Combat Pistol Selection "Feelings"

This is a discussion on Combat Pistol Selection "Feelings" within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; This isn't a how to guide, but more of a rant about bad advice. What I'm talking about is the number one priority in pistol ...

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Thread: Combat Pistol Selection "Feelings"

  1. #1
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    Combat Pistol Selection "Feelings"

    This isn't a how to guide, but more of a rant about bad advice.

    What I'm talking about is the number one priority in pistol selection is "how it feels in hand". We hear this over and over as advice in a can from the peanut gallery, and IMO, its bad advice if thats all that is given. Now before I get flamed, please read on.

    Yes, fit and feel is part of the process, but by no means should be the top billing. You are not buying a piece of furniture to lounge on, you are buying a combat pistol.

    First priority to me is build quality. This means top quality materials, craftsmanship and design.

    Second is support, factory or aftermarket. If the factory does not supply parts or there are no armorers to be found for said pistol, it goes to the trash heap. Same if I can't walk into the average gun shop and find magazines or ammo for the pistol.

    Third is serviceability. Closely related to the second rule, if I can't service the day to day maintains of the pistol on my own, easily in the field I don't want it. Some of the garbage out there require pins and punches to get their guns apart... garbage.

    Fourth is function. Does the gun fit the function I intend to use it for. This is fourth because a lot of adaptation can be done here. Its subject to a lot of interpretation. But what I mean is, I would buy a 50AE Desert Eagle for CCW, and I wouldn't buy a P3AT for target shooting. Could I do both chores with either pistol? Yeah... but it probably isn't the best choice.

    Fifth is balance. This is a often unknown or over looked very important part of pistol selection. If the gun is poorly balanced, you will not shoot it well or with as much control as a well balanced pistol. So many of the newer X brand polymer guns are absolutely horrid in this category. The XD line is horribly balanced, as are most of the Taurus lineup. To me, the mark of a good combat pistol is the balance.

    Sixth is trigger pull. Clean, smooth with a crisp break. Is that too much to ask for? I think not, but apparently it is. Even some of the high end pistols have terrible trigger systems. i don't know why they do this, but they do. I guess the average buyer just doesn't care or know any better, so why have the added expense and effort. This also can be fixed in most cases if the pistol hits home runs in the first five.

    Seventh... Now we start getting into ergonomics. Can I reach everything I need to with my index finger or thumb? Its important, but depending on the individual, this may limit your options to nothing. Adaptation and training can easily over come this. Thats why I leave so low on my list.

    Eighth is everything else. Sights, colors, melt jobs and all the other fun fluff that is to be considered in a new pistol.

    So IMO, telling somebody to just go out and buy what ever feels best is a little irresponsible to the needs of a new shooter. Most people just don't know any better, I get that. But spreading bad or incomplete advice doesn't help anything.
    "Just blame Sixto"

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    Yep.

    When I speak of what to carry in a class, everything that you mentioned is brought into the conversation.

    I think there is one point that you didnt mention that needs to be brought up though that could be included in "ergonomics" and that is SIZE.

    Most people want a small gun to carry. If you are like me, and have big hands, managing a tiny gun is more difficult that managing a big one because there just isnt enough room on the gun to properly or comfortable manipulate it. Also, some of the grips are so short that it is nearly impossible to shoot well with them.

    I can't tell you the number of people that got tiny guns and ended up selling them because they were just to small, but that number is huge.

    Same thing goes for big guns. People will small hands will have a hard time manipulating or just keeping hold of them. I see it all the time on the range. New shooters bring a full sized HK, Sig or Government models to shoot that they can barely wrap their hand around.

    I think that some people that give the advice that says to shoot whatever feels good just forget or maybe dont know to include what you have stated.

    I totally agree with the "balance" thing. A well balanced gun, whether it be a pistol,rifle or shotgun is a joy to behold.
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    Ex Member Array thylordjj's Avatar
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    sounds, like he was talking about my "Kimber UCII" ???

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    Sixto...once a again you post the truth. I have tried to convince people of that very thing for a long time. I have friends who will go to look at a gun and can fully afford a quality SD gun, but simply don't because the cheaper one is less money. I tell them yous buy quality you only buy it once. There is a reason that gun is 150.00 bucks and mine is 500. There is a difference. Don't just buy the first thing you come across in trade or at a pawn shop. Research it as if your life depends on it...it does. I fight the same thing with carry gear. They wanna spend hundreds of dollars on a gun and stuff it in a 5.00 buck holster. I am by no means a snob with this stuff. But a tool is useless if you cannot operate it or it does not accomplish the job you need it for and reliably.



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    Great advice, I think most people who give the advice of "what ever feels best" are just giving the quick, easy answer. Even if they follow the guidelines you use when picking a gun.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
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    Sixto, I will be the first one to raise my hand and plead guilty as charged for spreading bad advice. I often fall for the old trap of "gun rental - feels good" advice to give to new shooters.

