I’m a marketing guy, first and foremost. I was raised that way. From a very tender age, my pater familias drilled into my head how to get past the hype and determine if the advertiser was playing us. So I tend to look at things from a very skeptical, analytical point. But I’m also human. Marketing works on me, too, even if most of the time I can see through the techniques. Marketing is designed to make you react emotionally instead of logically. You can see that in the way people express their preferences. I can’t drive from here to school to pick up my daughter, without seeing at least one pickup sporting a vinyl cutout of a demonic looking Calvin, whizzing on the logo of a competitor’s product. And you see it a lot on TTAG. We have a variety of fanboys – 1911’s, Glocks, wheelguns – they all have a devoted base. But a reply to RF’s post last week asking if John Browning was the greatest gun inventor who ever lived got me to thinking: is this a good thing?

When I made the conscious decision to get trained and buy a gun, I did what I usually do. I get a lot of reference materials from a lot of different sources, and I study. Then I did what I always seem to do: make an emotional decision and rationalize the Hell out of it, with all my newfound knowledge.

I’d grown up with a father who’d served in the U.S. Navy, in fact, he was on Admiral Nimitz staff, as a Petty Officer, Third Class. I grew up imagining all the things he never told me about – gun battles, near misses, danger, excitement…all the things a pre-pubescent boy dreams about. But he didn’t tell me those stories, because they never happened. Like tens of thousands of our military in WWII, he served behind the lines. He was shot at by a Japanese sniper (once) on Guam. And he almost got his head blown off by a nervous M.P. when he couldn’t immediately remember the password.

In fact, he never carried the very gun I imagined was at the heart of all his adventures, a U.S. Navy Colt .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol, Model 1911 M1A.  Hey, lots of guys came home, having served honorably, doing whatever Uncle Sam asked of them. The fallacy we enjoy in hindsight is that everybody saw action.

But all the fevered imagination of my 10-year-old mind left me with a keen appreciation for the 1911. So when I began to look at guns, I was already favorably disposed towards the 1911.

Allow me to digress for a moment. As a kid, we had lots of pets. Hamsters. Gerbils. Goldfish. A rabbit named “Lucky” that hung himself. (Don’t ask.) Dogs. We never had a lot of luck with pets, but as an adult, I decided that having a dog would be the thing to do. So not long before I married, I bought books and magazines and started researching the perfect breed.

Keep in mind, I was to be a newbie pet owner, living in Dallas, Texas, in a nice residential area (Lakewood) with nice sized back yard which was sadly, fence-free. There are many breeds the experts recommend for those new to dog ownership, living in a part of the country that’s hot more often than not.

A Siberian Husky is not one of them. Nope. Huskies are “headstrong” and “willful” (read: waaaay too stubborn for an inexperienced owner without the patience to deal with them). They have a “Winter Coat” (read: You’re gonna get a basketball-sized ball o’ fur every time you brush them. Which had better be daily, unless you want everything in your house to take on the look of dull gray snowy slush, days after a good-sized snowstorm in Chicago’s Loop.

I bought a Husky. I thought, “Inexperienced owner? Feh. I can handle it. How hard can it be brush a dog every now and then? Working dog? Sure, I’ll walk her regularly.”

Let’s just say the reality of owning a Husky was nothing like my fantasy of owning such a dog. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my dog. She was everything a Husky should be – beautiful, playful, mischievous, and ate a lot. Like a small horse, actually. So let’s just say I’m not unaccustomed to making decisions based on emotion, and using “logic” as a cover.

I did do a lot of research on guns. Some of the best advice I received came from shooters that told me, “Ignore everything you hear about brands and models. Go with what feels good in your hand.” And to this day, nothing feels more natural or more like an extension of my arm, than John Moses Browning’s most famous offspring.

I got other good intel – namely, if you’re buying but one gun for concealed carry, make sure it’s lightweight and you can carry it comfortably all day long. But no, I was determined to own the gun my dad WOULD have carried, had he carried in WWII.

I bought a Springfield Armory 1911 “Loaded,” which was essentially a WWII 1911 with a few modern conveniences (like a beavertail grip safety). Think of it like a modern Jeep, which looks like a Willys, but drives more like an SUV.

I got the 5″ barrel model, “Parkerized” finish, with a steel frame. Damn thing weighs 40 ounces, and that’s when it’s bereft of bullets. Carryin’ that bad boy on my hip all day long is like dragging around a free weight strapped to my hip. And that 5″ barrel? It knew just how to pinch an inch of flesh between my chair and my hip. Not fun.

