Anatomy of a good Firearm

This is a discussion on Anatomy of a good Firearm within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Hi All, I've been reading the forum non-stop since joining trying to learn all I can. I'm researching for my first purchase and have a ...

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Thread: Anatomy of a good Firearm

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    Member Array DM2's Avatar
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    Anatomy of a good Firearm

    Hi All,
    I've been reading the forum non-stop since joining trying to learn all I can. I'm researching for my first purchase and have a few questions I need answering.

    In reading the forum, I've seen several comments like:
    the trigger pull is too long
    the gun is well balanced or made from quality material
    the gun is well made
    etc etc.

    Something I saw recently in a thread on the Springfield XDM was the fact that it is not required to pull the trigger in order to "take down" the firearm. That's a good feature and one I'm now looking for in my firearm, but its something I never would have thought about simply because I have no knowledge of firearms. So please do not leave out something you think is basic because everything is basic for me.

    So, with that said, what I'm looking for in this thread is guidance on how to evaluate a firearm before purchasing and what are the features of a quality firearm. For example, what makes a firearm well balanced, or what materials are better than others. Also, how do I find out if parts are machined from solid pieces of steel or welded and which is better. (A salesman at a local gun store made this distinction between two different models of a firearm I was looking at once. I can't remember which one. I was too new at the time. That's the reason for the latter question).

    I'm also looking for features that you think would be good for a newb. For instance, the idea of a grip safety (I think that's the proper term) sounds good to me but I don't think I want an actual lever or anything I have to remember to "switch" off before being able to pull the trigger.

    While I am in the market for a semi-auto or "auto loader" as BikerRN likes to call them, I do not want to limit the thread to info on just semi-autos because others reading may need info on revolvers. Who knows, I may want one sometime in the future.

    Thanks in advance for all the help and I look forward to reading your responses.
    DM2
    "I did the thing I feared the most. Excuse me while I cheer. Now here I stand a stronger soul and all I lost was fear." ...Anonymous

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    Balance is a subjective thing. It is different for everyone. A well balanced gun should feel like an extension of your hand. Handle some different guns and you will be able to tell which feel balanced to you.

    For your first gun, stick with a major brand like Glock or the Springfield XD or XDM series. All are extremely reliable and function basically the same. The XD's and XDM have a grip safety, which is a small lever at the back of the grip. It will be pressed by your hand when you grip the gun and the gun can't fire, unless the grip safety is depressed. Glocks don't have a grip safety. It is a personal preference, but both systems are completely safe. One of these are probably the easiest to learn to shoot safely with.

    I would start with a 9mm. It is the cheapest ammo around right now, so you will be able to practice more for less.
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    VIP Member Array grady's Avatar
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    DM2, you don't ask for much, do you?

    Good questions though, as considering all the firearms at once can be overwhelming. You've done some reading. Good. You've identified a few points you favor. That's good, too.

    Still, the field is so very wide open. Even in threads where someone asks for an opininion between two or three specific handguns, invariably many will post to consider a different type. So many guns, so many opinions, so many people... what is perfect for one can be atrocious for another.

    So take my biases with a block of salt: I'll try to find a medium between my biases and your desires, but keep in mind my biases are MINE, and may not be appropriate for you.

    I'm going to rearrange the order of points you brought up in a relative order based on my biased opinion. Keep in mind my biases will be totally opposite of the biases of others, including many more experienced shooters than me. At some point, you'll have to take the plunge and make an educated guess as to what you think your future biases will be. Here are some of mine:


    Quote Originally Posted by DM2 View Post
    I'm also looking for features that you think would be good for a newb. For instance, the idea of a grip safety (I think that's the proper term) sounds good to me but I don't think I want an actual lever or anything I have to remember to "switch" off before being able to pull the trigger.
    IMO, you have listed in this paragraph two of the most important safety issues there are for one carrying a weapon for self protection.

