Overwhelmed yet? Choosing the right handgun is not a slam-dunk, as we’ve seen over the past six articles. And in the interest of making sure you’re armed with the best information, let’s recap what we’ve learned, and see if we can make sense of it for you. We’ll start from the premise that you are ready and willing to defend yourself, and are prepared to purchase a handgun to do it. Here’s a handy questionnaire that is designed to narrow down your options.

Do you want the handgun purely for nighttime home defense?
Buy a shotgun.

Do you think you’ll need more than five or six rounds loaded in the gun?
The answer depends on you perceived threat level . . .

Do you see yourself in a short confrontation with an attacker: perhaps one unknown assailant intent on assault, rape, car-jacking or an opportunistic robbery? Or do you think you might face a longer gun battle: an attack by a determined attacker or multiple assailants who are out to get YOU, or a planned robbery)? If it’s the latter, you’ll be looking at a semi-auto with a spare clip (or two). If it’s the former, there’s nothing wrong with a tried-and-true revolver.

How big and powerful a handgun can you carry and shoot comfortably?
First, buy a weapon whose size, recoil and operating expense (ammo cost) suits your lifestyle (hate that term but it’s the truth). Then consider your threat level and choose the gun with whose caliber offers you appropriate “stopping power.”

Do you plan to practice at the range regularly?
If you do, a semi-auto’s a good choice. If not, go with a revolver – they are much easier to use effectively with little-to-virtually-no practice.

Do you anticipate needing a gun in low-light or no-light situations?
Remember: you are not going to go “hunting” criminals in the dark in your home. (Hint: turn on all the light.) A light is for outdoors (e.g. dark streets or parking lots) or unfamiliar territory (dark building, somewhere where an attacker could turn off the lights). If so, you need a gun equipped with laser grips, or consider purchasing them as an after-market add-on. You may also want to consider a handgun with a built-in tactical (blinding) light, perhaps mounted on a second “low light” gun.

Do children live with you or visit, even occasionally?
Then you MUST have a way to secure the weapon. A biometric gun safe is best. A trigger lock is okay. Hiding the gun is a sucker bet. DO NOT BUY A HANDGUN UNTIL YOU CAN SAFELY STORE IT. Safety (the safe) first.

Do plan to carry the gun on a daily basis?
Then think of your purchase a gun – holster package. Don’t buy one without the other. You’ll need to invest in a good holster (or conceal carry purse if you’re a woman), that will allow you to carry it comfortably without radically changing the way you dress.

Do you want to maximize your accuracy with a handgun?
Then consider starting small with a low-recoil target ,22, and moving up to a larger caliber weapon as your skills increase. Or start with both. BEFORE you buy the gun, visit your local shooting range or gun club to explore the logistics of regular practice. Even better, join your local chapter of the IDPA or IPSC and attend practices and matches to hone your skills in situations where the bad guys have the gall to move around and stand closer/farther away than three yards.

Do you want to be prepared for as many ‘what-if’ scenarios as possible?
Buy a good tactical flashlight and tactical knife and keep them with you at all times.

I could go on, but you should now be getting a clear(er) picture…choosing the right handgun is important, but how you use it (and how you train to use it) is every bit as important as which gun you choose.

Self defense is both a challenge and an awesome responsibility. Since fortune favors the prepared, just by considering your options, you’re ahead of the game. Did I mention that shooting targets is fun? We’ll get to that.

3 Responses to Choosing a Handgun, Part VII: The Sum of All Fears

  1. Robert it’s good to see you not taking sides on what firearm someone needs for self defense,as a lot of the big gun magizines seem to push whatever handgun from whatever gun manufacturer pays them to advertise.If someone that is looking to purchase a handgun,that has never owned a firearm,the advice I can give you is,if you have a friend that shoots ask them to let them go along with them and try their firearms and most shooters do have firearms of both types,next if you have access to a range that rents handguns go and try out both types of handguns.i have found that if you ccw try to find the best handgun that you feel the most comfortable with,because that way you will excel with that handgun.Be prepared and ready.Keep your powder dry.

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