Being a couple of years older and presumably wiser, I started a search for my “dream gun.” Problem is, I have champagne tastes (and NOT for the cheap stuff) and a beer budget. But I had my heart set on a Kimber Crimson Carry Pro II. I eventually acquired same. And it’s a great gun. Feels great in my hand. Shoots reliably. Lightweight. And a 4″ barrel is a nice compromise between a 5″ (too long to carry) and a 3″ (too short to depend on accuracy).

For some time, I counted myself in the 1911 Fanboy club. You know the type. The ones who have that faint air of superiority about them, when someone tells them that they shoot a Glock. Yeah. One of those guys.

But something funny happened along the way. I began to see the virtues in a number of different handguns, many of them as far removed from Browning’s babies as you could get and still have them shoot bullets.

For instance, I have developed an appreciation, nay desire to own a polymer gun. I’m still favoring the Springfield XDM over the 4gen Glock, but again, that’s because of how it fits in my hand.

I’m also warming to the idea of a wheelgun. My dad’s S&W .38 Special is a neat little pocket pistol with it’s snub nose and small size. Can’t stand the trigger, though. It’s either like trying to move a cornerstone of the Great Pyramid into place with your finger, or cocked, it’s just one hair’s breath away from a hair trigger. I’m really intrigued by the Chiappa Rhino, to tell the truth. I think that could end up being my wheelgun of choice.

Then there’s the “other” guns. The Berettas, Sig Sauers, Kahrs – you name it, the ones that aren’t 1911s or Glock/clones. I’m warming up to them, too.

One thing that stands out in my newly-cloud-free thinking. There are a lot of brands of guns out there, because everybody’s different. Not everybody “fits” a 1911. And not everybody has the same requirements as I do. Some feel more comfortable with a higher-capacity, double-stack magazine. Some want a small gun. Some go large. Some want the latest technology. Others want to rely on the tried and true.

So where do I come down on the Fanboys and Firearms question? Call me a “universalist.” I have preferences, but I’m working hard to insure that they are based on facts and not the fantasies of a younger me. If I were a wealthier man, I’d invest in a bunch of different guns, and keep selling off the ones I don’t like. But for now, I’m going to do some more research.

And the next time I hear someone prattle on about how anything but a 1911 is craptastic, or how Glock has no competition, I’m going to smile politely and go back to my reading. If that’s heresy, then so be it. I’m done with the Fanboy fandango. I’m no fanboy. I’m a gun owner. Period.

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19 Responses to Fanboys and Firearms.

  1. As long as the gun companies from around the world see a profit in the American gun market we as buyers will continue to benefit from cheaper, better, more innovative firearms. Being a gun snob just means that you’re missing out on all the fun that comes with a cheap gun.

    • I wouldn’t buy a ‘cheap’ gun. But I see your point. Competition is good, but I’ll always prefer a proven brand. It’s a shame there isn’t something out there rating reliability of firearms besides heresay and ‘what LEO/gov contracts with.’ Something similar to JDPower, etc. A third party quality analyst on guns. That would be heaven.

  2. “1911 Fanboy club” — the guys that advertise parts and magazines, without telling you what gun they’re for, because of course, there’s only one guy.

    It’s covetousness. Tenth (and first) commandment stuff. Ideally, get something that meets your needs, and move on to other things.

  3. The 1911 is to guns what a Corvette is to automobiles. Something you’ve got to own and unlike a Corvette something that most people can afford to buy. However, despite the negativity, the 1911 is an outstanding weapon. While it has a high maintanence requirement, it is rugged and accurate. Are the magazine limitations an issue? Maybe in a “shootout” scenario but as per Saturday’s combat accuracy thread I don’t think there is much of a chance that any of us are going to be in a duel to the death situation. Even if you are it will be over by seven rounds. I don’t have a problem with the weight. It adds stability and stability equals accuracy.

  4. I agree with Mr. Field (chuckle), especially about the 1st and 10th commandments. But let’s face it- very few of us into getting what meets our needs and moving on. Most of us are into shooting for fun as much as for political or defensive purposes.

    I’m no fanboy. I love my SIG and have complete confidence in it… but, ya know… I’d kinda like to own a USP. And 1911s are gorgeous – RIAs aren’t that expensive!. I’m not a huge fan of Glocks, but the g19 has one of the slimmest double-stacks out there. You know, wheelguns have a lot of charm…

    Fanboys don’t have this problem- at least, it’s not as bad. Sure, there’s always a more expensive 1911… but really, how many iterations of government, commander, officer; parkerized, stainless, twotone are really gonna tempt you? Glock guys are even better off…

    Better to spend money on ammunition and practice than on guns you don’t really need. There are so many *excellent* pistols out there; you can really waste a lot of money trying to find the “perfect” gun, even though the one you’ve got outperforms *you* (or me) any day of the week.