    1. "I don't think I want an actual lever or anything I have to remember to "switch" off before being able to pull the trigger."

    I've seen video of a clerk who pulled a gun in self defense while facing an armed robber. The clerk pulled his gun, pulled the trigger multiple times, but the gun never fired because the safety was still on. The clerk was shot and killed.

    When faced with a life-or-death situation and the adrenaline dump that comes with it, fine-motor skills (those necessary to flip little switches) may significantly decrease, meaning you may be unable to hit the little switch to turn the safety off.

    When that statement is made, generally there are about 4 dozen 1911 owners who will say disengaging the safety upon drawing is second nature, and there is NO WAY they can fail to do it right. The difference between them and you may be 100,000 draw strokes where they practiced turning the safety off, thereby creating ingrained muscle memory to do it even without thinking about it. You can get to that point someday if you wish, but if you are a newbie, I will say you are not there yet.

    I believe you are wise to desire a first gun without a safety that needs to be flipped. Now, many dozens or hundreds who chose a first gun with a flippable safety read this forum and would disagree with that statement. That's fine, but a person with such a gun will need more training initally to master the draw stroke while flipping the safety off.

    2. "For instance, the idea of a grip safety (I think that's the proper term) sounds good to me" I also think this is a good decision for a newbie. I have a grip safety on a couple of my guns, one of which was my first gun once I got serious about carrying.

    I have carried for a only a couple years. I have tried to be careful when handling the guns. In all that time, I have been careful with only a few exceptions: once when I dropped a gun, and twice when the trigger got caught on clothing when reholstering.

    Getting the trigger caught on clothing was due to carelessness I believe, because the only two times it has happened to me were both in the same week. That leads me to believe I was being mentally lazy, preoccupied, or just plain careless.

    However, the exact reason really doesn't matter. What matters is that, although I try very hard to be perfect, I cannot. Had I been carrying a Glock, I likely would have discharged two rounds somewhere near my right leg. But since I was carrying a gun with a grip safety, AND I had learned to reholster without pressing the grip safety, the gun did not fire.

    That's a long way of saying for a newbie (which I was) or a slightly older newbie who cannot be perfect no matter how hard he tries (which I am now), the grip safety is a fantastic idea.

    An additional point in favor of the grip safety is that it MAY keep a young child from firing the gun. They would either need to have a hand big enough to grasp the grip and pull the trigger, or they would need to have two hands in just the right places for the gun to fire. Possible, yes, but at least the grip safety MIGHT prevent a child from firing the gun if they found it laying around. A gun with no external safety is more likely to be able to be fired by a child who finds it.


    Based on your two points mentioned above, I can only think of one firearm that meets those two points: the XD series.

    Of course I'm biased because I own two XD's. I carry one daily, and reserve the other for my daughter to use for home defense.

    When I began looking for a carry gun, my highest priorities were reliability, safety, and intuitive use (not having to flip a safety off). Although some will disagree, I believe the XD meets all three of those requirements.

    Now for the rest of your points.


    Quote Originally Posted by DM2 View Post
    Something I saw recently in a thread on the Springfield XDM was the fact that it is not required to pull the trigger in order to "take down" the firearm. That's a good feature and one I'm now looking for in my firearm, but its something I never would have thought about simply because I have no knowledge of firearms. So please do not leave out something you think is basic because everything is basic for me.
    I like the idea of not having to pull the trigger upon takedown, but that is only available on a few polymer guns, and the only polymer gun it is available on with a backstrap safety is the XDm. That's a big gun to carry. It can be done, but for some people it can be difficult.

    Generally speaking, I've heard women have a more difficult time concealing handguns than men, so the size of the XDm might be a factor if you are considering a carry gun.

    While not needing to pull the trigger on takedown is nice and a good safety feature, IMO it is not as critical as the backstrap safety or the lack of flippable safeties. Just try to ensure the gun isn't loaded upon takedown, and once you have checked 3 or more times, then point the gun in a safe location (or at a can of sand, or whatever), and then pull the trigger.

