being problematic.
    No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    Laws are restrictive but sometimes necessary to maintain a civil society. Rights are nonrestrictive but are always necessary to maintain a free society.

  9. #8
    Senior Member Array jeep45238's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmdrdredd View Post
    1) limp wristing is not much an issue. I've never been able to jam my HKs when shooting limp wristed and sideways. Seriously
    2) a good gun should feed everything. If it doesn't it goes in the trash bin.
    3) 90% of issues are mag related, but factory mags from S&W, Springfield, Glock, HK, Dan Wesson, Wilson etc do not fail out of the box. They should last a very long time. And how do you know it's 90%? why not 85% or 99%? Do you have facts to back up a percentage? Most statistics are thrown out there to push a certain point of view. Obviously the mag is the weak link but a good factory magazine with strong springs will last a very long time and eliminate feed problems. Maybe you're referring to 1911s where the feed ramp, magazine, follower etc all have to be almost perfect.
    4) Worn springs? How long do springs last? There's people with over 10,000 rounds through an HK or Glock without replacing springs.

    Take a Glock, it's cheap, uses all cheaply made parts, simple design, with polymer which you may define as plastic. One of the most reliable designs available.

    Telling someone to buy a revolver because a semi-auto is jamtastic is crap IMO. I recommend revolvers for other reasons. Not based on the idea that all semi-autos have flaws and won't last and will jam and won't feed certain ammo etc. Like I said a modern pistol (Glock, M&P, XD, HK, well built 1911, Sig) should always feed any ammo that it's designed for and should always work otherwise it's no good.

    Anyone who is in good health can use a semi-auto pistol and learn its features as well as the field strip procedure and cleaning. Now someone with arthritis maybe can't rack the slide, but could they then pull the heavy DA trigger on most revolvers?


    Listen - I'm not going to get in a Shouting match with somebody who won't acknowledge that things do happen that are not all puppies and ice cream in life. This is going to be my one and only rebuttal on this. If you want to keep debating and inflate whatever ego it is that you have, take it to PM's.

    Things do happen. WWB usually runs .003" longer than Remington when we go out to the farm and take the micrometer with us. That can cause feed issues with some guns.

    You may not be able to limp wrist your guns - but take somebody with a damaged wrist, weak hands, or arthritis, or a very small gun with a decent caliber such as a P3AT, and it can compound itself very fast.

    Funny about the mag comment. Last Sunday I was shooting IDPA and there was a SIG 1911 with all kinds of feeding issues. I let him use my Colt and Para mags, and the problems went away. Similar thing happened with my buddy Dave and his Glock 17 - double feed issues. Probably compounded between the mags and his shooting form, but things DO happen.

    I have NEVER said semi autos are jam-o-matics - simply that if you use poor form and do not properly take care of your equipment, your chances go up drastically of having problems. Yes every gun SHOULD work and SHOULD feed everything out of the box - in an ideal world. This is NOT an ideal world. My para thankfully feeds everything I've thrown at it, but ya know what? If by making my reloads .050 inches longer it starts jamming, I'm not tossing the gun - I'm going to go back to 1.25 OAL.

    On the 90% comment on the mags - from my experience with everything from Taurus, Glock, Sig, Springfield, Para, Colt, S&W, and CZ, putting in a new stock mag spring and follower almost always fixed the issue. Like it or not, it's harder to make a quality reliable mag than it is a quality reliable gun. This is also the same experiences as pretty much everybody I know who actively shoots (enough to weaken springs - often) and my gunsmith. 90% is close enough to 80% for an example - we are not talking about the strain of 4140 steel tubing or it's thermal expansion and resulting stress and it's use in a race car frame.
    Last edited by pgrass101; November 17th, 2008 at 01:06 PM. Reason: Removed language
    ~Mike F.
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    http://www.a-human-right.com/
    "Quemadmoeum gladuis neminem occidit, occidentis telum est."

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    And yes, we all will be polite about our differences, right?
    You have to make the shot when fire is smoking, people are screaming, dogs are barking, kids are crying and sirens are coming.
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    I think more attention could have been paid to an important issue. How does the handgun feel in your hands?

    Like shoes, and feet.....if the handgun doesn't "feel right" in your hands, you'll not shoot it enough to become proficient with it. If you aren't going to be proficient with it, you may as well carry a ball bat. You can learn the techniques to shoot almost any handgun, but it's hard to teach comfort.

    Also, virtually every handgun has trade-offs, that new shooters often do not consider......

    longer barrel..... less perceived recoil
    shorter barrel .... easier to conceal
    lightweight, short barrel..... much more recoil
    longer barrel........ longer sight radius

    and so on......

    Calibers don't become all that relevant until the shooters technique allows first shots to be on target.

    Too any variables to to tell any new shooter, "here's what you need", and hand him/her a new super-tactical, .5MOA, 100 round, ninja gun, with an invisible carry holster.

    Just my 2 cents worth.....
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    Senior Member Array jeep45238's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by usmcj View Post
    I think more attention could have been paid to an important issue. How does the handgun feel in your hands?

    Like shoes, and feet.....if the handgun doesn't "feel right" in your hands, you'll not shoot it enough to become proficient with it. If you aren't going to be proficient with it, you may as well carry a ball bat. You can learn the techniques to shoot almost any handgun, but it's hard to teach comfort.

    Also, virtually every handgun has trade-offs, that new shooters often do not consider......

    longer barrel..... less perceived recoil
    shorter barrel .... easier to conceal
    lightweight, short barrel..... much more recoil
    longer barrel........ longer sight radius

    and so on......

    Calibers don't become all that relevant until the shooters technique allows first shots to be on target.

    Too any variables to to tell any new shooter, "here's what you need", and hand him/her a new super-tactical, .5MOA, 100 round, ninja gun, with an invisible carry holster.

    Just my 2 cents worth.....

    Exactly why the shooter must decide what is best for them - not their friends/family.

    Remember, this is just a basic familiarity guide for somebody brand new to handguns.
    ~Mike F.
    http://www.ConcealedCampus.com
    http://www.a-human-right.com/
    "Quemadmoeum gladuis neminem occidit, occidentis telum est."

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    Nice guide! That should help out some of the newer folks.
    Rick

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    I think you should print that out and pin it to your shirt when working at the store.
    "Just blame Sixto"

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    Very well written!
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    I agree on the auto part when i qualified for my CHL class they recommended everybody shoot semi-auto so they wouldn't be limited to revolver only carry,I saw several FTE caused by limp wristing glocks,I was shooting a IPSC course with my SA 1911 and due to spinal cord injury could not bend and kneel to shoot around barricade so i had to angle my gun,because of the angle it allowed the gun to move rearward on the recoil and i experienced a FTE every time from that position,every other shot the gun functioned a 100%,I personally wouldn't normally shoot like that but the rules were specific.I believe some semi's require more training than revolvers,and in a SHTF situation if you can't remember to take the safety off your in deep doodoo.OMO
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