    But I really love feel of walnut and blued steel… and BHPs aren’t *that* expensive…

    • “but really, how many iterations of government, commander, officer; parkerized, stainless, twotone are really gonna tempt you?”
      —–
      Well, you know how it is. Once you’ve shot one nice 1911, you pretty much want to shoot them all.

  5. I have shot a wide variety of guns in my day and owned a few. While quality makes for better anymore enjoyable shooting, as long as the gun goes bang when you pull the trigger, it’s working.

    I heard several very negative opinions of the S&W sigma 9mm before I bought it. After 500 rounds or so and no malfunctions, those nay Sayers were easily forgotten. I payed half of what they paid for their glocks and our guns did the same thing; throw bullets.

    Of course I’ve sold it since and upgraded to a glock and I do notice a difference in quality, but at the end of the day, I’d get guns leveled at me no matter if I was carrying a plasic s&w or a 4k custom 1911 openly at an airport. Perspective.

  6. To each their own as they say. Form me, it’s the Browning Hi-Power. No one ever talks about them and I typically get the “a what?” head cock when I mention it’s my preferred handgun. I’ve always loved the look and feel of the 1911’s though.

    • It’s a man of taste & refinement who owns a HiPower. I don’t, but if you do, my hat’s off to you. That is not a decision driven by marketing, that’s for sure.

  7. “Go with what feels good in your hand” is possibly the most pernicious piece of gun advice you can get, and if someone gives it to you, you can immediately discount anything they say.

    The correct question is “Can you reach the trigger?” Some people with small hands will have trouble with long double action triggers. But beyond that, there are possibly dozens of questions that are more important than “How does it feel?”

    * Is it reliable? What good is a gun that feels good but doesn’t work?
    * Is the manual of arms simple enough for you and your level of training? What about the other people in your household? User error – not mechanical error – is the primary cause of guns going “click” instead of “bang”.
    * How heavy is it? Rule #1 of gunfighting is “Have a gun.” If it feels great, but it’s at home, what good is it?
    * How susceptible is it to limp-wristing? You may think that’s not a problem, but how firm is your grip going to be if you’re wounded? Heavier frame guns have less problems in this regard. Now you’ve got a trade-off to make with the previous point.
    * Is the trigger good? Nothing will mess a tyro up faster than a bad trigger.
    * How is the trigger reset? A short, positive trigger reset is essential for fast shooting. Do you even know how to check a trigger reset?
    * What about the sights? Your front sight is your whole world. Is it easy to find, plenty of light in the rear notch? Do you have the option of tritium, fiber optic, or both for high visibility in a stressful situation?
    * Does the rear sight have a squared-off front edge for one-handed reloading drills? Or can you get a rear sight that does?
    * Speaking of third party accessories, what’s the holster situation? Do the major high-quality holster makers even support this gun? You won’t carry a gun you don’t have a good holster for.
    * Parts. All guns break if you shoot them enough, or at least need replacement springs. Yes, even Glocks. How quickly and inexpensively can you get parts? Do you have to ship it back to the company for repairs, and be without it for days to months, or can you do it yourself?
    * What’s the magazine situation? Can you buy them at your local gun emporium? How expensive are they? It’s a good idea to have a lot of magazines for your primary defensive handgun. 10x$50 is a lot higher than 10x$20.
    * Who makes those magazines? Magazines are the most critical component for reliable functioning. I am an unabashed Mec-Gar fanboy because I know them to be reliable, and have made purchasing decisions based on, “Does Mec-Gar offer a magazine for this pistol?”
    * Is there a .22 conversion kit or .22-a-like for this pistol? When ammunition prices soar for political reasons, or you find yourself temporarily short of funds, are you still going to be able to practice because you put a couple of bricks of .22 away when you were flush?

    Leave screaming “How does it feeeeeel?” to Trent Reznor. Think less about how it fits your hand and more about how it fits your needs and your lifestyle.