    I would be willing to overlook this safety feature if a gun had the first two.

    Quote Originally Posted by DM2 View Post
    So, with that said, what I'm looking for in this thread is guidance on how to evaluate a firearm before purchasing and what are the features of a quality firearm. For example, what makes a firearm well balanced,
    How does it feel in your hand when loaded? When fired?

    Quote Originally Posted by DM2 View Post
    or what materials are better than others.
    For all the gun owners whose guns I have or will slight, remember, these are MY biases.

    If you buy from a good manufacturer, you can expect good materials whether steel or polymer. A short list from which I will certainly accidentally leave some out: Glock, Sig, Kahr, Beretta, H&K, Springfield...

    Guns, or guns made from materials I don't consider top-of-the-line (here's where I'll inflame some, I'm sure): Hi Points, Davis, Cobra, Jennings. I'm tired or I could come up with some more. To all you HiPoint users, if I was on a limited budget and that's all I could afford, yes, I'd carry one.

    Quote Originally Posted by DM2 View Post
    Also, how do I find out if parts are machined from solid pieces of steel or welded and which is better.
    Lots of research. Maybe better left to your second gun purchase. I would suggest buying a gun from a manufacturer with a reputation of quality and reliability, and buying a model with the same reputation. There will always be more time for detailed study between slight differences of, say, a German-made Sig vs. an American made Sig.


    Quote Originally Posted by DM2 View Post
    While I am in the market for a semi-auto or "auto loader" as BikerRN likes to call them, I do not want to limit the thread to info on just semi-autos because others reading may need info on revolvers. Who knows, I may want one sometime in the future.
    A couple revolvers to consider if you are interested in them:

    1: A 642 (silver) or 442 (black) Smith and Wesson .38. Small 5-shot revolvers, but easy to conceal and simple to operate. The downside is they may not be quite as easy to conceal as a small auto, they hold less than autos, and for most they take longer to reload.

    2: An SP-101 Ruger .357. Slightly bigger than the 442/642's, but the 101 shoots .357 and .38's. Shooting .357's will give more kick, but if you shoot .38's out of it, the 101 will likely have less recoil than the 442/642 due to the 101's mass.

    All the revolvers mentioned have reputations of being reliable. Revolvers do have their good uses. I carry one as a backup to my auto.

    Other revolvers: Smith & Wesson have made thousands of revolvers over the years, with dozens of different models. I couldn't begin to discuss all their models even if I knew them all. I only mention the 442/642 because they are new and the hammers are enclosed, meaning no lint can enter the gun through the hammer opening. This is a nice feature.

    Taurus makes many revolvers, some that look almost identical to S&W. While some will disagree, I chose S&W because of what I had read of Taurus' poor customer service in past years.

    Charter Arms, Rossi, etc. I'd still choose a S&W or a Ruger.

    Quote Originally Posted by DM2 View Post
    Thanks in advance for all the help and I look forward to reading your responses.
    How about some bandaids and an ice-pack for all the heat I'll take for giving my biases and dissing others' guns?


    So in a nutshell, I suggest you take a look at the Springfield Armory XD series. They make the following:

    XD 9 tactical: standard size grip with 5" barrel. I wouldn't consider this for carry. Some do, but IMO the extra inch barrel adds nothing but perhaps a little difficult in concealing and drawing.
    XD 9 service: standard fullsize 9mm with 4" barrel and full grip.
    XD 9 subcompact: 3 " barrel, slightly shorter, and two mags--one short 13-rounder for easy concealment, and a longer 16-rounder that makes the grip the same size as the 9mm service grip.

    The subcompact can ALMOST become a service (only lacking 1" on the barrel, but with the grip identical size), but the service can NEVER become a subcompact.

