I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that many people who who get into pistols end up selling the first gun they buy within one year of purchasing it. Let me add a couple of caveats to that statement, though. First of all, this assumes that our new pistol aficionado has access to an easy means of selling or trading in their pistol. Secondly, it also assumes that you don’t have a friend or two who owns pistols of various types which gives you the opportunity to extensively test different models out before buying that first one.
In my case, my assertions and caveats are true. I did not have the opportunity to try out a number of pistols extensively and do have access to a ready market to sell my used guns, which is why my so-recently beloved XDms are going on the block.
Let me step back for a minute and give you some background on myself as the new gun buyer back in March 2011 (yes, I am very much a newbie here). Growing up, I knew that I wanted an automatic. My perceptions were initially shaped by the original Lethal Weapon movie in which Mel Gibson had a Beretta 92 and he mocked his partner’s old fashioned “wheel gun.” The Beretta looked cool, Mel looked cool using it and I wanted one.
Flash forward a few years until I was in college and got a chance to see a Glock for the first time. This was the end of the 1980s and Glock had come on the scene pretty hard. I remember shooting a friend’s Glock and thinking, “meh.” I would not actually get around to purchasing a gun of my own until more than two decades later.
In those intervening years, I had the chance to shoot a few Glocks (as well as other guns from time to time) and thought that I was ready for a Glock of my own since they were everywhere and the universe of aftermarket Glock accessories was frankly amazing. But all that ended in March of 2011 when I accompanied my 82 year old father to a local Houston gun store to get himself his first automatic. He already owned a S&W.357 and a 12 gauge, but wanted an automatic too.
“Show us a Glock” was what I confidently told the salesman. He said that the Glock was indeed a very nice gun but suggested before committing to buying one that we compare it side by side with a Springfield Armory XD. He brought up the issue of grip angle on the Glock and I noticed this myself as did my father. We both discovered that the angle of the grip on the Glock tends to initially point the gun too high to engage a target in front of you. Sure, if you use Glocks you quickly learn to compensate, but both my father and I preferred the angle of the XD grip and the accessory package that shipped with it was a definite plus.
My father would have bought the XD that day except that he no longer had the hand strength to rack the slide. With this in mind, the salesman suggested he look at the Beretta 92A1. He could work the slide on that one and that’s the gun that he took home that day. We both worked with it using dummy loads, practiced breaking it down, loading and unloading it, etc. It was a nice gun, but in my head, I was sold on what I thought was the superior XD.
When I returned home after my visit with my parents, I promptly went down to the store and bought my first gun, an XDm in .40 (okay, I was sold on the “upgrades” of the XDm platform – I am a sucker for that sort of thing). It wasn’t much more than the XD and I figured the extras were worth it for me. I went with the .40 because I felt that I wanted the extra stopping power of the more powerful .40 caliber round.
I soon learned that the difference in ammo prices made shooting the .40 a bit more expensive than I wanted over the long term, so my next purchase was an XDm in 9mm. I was happy as I knew nothing else. That happiness was to change soon enough.
In one of the books I was reading at the time, the protagonists used the special forces H&K MK 23 in .45. That looked like a cool gun and I did want to eventually get a .45. At north of $2,000, the MK23 was bit out of my price range, but its smaller cousin, the USP Tactical .45 was a nice compromise as it, too had a threaded barrel so that I could one day fit a silencer (if I ever decide to go that way). Even better, the local gun shop had a used one in stock at a relatively decent price.
I really liked the H&K. As a true DA/SA pistol with an external hammer, I discovered that I very much liked having a hammer to cock for a couple of reasons. First of all, I had recently purchased a Laserlyte targeting system that projects a laser dot onto a laser-sensitive target when you pull the trigger. It was much easier to practice with the H&K than with the XDm as the XDm required me to rack the slide after every shot whereas the H&K only needed the hammer cocked. Or I could simply pull the trigger in DA mode.
Secondly, and even more important, if I wanted to carry the gun with a round in the chamber, I had to carry the XDm “hot.” The striker was pulled back so all it required was a single action trigger pull to discharge the gun. Now, conceptually I know that striker fired guns are safe.
Many people carry XDs, Glocks, and other striker fired guns every day, but in the back of my mind, I still think that all of the built in safeties are only mechanical and mechanical things can fail (Yes, I know that I am being a bit of a wuss here, but there it is). If there was even a chance that the striker might go forward on its own volition, I simply was not prepared to take the chance, which means that I would be consigned to carrying my XDm without a bullet locked and loaded which, in turn, meant that in an emergency, it would have to take an additional second or two to chamber a round. Not an ideal option either.
The DA/SA of the H&K allowed me to load a round in the chamber and then use the decocking lever to safely drop the hammer. Now I could carry with a round in the chamber, but nothing was under tension waiting to release the hammer. I would simply have to contend with the heavier trigger pull for the first round, but I could live with that.
The H&K was nice, but let’s face it, even though it was smaller than the MK23, no one would ever call it a compact gun. It really was not a good choice for concealed carry. For some reason, I got the Beretta back in my head again and a few weeks later, I became the proud owner of a 92A1, just like what my father had. As I used it, I became astounded at how good it was. I could shoot the Beretta very accurately and it had all of the features that I liked on my H&K.
Flash forward a few more months to when I took my first course at the Sig Sauer Academy in Epping, NH. I’m fortunate in that I live less than an hour away from this amazing training facility. The class gave me the opportunity to study the Sigs in more detail in the pro shop and it soon became clear that a Sig Sauer was in my future.
One Sig became two, then three and as of today, I have four Sigs in my stable; a P238 Equinox, a P226 Tactical Ops, a P229 Equinox, and a P239. While Sig does offer different trigger options, all of my guns with the exception of the P238 are DA/SA. The Sigs shoot like a dream, are reliable and ridiculously easy to take down for cleaning. Furthermore, I went on to take the Sig Armorer class and now am qualified to work on my Sigs without voiding warranties.
My .40 XDm has already been sold and the 9 mm XDm is currently on the block. Once I get rid of it, all of my guns will either be DA/SA or SA only in the case of my 1911 and P238.
The moral of the story is that, had I known then what I know now, I would never have bought a striker fired gun. I’m taking a bit of a bath to unload them, but better that than to have money tied up in guns I will never use. Many people will continue to swear by their Glocks. Price-wise they are certainly a bit better than the Beretta and a lot easier on the wallet than the Sigs. But for me, the peace of mind of the DA/SA is worth the extra cost.
I caution anyone who is about to start their own gun collection to consider carefully your needs and concerns and pick the best gun for the job rather than simply buying whatever is hot today. If you can, get to a range and rent any gun you think you want to buy. And ask the range owner to show you how to take the gun down for cleaning. Doing that before before plunking down the plastic will save you a lot of regret down the road.