    • I don’t agree. At all. It’s a given that you’ve got to find a gun that allows you to reach the trigger. (Duh.) And without a good trigger, a gun is little more than a paperweight. And you’ve the gun you have is better than that the gun you want, when you need a gun for self defense. All of those are – or should be – givens. What I’m talking about is that a 1911, a Glock, a Springfield XD – they are all fine guns. But they are all quite different in the way they feel in your hand. Not everybody will find that a 1911 feels good in your hand. Same for a Glock. Some people have small hands and can’t handle a double-stack. Some have big meathooks, and can take a big fat meaty grip, still wanting something bigger. The people that tell you the ______ is the ONLY gun to buy when a n00b asks are the ones you need to avoid. When I hear “buy what feels good in your hand,” my take is the advisor has gotten past the ‘fanboy’ ‘tude and has realized that a gun that is uncomfortable to shoot is the kind that will be left at home when needed.

      • No, they’re not all fine guns. A 1911 is a horrible gun for someone who doesn’t want to practice enough to manipulate a gun with such a complex manual of arms. A Glock is a horrible gun for someone who limp-wrists. A XD is a horrible gun for anyone who doesn’t want to pay more money for a gun made in Croatia (the country with the highest rate of alcohol consumption in Europe) than a gun made in Austria. (The country with the second-highest rate of sticks-up-asses about quality control.)
        This idea that feel is the most important discriminator is not just wrong, it’s downright dangerous.
        What’s more, most tyros have no idea what a gun is supposed to feel like. Try any sport for the first time, and correct form is going to feel awkward as hell. It does not feel good to take a proper swing at a golf ball. It does not feel good to grip a gun properly. Go to a range and look at what people do when they “do what comes naturally”. They’ll be crossing their fingers behind the slide, getting their hand too low on the grip, teacupping, using the finger on the trigger guard, even the Starsky & Hutch wrist grab. And that’s not even getting into the issue of trigger positioning. But you’re going to turn these people loose in a gun store and tell them, “Just pick what feels good!”? They have no clue. No frame of reference. They don’t even know where to put their hands, much less what it’s supposed to feel like when they get there. And since shooting properly uses muscles and positions you don’t use in other pursuits, it’s almost guaranteed that if they pick the one that feels best, it’s not actually going to be the one that fits them best once they’re using proper technique.
        Forget feel. Get them something that works, that fits their needs, and offers them good value for the money. If they end up shooting enough to get the experience to know the difference, they can start to worry about feel. But if they get that experience, and learn the fundamentals, they’ll probably find that they can handle nearly anything, regardless of feel.

  8. I’d invest in a bunch of different guns…

    Invest, collect… what are hobbies for but to consume large amounts of time and money! Collecting even one high end 1911 is out of the question but dabbling with inexpensive surplus pistols like 9mm Makarov, 9mm Largo, 7.62 Tokarev, etc. is fun and the ammo is cheap.

  9. There’s nothing wrong with being a fanboy, per se, when it comes to collecting or recreation at the range or one upping your friends and enemies. But one should very carefully inoculate one’s self from fanboy-itis when it comes to the firearm that may be used for the defense of one’s self and loved ones.

    The simple answer is that there is no simple answer and there is no “one size fits all”. It seems pretty pointless to worship at the alter of JMB or Gaston G or anyone else if they turn out to be a false idol where your personal safety and defense are concerned.

    Take the time, effort and expense to find the firearm that suits you the best. We owe ourselves that much. One of the most important questions to ask yourself is can you shoot this gun well and naturally? And by naturally I mean can you just pick up this particular gun, run some drills well with it, have it feel right to your hand and your mind, without having to learn a whole bunch of new technique for its manipulation. Do you “feel” that this particular gun is a natural extension of your self and will it be comfortable enough that you’ll carry it all of the time? If it isn’t, look for something else. If your not completely sure, don’t be afraid to buy it anyway and live with it a while. If things don’t work out, sell it and try something else. There is no place in self defense for a pledge of fealty to a tool.

    For me, that stated above is probably my most important criteria for a self defense gun. Other, slightly less important factors, should be considered as well. Reliability is next in line. It’s got to go bang every time. If you do your part to keep it in proper repair, will it be as near to perfectly reliable as possible? No one needs a high maintenance, high drama safe queen on which to have their life depend on. Thank you Capt. Obvious.

    I won’t belabor the point further as Jason, a couple of posts above, has already done a fine job running down things to think about.

  10. This is an article I would have written. Would have subbed out the 1911 for Glock (all the rage in the place I grew up). I recently grew out of the fanboy thing myself. I have had enough of the “who would piss on what gun” rants but I can safely say I nod and smile without snapping at people who have done no research, go to the range annually and own one gun. It took a lot but I’m there now.

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