    The 9mm ammo is cheaper than .40 and .45, plus the 9mm XD's hold more rounds than similar-sized XD's of other calibers.

    If you think you may want to carry someday, I recommend looking at the subcompact since it's much easier to conceal on-body. Having said that, many people do conceal an XD service, or even larger handguns...

    Springfield also makes:
    XD .40 tactical
    XD .40 service
    XD .40 subcompact

    Same general points as the 9mm, but the .40 XD's hold less rounds since the round is physically bigger.
    The recoil is generally more which could lead to slower followup shots.
    Ammo costs more than the 9mm.


    Springfield also makes:
    XD .45 tactical
    XD .45 service
    XD .45 compact Same general points as the 9mm subcompact. The .45 compact holds 10 with a short mag, but 13 with a long mag that makes the grip the same as the .45 service. The .45 compact is roughly the same size as the 9mm service. It's a bigger gun, has more recoil than the 9mm, and the ammo costs more.

    Having said all that, and based on the points you mentioned as being important, I suggest looking at the XD 9 subcompact and the XD 9service.

    Quote Originally Posted by DM2 View Post
    So please do not leave out something you think is basic because everything is basic for me.
    A couple benefits on the XD series that a newbie may find beneficial are:

    1. The loaded-chamber indictor. If there is a bullet in the chamber of an XD, there is a small indicator on top of the slide that raises up. You can see it AND feel it. No "press checks" to verify whether a bullet is chambered, where you slightly pull back the slide and look in the chamber.

    2. A striker indicator, which tells if the gun is cocked or not. This also can be seen AND felt.

    Now that I've had my XD's a couple years, these two features aren't as important to me as they were when I first started carrying. Why? Because my guns are always loaded and always cocked, unless I'm in the process of firing or cleaning. But these two features helped me early on to tell the status of my weapon. They don't hurt a thing by having them, so they are not a negative even if I don't use them. I still like them. Even though I never unload my XD as indicated, seeing the loaded-chamber indictor removes any doubt I might have had.


    Disclaimer: lots of good guns out there. On the last forum poll, I believe Glocks were first in popularity, then 1911's, then revolvers as a group, then XD's, with Sigs right close IIRC.

    CONCLUSION/RECOMMENDATION
    The only gun that meets all your criteria is the XDm. You can keep all your criteria and buy an XDm, and then work on concealing it since it's a large gun, or you could give up the one criteria of not pulling the trigger on takedown, and then examine the XD series.

    I suggest starting your search by comparing the XD9 subcompact, the XD9 service, and then the XDm 9mm. See how they feel to you, and shoot them if you can.

    If you like one of them, great. If not, you can continue your search.

    Totally biased, I know--probably made a few enemies by dissing someone's gun, but those are some of my biases based on your criteria.

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    VIP Member Array cmdrdredd's Avatar
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    Something I saw recently in a thread on the Springfield XDM was the fact that it is not required to pull the trigger in order to "take down" the firearm. That's a good feature and one I'm now looking for in my firearm, but its something I never would have thought about simply because I have no knowledge of firearms. So please do not leave out something you think is basic because everything is basic for me.
    The thing with that is. You should always check, double check, and even triple check the chamber to be sure it's empty before pulling the trigger. Following the proper safety rules in handling a firearm make it safe. Just because it has a safety doesn't mean you can just forget everything.
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    Glock is all you need to know!

    j/k

    While I do love my Glock, the grip safety is a neat feature. It is not necessary but it is a handy safety mechanism. I like the Glock for the pure simplicity of it. Fill magazine, insert magazine, rack slide, aim, squeeze trigger, repeat. Or if you are carrying correctly: Draw, aim (point), squeeze trigger, repeat.

    Most of my expierience is with the 1911 pistol, a damn fine weapon, and yes with practice, the safety lever is simple to operate. Teardown is more difficult with a 1911 versus a Glock (a caveman could do it).

    That's my brief opinions.

