Ever heard of Stendhal syndrome? It’s a condition sparked by too much choice. You’ll find sufferers in front of the spaghetti sauce section of your local supermarket, standing there, staring. You’ll find them at gun stores too. No surprise there. An aspiring gun carrier must choose from dozens of potential guns; a bewildering selection of brands, calibers, barrel lengths, actions and trigger types. Gun store salesmen are notoriously bad at helping customers navigate this thicket. So let me make this really easy . . .
I’m going to give you one choice. That’s it. Once you make that choice, I’m tell you what to buy. There are plenty of worthwhile alternatives to my selections, but you don’t need to trouble yourselves with further choices. TTAG readers, gun salesmen and gunnie friends will howl. So be it. You will not regret following my advice.
One more thing: if you expose yourself to new guns, shooting techniques and carry methods, you may outgrow your first carry gun (although it will still be extremely useful). If you don’t — and there’s no law that says you have to — you’ll be fine. M’kay?
1. The gun
Here’s your one and only choice: a semi-automatic pistol or a revolver?
A semi-automatic pistol (as above) has a “magazine” (bullet holder thingie) that you fill with forward facing bullets (gun people call them “cartridges”) and stick into the gun. After that you “rack the slide” (pull the top part back) to load the gun. Done. Unless you want to remove the magazine, put another cartridge in the magazine and stick it back in the gun.
Advantages: Semi-automatic pistols (“semis”) are slim and hold more bullets than revolvers. You can carry an extra magazine to reload the gun if needs be. They have relatively easy-to-pull triggers, which makes them easier to shoot accurately.
Disadvantages: You have to fill the magazine with bullets, stick it into the gun and “rack the slide” (pull the top part back) to load the gun. It’s easy enough, but some people find all that gun handling daunting and, well, dangerous. Semis have relatively easy-to-pull triggers, which makes it easier to shoot the gun accidentally.
A revolver (as above) has a cylinder that you open and fill with forward-facing bullets. You close the cylinder. Done.
Advantages: Revolvers are easy to load. The heavier trigger pull adds an extra layer of safety; you’re less likely to pull it until you’re ready.
Disadvantages: The cylinder sticks out a bit, making revolvers slightly bulkier than a semi and thus more difficult to conceal. Until and unless you practice reloading (a lot), you won’t be able to reload a revolver easily or quickly under stress. The heavier trigger makes revolvers more difficult (for a new shooter) to shoot accurately than a semi.
The GLOCK 43 semi-automatic pistol holds six 9mm bullets. (If you do the “load the gun and take-out-the-magazine-and-load-another-cartridge-and-the-reinsert-the-magazine-into-the-gun thing mentioned above, the 43 holds seven bullets. The Ruger LCR holds five .38 caliber bullets and no more.
Buy four boxes of any type of full-metal jacket ammunition (a.k.a., “regular” ammo) and one box of any kind of hollow-point ammunition. The first type of ammo is for practice, the second for carrying. If you don’t plan on practicing (you really should, as much and as regularly as possible) and/or when you’re ready to carry your gun, load it with the hollow points.
When carrying a gun always carry it in a holster. If you’re a guy, buy an Uncle Mike’s Inside-The-Pocket holster. For now, that’s where you’re going to schlep your gun: inside your pants pocket. If you’re a woman who wears pants, same deal.
If you’re a woman (presumably) who wears thin dresses, also buy a $69.95 CrossBreed Holsters Modular Belly Band or carry your gun in the Uncle Mike’s holster “off-body” (i.e., in a purse or handbag). Off-body carry is not recommended. It’s difficult to extract your gun in an emergency and you could lose or lose sight of your bag.
Your gun belongs in one of two places: on your person or in a safe. That’s it. Not in your desk drawer, by the bedside or under a pillow. On your person or in a safe.
Buy a $104.99 GunVault Standard MiniVault Personal Electronic Safe. If you have to disarm to enter a “gun free zone” while you’re out and about, lock your carry gun in your car’s glovebox or a small lockable car safe. If you don’t have a car or a safe, you’re SOL. Do not enter a “gun free zone” with a gun.
There’s a whole lot of stuff you should think about when buying a carry gun — information that has nothing to do with the gun, ammunition, holster or safe. Everything from The Four Rules of Gun Safety to licensing and lawyers, from “situational awareness” to shooting techniques. TTAG’s Guns for Beginners posts (soon to be a complete e-book) have a lot of useful information. Equally, I can’t recommend training enough. But . . .
You have a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Bullets face forwards, aim at bad guy, squeeze the trigger until the threat stops (or the gun’s empty), run, call 911. That’s not enough info to be “good” at armed self-defense, but it’s enough to get you started. So start.