This article will be part one in a series covering responsible firearm carry for both new firearm owners and those who have been carrying. It’s focus will be on a variety of aspects I feel are necessary to address if you make the decision to carry a firearm for self defense.
PART 1 – THE HANDGUN
The first part of the equation is the firearm. Whether it be your first firearm for personal self defense or something new to add to your collection, there are many options out there. One can get overwhelmed with choices and all of the forum and blog reviews.
Choosing The Firearm and Gun Shop Tactics
The debate rages on about this. Personally, I feel it is an individual preference. Everyone is different, they have different hand sizes, different finger lengths and strengths, different tastes, and different recoil reactions. My suggestion is simple. Go to your local firing range or gun shop. Handle them. Manipulate them. Shoot them if you can. This is preferential. If you cannot shoot them, join a local firearm forum; make friends; try out your friends handguns if you can. You will find that most in the firearm community are not neanderthals, racists, or nut cases like most anti-firearm people would lead you to believe. They are friendly, patient, and informative if approached. They are your next door neighbor. They are your community members. They are your fellow citizens. You must find a handgun that you are comfortable with. Fair warning though, most gun shops will try to steer you in a direction they personally feel you should go. Either if it is based upon manufacturer preference or just plain old ignorance. You will get a lot of firearm myth and bullshit advice from both counter people and the gun shop groupies who hang out there from day to day. You must resist this a-typical gun shop sales tactic and be firm and try out what you feel will work for you not what someone else feels will work for you. Do not be pushed in a direction. If you are pressured, just walk out and go somewhere else. You will hear many things, such as X model is not a good model you should look at Y model. Or X model is better for women. Or Navy Seals carry Y model. Be firm. You want to look at and handle as many different firearms as you can. As an example, I was standing at the Smith & Wesson SHOT 2015 booth looking at their offerings and overheard a company representative give his “expert” advice to a couple standing next to me. Telling the wife that the J frame revolver is the perfect handgun for women, which of course is just another firearm myth and over repeated, uninformed statement. It was all I could do not to jump in and tell the wife that the perfect handgun is the one she is comfortable shooting accurately , manipulating, and reloading and she should try out both revolvers and semi automatics until she found something that she was comfortable with. I see this happen all the time in gun shops around the country.I am not saying all gun shops are like this. I have found a few diamonds in the rough that cared more about customer satisfaction and providing clear information instead of personal opinion and myths. However they are far and few between. Stand firm. Look at many models. Do not be steered in any direction until you have researched and experienced many different types of handguns.
Also, if you are manipulating firearms at a gun shop or show, use proper safety procedures. Always check any firearm that anyone hands you to ensure it is unloaded before you start handling it. Never point the firearm in anyone’s direction for any reason nor sweep the muzzle across anyone’s body. Even if it is unloaded and you have verified it. It is unsafe and it makes people very uncomfortable. Always ask before pulling the trigger on any firearm you handle at a gun show or shop. If you do get permission, ensure the firearm is pointed in a safe direction, preferably down in front of you and away from anyone. Again, even if you have verified it is unloaded. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with handling firearms and it is your first time, you can contact the NRA and find a Beginners Safety Course in your area. I know in my area there are instructors who are willing to work with individuals who do not own a handgun and will introduce them to different models and calibers. I highly recommend a course for people new to the firearm community.
The internet is both a blessing and a curse. There is so much immediate information at your finger tips these days that you have to sift through the fluff to get to the content. You will read a lot of online reviews and forum experiences such as this very blog. Please note every manufacturer has their issues. You will get a better feel for which ones to avoid and which ones to look at reading forums and smaller blogs and websites than you will most larger blogs and websites. Why is that? I know this is going to be an unpopular statement, but most larger websites and blogs get advertising money and firearms to review direct from the manufacturers. That is their livelihood. It is not conducive to good business to give bad reviews. So they give good reviews, to everything. Hence the free guns to review keep coming in as does the viewers and advertising revenue. Internet forums and smaller blogs are pretty much the common person. The one who wakes up every day and goes to their day job and but a passion for firearms as a hobby. The one who carries every day. They will review what they own and can buy, not what someone sends them, and they don’t make a dime off of their reviews. They are honest, first hand experiences from non subject matter experts. From this you can get an idea of what may work or not work so you do not have to re-invent the wheel. Not to say you still should not go out and handle and experience things, but at least you know what to expect and or look for.