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    Grady
    Wow, what can I say but thank you, thank you, thank you. I really appreciate your detailed and thorough explanations and I have learned alot from some of your other posts I've read on the forum.

    I've been doing a lot of research and yes, I do plan to carry, but not right away. At least not until I finish the book "In the Gravest Extreme" and take some more training classes. I already have a CPL but no pistol yet. I go to the range, but not as often as I should. That will change drastically when I make my purchase.

    I'm planning to purchase within the next month and the XD's are now at the top of my list. I initially started out with the Sig 226 Elite at the top, replaced it with the HKP2000 and then the Sig 239. The problem is the price point. Those firearms are a little too expensive for me right now. My research then led me to Springfield.

    I really like the XDM 9mm but I don't think it would be wise for me to try to conceal such a large firearm initially. I do think that will be my second purchase for home defense in a year or so. I have not investigated the XD 9 Service and that will be on my list for this weekend's research. I tend to like the larger full frame firearms. I absolutely love my dad's FN57, but that is about as impractical for carry as the XDM. Although, I am encouraged by pictures I've seen here of other females carrying larger firearms especially Limatunes.

    I have also noticed the difference in firearms made here and those made in other countries. My last trip to the gun shop, I looked at the Sig239. I had one in my hand and my friend had another. When I held the second one, I commented that it was noticeably heavier than the first. The salesmen that I was crazy. However, we later discovered that the second one was manufactured in Germany. The salesmen stated that it was a different type of steel and I knew I needed to do more research.

    Based on your comments, I think I'm on the right track with regard to safety, functionality and quality. Sometimes I think I just need confirmation from a respected source to validate my own.

    Anyway, thanks again for all your input and for your thoughtful and informative input to the forum as a whole. I have learned a lot.

    DM2
    DM2
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    Member Array DM2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joker1 View Post
    Glock is all you need to know!
    Joker1
    Joker, I've read a lot about Glocks and I actually qualified with one for my CPL. I don't have anything against Glocks, and I have read everyone's comments here and on blogs elsewhere on the net about their quality, reliability, durability and ease of use. I just did not like the feel of the Glock in my hand. I've shot several different ones too.

    The point of my post was not to discuss different manufacturers or calibers, as I have already narrowed the manufacturers I'm considering. I was really more interested in features and other things I should be considering besides the manufacturer, and caliber like safety features, materials, and other objective and subjective concepts that I may be overlooking out of my newness to firearms.

    Thanks for your input. I'm sure that I'll probably own a Glock at some point in the future but I don't think it will be my first purchase.
    DM2
    "I did the thing I feared the most. Excuse me while I cheer. Now here I stand a stronger soul and all I lost was fear." ...Anonymous

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    Asking us about guns is like asking your mom which girl you should date,some of us like low class guns,and some of us like high class guns,some of us like high class guns but settle for low class guns...you get where I'm going without getting another demerit point.I bought my daughter a S&W MP9c she loves it and I'm pretty sure It will be faithful to her
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    I personally am a fan of the safety and my current carry gun , a Taurus PT 24/7 Pro in .45 has a thumb safety. But its only on one side. My next gun is the Springfield Loaded Champion, it has an ambidextrous safety. I like the ability to draw and fire with my left hand if the circumstances required it. I hadnt given it much thought until recently but I know for me personally its important.

    I would also give a lot of thought about the overall dimensions of the gun and the weight. For me, the most important things to me was that it be a 9 mm, .40 or .45 AND it feel "just right" in my hand and have the natural "point" to it. My gun is bulky and heavy but those are things Ill deal with since the feel was the most important. Every gun is a compromise so ask yourself whats really important. If at the end of the day if you'll only be able to carry a small .32 due to size and weight restrictions,that would be better that a .45 at home. Definitely look for a gun that fits your lifestyle, you'll be far more likely to carry if you can incorporate a gun into your life instead of rearranging your life completely around a firearm, though a certain degree of it is inevitable.