    Not anymore! After considering your OP, you are right. I will remember your eight points and give that advice to all neophytes from now on.
    God bless our troops!

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    VIP Member Array Thanis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    ...Yes, fit and feel is part of the process, but by no means should be the top billing. You are not buying a piece of furniture to lounge on, you are buying a combat pistol. First priority to me is build quality. This means top quality materials, craftsmanship and design...
    +1

    Not many new gun owners think like this (and as much as they beg for advise, refuse to accept). They want a pocket pistol that is as easy to shoot as a full grip version, accurate, weights next to nothing with no recoil, the power of a .357 Mag, with the capacity of a 9mm.

    So in addition to your rant, I would state people need to start understand that one firearm can rarely fill every role.

    Quote Originally Posted by crzy4guns View Post
    ...I often fall for the old trap of "gun rental -feels good" advice to give to new shooters...
    Same, but in he end, if the person seeking advise is not going to budge concerning feel, I simple have to stress how a gun feels in the hand at the counter is not the same as how it will feel during range time.
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    +1 SIXTO - good job! That 'how it feels' bothers me too. As you layed it out, there's a lot more to it than that. My only exception is the thing about balance - I guess I've never noticed balance being a problem.

    Anyway, that's why everyone should carry Glocks!

    Now I'm the one that's gonna get flamed - just kiddin' guys.
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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    Yes, fit and feel is part of the process, but by no means should be the top billing. You are not buying a piece of furniture to lounge on, you are buying a combat pistol.
    I really have to disagree here. The two most important things to look for in a defensive handgun are reliability and shootability. For defensive style shooting, how well the gun fits your had is going to affect how well you can shoot it far more than any other factor. Fit and finish, aftermarket support, balance, and even a good trigger don't matter a bit if the has to H grip the gun because the grip is too large or the grip is too small for someone with large hands to get a handle on the gun.

    All of the things you've mentioned are nice to have, but if the gun doesn't fit the shooter's hand, they don't mean much.

  11. #10
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    The fit to the shooters hand can be over come... Now, I've said in the past that I don't like the G21 because it is to large for me. Luckily, its far from the only option. However, if it was, it would be rather easy for me to fix that problem. There are very few guns out there that are just plain to big for most people to use effectively.

    What about the pocket guns? They are far to small for most people to really shoot well off the bat. Why do they sell like crazy? I told you why in the first post. So many complaints of the Keltecs and Kahrs doing this and that sort of malfunctions... most are user error. The gun is just to small. But, with a little practice and training, one can use the micro's very well, due the other factors in selecting a combat pistol. Same principles apply to the gun thats to big.
    Is it better to find the perfect fit? Sure... but there are other factors that are far more important than the perfect fit.

    Hand fit is important, but its far down the list simply because the shooter can fix the problem themselves with a little thought and or training. The other items they cannot. Its not the most important item, but it is important. I wont dispute that.
    "Just blame Sixto"

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    Here's my post on another forum regarding CCW weapon selection. It echoes many of your thoughts, although the categories may be slightly different (and the conclusion at the end was very specific to my own requirements...not intended to be a general recommendation) --

    "It occurs to me, after some time and thinking on this that our needs for a CCW are different. My CCW needs would look something like (may not be all inclusive):
    • Concealability ... doesn't have to be a pocket gun, but weight, slimness, size all matter; generally, smaller is better (though there are disadvantages to the Rohrbaugh size -- more later); the more options for concealability, the better (e.g., ankle, pants pocket, jeans hip pocket, sportcoat pocket, overcoat pocket, inside jacket pocket, IWB tuckable, IWB non-tuck, OWB, etc.), with extra weight given to the more frequent methods (for me, IWB tucked).
    • Caliber ... minimum .380mm, with 9mm, 40mm, .44, and .45 better yet
    • Shootability ... combination of feel in hand (grip, balance, etc.), how easy it naturally points, felt recoil (P3AT and Rohrbaugh take a hit here), sight picture, comfort, trigger, etc.
    • Accuracy ... measured at 10 yards, minimum, with accuracy at longer ranges a plus up to 25 yards; my CCW is not intended to be a shove-in-their-chest-and-fire only weapon, or even a 7-10 yards only weapon; adjustable and night sights are better than fixed (which means that ones like Rohrbaugh, CW9, etc. meet minimum but don't excel)
    • Capacity ... self-evident -- the more the better, including reloads; classic criteria for revolver vs. semi-auto
    • Reliability ... Must fire every time; simplicity of design; not sensitive to SD ammo; low likelihood of failure; dependable and durable; however, don't need military grade (made with more tolerances to withstand adverse conditions, however, generally pay a premium in weight, cost, inaccuracy, etc.); does NOT have to be a range gun however -- I am not putting 10,000 rounds a year down range (so, my CCW could be a Rohrbaugh even though it has to have the recoil spring replaced every 100-150 rounds)
    • Supportibility ... Can I get it repaired if it breaks (not necessarily by me)? Are there a number of holsters out there I can choose from? Can I buy extra mags, including non-OEM?
    • Quality .. fit and finish (or will I have to do a buff job on it); machining of parts (e.g., forged vs. MIM vs. cast); steel vs. polymer, especially on internal parts like rails; appealing looks and feel; rounded edges; pinned vs. dovetail sights, polygonal barrel, etc.
    • Price/value ... assuming the same quality, lower price is better, though willing to pay for better quality; certainly there's an upper limit (which, for me, the Rohrbaugh exceeds)
    • Compatibility ... with other guns I own, commonality of ammo, ability to reload, etc.
    • CCW intangibles ... black vs. bi-tone vs. stainless; DA vs. DA/SA; safety -- manual, grip, none, trigger; decocker vs. none; intimidating appearance to BGs (doesn't matter to me); positioning of mag release (see PPS), ammo flexibility (+P vs. std vs. +P+, bullet weight, practice vs. SD ammo, etc.)