Internet forums are a different animal. There is so much trolling and misinformation, you just need to sit back and take your time to sift through the info and get what you need to make informed decisions. Obviously some things stand out that may catch your attention such as the customer service of the company, or a new release first year firearm issues, recalls, and the fixes if any whether they be aftermarket or factory. Small things such as cartridges popping out of spare magazines if kept in a rear pocket, or front sights that come loose if they do not have loctite applied by the consumer may affect your decision. Things that you should know before you go into it. Be an informed consumer. This will also help you navigate through the gun shop tactics with more confidence and resolve.
The typical carry revolver holds 5 or 6 rounds although here are some larger 7 and 8 round offerings out there. It has it’s pros and cons. One of the pros is that it is easier to manipulate. No external safeties, no slide to rack which is good for people with disabilities and weaker hands, and no magazines to worry about. The triggers are usually long double action pulls that are much stronger than semi automatics and they are very reliable; except of course when they are not. Which brings me to one of the cons of the revolver. Usually when they aren’t reliable, they have failed. When they fail, they usually cannot be brought back into the fight without tools. Yes, on a light primer strike you can simply pull the trigger again and move to the next round in the cylinder, but on a jumped crimp or jumped primer that locks up the cylinder, or a host of other revolver failure such as a crane screw backing out; it is just down and out of the mix. The other con to the revolver is the reload. It is much slower and requires more dexterity without a lot of training and it typically holds less ammunition and speed loaders take up more real estate on a belt or in a pocket. There are also speed-strips available to quick reload, but these are even slower than speed loaders as you can only reload two rounds at a time requiring you to manually rotate the cylinder to load the next two rounds. They require a lot of time and training to become proficient. They are also harder to conceal than some other handguns due to the cylinder width. Depending upon where you carry them, they can bulge out more.
There are so many semi-automatic offerings it is impossible to list them all. The caliber offerings are also many. I covered a few common ones in my previous article A Case For Your Carry Caliber And Why They All Suck. I personally feel selecting a caliber you can shoot accurately and comfortable, both one and two handed, stationary, and on the move is more important that caliber itself. Semi-autos can hold as little as 5 rounds all the way up to 17+ rounds. It all depends on what you can conceal and what you are willing to conceal. I will cover this in depth later in a different part of this series. Some of the semi-automatic pros are capacity, size, speed of reload, ease of carrying reloads, and availability of accessories. They also have their cons as well. They are more complex in function and are more sensitive to different ammunition types. The slides on some models may be harder to manipulate for weaker hands or persons with disabilities. They have more functions to manipulate such as slide locks, magazine releases, and manual safeties on some models. However with proper training they can be easily manipulated. They do fail too but most of the failures can be rectified by either racking the slide and clearing the failure, or stripping the magazine and inserting a new one after racking the slide. Not a lot of their failures are fight stoppers.
As with revolvers, semi automatics require training. You should not simple expect to purchase a firearm and carry it and be done. I will cover these aspects in future parts of this series. Remember to make informative decisions based upon handling, firing, and manipulating many different types of handguns. Not just what you read or what some friend or gun shop employee tells you. What may work for them may not work for you. Purchase something that you are comfortable with. Also be prepared for the inevitable fact that even though you researched and thought you bought the right handgun, with time you may find out it is not the right handgun, or not the right handgun for certain situations and you may need to purchase yet another or replace that one. You also may get a lemon that you lose confidence in. Do not be afraid to move on. If you made the choice to carry a handgun for personal protection, you cannot put a price tag on your life. In the event you do need to use it, albeit small odds, you want to make sure you have given yourself the best chance of coming out of the conflict alive. That means you need to choose a firearm that you can comfortably manipulate, accurately fire, and handle the recoil for follow up shots.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in my Responsible Concealed Carry Series – Holsters and Accessories.