    Alex!

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    Hell, why would I even post anything? Grady already posted!

    Grady, once again, a most excellent post with a lot of thought and consideration given! I love your well thought out disclaimers regarding it is based on your opinion and your biases. You are such a gentleman towards the feelings of others who may not agree with your assessments.

    Anyways!

    DM2 I feel your pain. When I research which gun I want next, I agonize over the thought. I research for months to years. And then when I think I have a gun decided on, then comes which caliber to get it in. And when I find a caliber, sometimes it affects the type of gun I had settled on and the process starts all over again. It is a daunting task without a doubt.

    Whoever said, "Variety is the spice of life," needs their head slapped!

    Hey, Grady gave you his thoughts on selection and I am not going to add to your nightmare with my two cents. Grady gave you some very sound and solid suggestions!

    I will say... In the end, you are going to have to bite the bullet and make a choice. If, after the fact, you suffer buyers remorse, or your choice simply doesn't work for you, or just isn't what you'd think it would be... Don't keep the gun. The nice thing about firearms is that for the most part, they hold their value very well, and if you end up with a gun you don't like, sell it and get something else. Rarely will you take a big hit on selling a gun you don't like. Usually you'll break even or maybe even make a small profit.

    Good luck on your quest! I feel your pain. Sometimes it's taken me well over a year to decide what I wanted. Hopefully you won't take that long in getting yourself a decent defensive gun you can conceal well.
    -Bark'n
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    Member Array Ananael's Avatar
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    A couple of people far wiser than me have given you some great advice, I'd just add one thing:

    When you decide on a model, hit a few sites like gunbroker.com and Bud's Gun Shop to get an idea of the low end retail price before you shop locally. Prices can vary a lot from shop to shop, and don't be afraid to ask a shop to meet or beat a price.

    Guns are one of the few items left in America where haggling, or at least wiggling, exist! :)

    The listed prices are less important to me in choosing a gun shop than the attitude and feeling you get there. Find one you're comfortable in, with nice people, and give them a chance to meet a good price on the gun you want. The relationship you build will help in future purchases and make the whole hobby more fun!
    Last edited by Ananael; October 2nd, 2009 at 03:26 AM. Reason: adding to my thought

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    Grady, I'm impressed...well done!

    To the OP (the original poster...DM2): You have asked some well thought out questions that most new gun buyers never think to ask.
    If you're that detailed in your thoughts, you'll be just fine in preparation for cleaning a firearm.
    It's like the pilot of an aircraft following a 'check list' prior to takeoff...everything by the book. Cleaning a firearm is the same way, and somewhere at the top of the list is checking to ensure that the firearm is unloaded and separating the firearm from all the ammo.

    That said, I'd still get a Glock. Now with a Glock, one must pull the trigger to disassemble, but that is NOT a problem if the steps are followed...and a Glock can be taken apart 'blind-folded with one's hands behind the back'......well, sort of...it's pretty simple.
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    Distinguished Member Array Rugergirl's Avatar
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    DM2- you have got some great advice here, this site is full of good people
    I'll add a little bit for you to consider, I mentioned a certain gun shop to you in the past and they do have a good selection of rental guns you might like to check out, and my offer still stands, if you want to meet there, I'd be glad to bring along a revolver for you to try and we can always chat about holsters and methods of concealment, what works for the guys doesn't always work for us.
    PM me if you want.
    Disclaimer: The posts made by this member are only the members opinion, not a reflection on anyone else, nor the group, and should not be cause for anyone to get their undergarments wedged in an uncomfortable position.

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    Grady. What more could I say, that's what it's all about right there.
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    Senior Member Array itschuck's Avatar
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    I would also check into the mp compact from smith and wesson. The ability to change the back strap to fit my hands sold me on that gun. Plus it made in the USA.
    Current collection: Too many according to the wife...

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