    Under these criteria, the Kahr came out ahead of the Rohrbaugh, G26, P3AT, LCP, PF-9, P-11, S&W 642/442, Walther PPK/S and PPS, XD9sc and S&W M&P, and various SIG and H&K models. Having said that, I will probably own several of them over time since no one gun met all my needs. For example, a P3AT/LCP is the lightest, most concealable package out there, with the Rohrbaugh a close second (and gets my vote because of the caliber). There will be times during the summer where I will need that level of concealability. The M&P and XD came close, and had the edge in capacity, and in the XD's case, dependability. If convenient to carry OWB, I would love to have an XD, SIG or M&P on the hip. But, for the one gun I could afford, given my current needs and ease of carry across the year, the Kahr came out ahead."

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    There are very few guns out there that are just plain to big for most people to use effectively.
    Statistically speaking 'most people' on this planet are women. For a great many of them the grip of your average double stack 9mm pistol like a Glock or XD is too big.

    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    What about the pocket guns? They are far to small for most people to really shoot well off the bat. Why do they sell like crazy?
    I think they sell like crazy because most people underestimate both how difficult small guns are to shoot and how easy larger guns are to carry.

    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    Hand fit is important, but its far down the list simply because the shooter can fix the problem themselves with a little thought and or training.
    A person is never going to be able to get quick, accurate repeat shots with pistol that doesn't fit them as well as one that does, no matter how much thought they give it or what training they have.

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    5,6, and 7 all kinda go into the "how it feels in the hand category" for me. But then again I've sat for probably hours trying every possible position on a full size rail on a M-16 to figure out where all my required gear is best on my rifle in relation to balance and how well I can swing/maneuver it while still using said gadgets effectively.

    Looks to me like the 1911 should do pretty well going by your criteria, as long as they are from a quality manufacturer.
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    In keeping with the point(s) of SIXTO's OP, was it Clint Smith that said, "I've never heard of anyone complain about having too big of a pistol in a gunfight."

    It is also Clint that said, "A gun is supposed to be comforting, not necessarily comfortable."

    In keeping with the OP, I think too many times people are willing to sacrifice the advantages of a larger gun for convenience, comfort, etc. What should be foremost in our mind in choosing a gun is, is this the gun I would choose if I knew I were going to be in a gunfight? I know, you'd choose a long gun if you knew you were going to be in a gunfight. So why do we carry a handgun then?
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    Well said, SIXTO.

    I have already talked to a few people looking to buy a first gun, and I pretty much always start by asking them what they think they will use it for; then I make sure they understand the different types of action, and some basic pros and cons of revolver vs. auto.

    Once they have that information and can start thinking about how they want the gun to work, I am happy to offer suggestions based on quality (often heavily invoking the opinions of good folk like we have around here, not least of all because I have yet to try every gun out there ) and what I perceive as a good size/caliber combo to meet their needs. (Havig somewhat smallish hands myself, I am good at advising people who are similarly manually challenged. ) Sometime after that we get to the issue of which guns that fit those criteria feel best in their hands.

    I am more interested in exploring the balance issue for myself, actually. I have to this point fired what I generally consider to be high quality handguns (a lot of SIGs and a lot of 1911s, with a little trigger time on several other things thrown in), so I am not sure I would instantly recognize the difference between good balance and bad balance in a gun. I don't like Glocks and M&Ps, but I attribute that to not liking the trigger design (on either) or the grip angle (on Glocks). On the other hand, I love SIGs, but I shot a P229 in .40 as bad as any handgun I have tried thus far—yet my P239 in .40 shoots as well for me as most guns with an inch more barrel to spare.
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