Handguns (courtesy beararmsaz.com)

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?

GLOCK 43 (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

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.

Ruger LCR (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

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.

Choose.

Now buy either a $529 MSRP GLOCK 43 semi-automatic pistol (top image, reviewed by TTAG here) or a $579 MSRP Ruger LCR revolver in .38 Spl. +P (image above, .357 version review by TTAG here).

Hollow point ammunition (courtesy luckygunner.com)

2. Ammunition

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.

Uncle Mike's holster (courtesy

3. Holster

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.

I

4. Safe

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.

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113 Responses to Your First Carry Gun Made Easy: Guns for Beginners

  1. Pretty good, RF. I would add that new shooters should, if at all possible, try the gun before they buy (either via a range rental or a friend).

    Oh, and thanks for mentioning the “cartridge” thing. When I read “bullets”, I was short of breath. 8>)

  2. As an anti-Glock guy, I’m going to say that the G43 is a pretty good choice. That’s right, it doesn’t suffer the same problems as many Glocks do, which is an awkward bent wrist aim. A little pocket 9mm (S&W, Wather, Glock, Ruger, what have you) is a great first carry gun. After you get used to carring, then it is time to decide if you want to/have the body size to switch to a compact double stack or even a full size.
    As for the Ruger, I am generally a S&W revolver guy, but I am not very impressed with the J-Frame (sacrilege!). One note, if you are like 90% of people, you have curves on your body, which a little revolver actually fits into better then a flat semi auto.
    Whatever a first time carrier does, they mush practice, get a good holster ($50 plus) and a good belt designed to carry a gun.

    • I get so tired of the grip angle myth. What is the grip angle of the Glock 19? What does “natural pointing” mean? What is the grip angle of the 1911? The CZ 75, The Beretta 92? You say the “Glock just doesn’t feel right”. Well that may be personal preference. The wrist can flex and extend within a range of 75 degrees up and down with the palm facing the wall as in a pistol grip position. At least mine can and I am not a flexible person. No gun points naturally when the wrist is fully extended or fully flexed therefore it must be a position within the range of extremities which has no natural lock point. Guess what? Your shoulder can move too and we haven’t even talked about that yet. Here is the truth for all you Glock haters out there. If you can’t shoot a Glock accurately then you have a problem lining up sights. The angle of the grip is not an issue. You are the problem and you are too proud to admit it. You want a gun that you can point shoot without using sights. That’s fine. I shoot my Glock that way sometimes. The problem is you don’t want to train with a Glock in order to get the feel for the gun. That’s fine. Just stop blaming the gun for your inadequacies.

      • So your premise seems to be that if people don’t like Glocks, they are just wrong and it creates a problem for you that people don’t like what you like. Is that a mature, logical reaction? Why do you care?

        And how can the grip angle of a Glock be a “myth?” It is what it is. It is measurable at about 22 degrees. And it is a provable fact that some people prefer the roughly 18 degree angle based on the 1911 model. That is their preference, just as the Glock’s angle is yours.

        So rather than respecting that people have different preferences, you seem to feel that anyone’s preference that does not agree with yours should actually spend time training themselves to get used to your preference.

        I have to ask, what if someone did the same to you? What if I suggested your preference for Glocks is just wrong, that your feeling that Glocks are best is naive and that if you only spent some time training with a 1911, you would see the light. You would not accept that. But of course, that would be different because in your little world, you are right, and everyone else is wrong.

        • “So your premise seems to be that if people don’t like Glocks, they are just wrong and it creates a problem for you that people don’t like what you like. ”

          No, I had no premise. I was replying to a statement that ” it doesn’t suffer the same problems as many Glocks do, which is an awkward bent wrist aim.” I addressed a specific argument rather than generalize or flat out ignore the points in the conversation as you have.

          “Is that a mature, logical reaction? Why do you care?”

          What you said I said would not be a mature, logical reaction. What I actually did say was based solely on logic and I care because this is The Truth About Guns and I believe what I said is the truth put out there for the newbies, not the experts like you. And also because…GUNS!

          “And how can the grip angle of a Glock be a “myth?” It is what it is. It is measurable at about 22 degrees. And it is a provable fact that some people prefer the roughly 18 degree angle based on the 1911 model. That is their preference, just as the Glock’s angle is yours.”

          The myth is that the angle makes the gun difficult to aim. The truth is that many people are used to the 1911. Had the 1911 been manufactured with 22 degree angle, then the Glock came along in the ’80s with the 18 degree angle, you and the haters would be complaining about the Glock just the same. The human body is a wonderful complex thing. You give the human very little credit for adaptability. A four degree adjustment in the wrist that can flex about 75 degrees seems too simple to me yet too complex for you to grasp.

          “So rather than respecting that people have different preferences, you seem to feel that anyone’s preference that does not agree with yours should actually spend time training themselves to get used to your preference.”

          Then why did I say repeatedly “that’s fine” when talking about preferences? I don’t mind people disagreeing with me especially when it comes to personal preferences. Just make sure you say it is a personal preference and not regurgitate the garbage you hear on YouTube. Shoot what you want and shoot what you shoot well. I would never suggest someone train suit my preferences.

          “I have to ask, what if someone did the same to you? What if I suggested your preference for Glocks is just wrong, that your feeling that Glocks are best is naive and that if you only spent some time training with a 1911, you would see the light. You would not accept that. But of course, that would be different because in your little world, you are right, and everyone else is wrong.”

          I’m really not sure what I did to anyone. I said that the common theme throughout the gun community that people can’t shoot Glocks as well as other guns due to some minuscule difference in grip angle, is a myth. Nowhere did I say someone’s preference was wrong. I just said that the angle of the grip has nothing to do with accuracy. That alone rest in the alignment of the sites with the target when the bullet leaves the barrel. And it is 100% possible to align the sights up on any Glock, If you want to talk about instinctive shooting or point shooting, then no matter what gun you use, you will have to train with it long enough to get the feel for it.
          The remarkable thing is how actually butt hurt you got over my statement. So much so that you had to fabricate points that I never made.

        • Any firearm will take getting familiar with. Some are ergomically easier for specific body types than others but for most people and most guns they can all be adapted to with time.
          This is true with many other things as well but we are talking guns here.
          I do disagree with the Clock being the only gun but I am not a Block or any other gun hater. It is absolutely great that we do have such a variety though this can be daunting.
          Reliability ( factual reliability ) , price point can be useful for determining initial purchase.
          If a more refined and pricy gun is within your reach financially then one can start whittling down from there.
          Also, any caliber from 380 on up will have enough stopping power depending ob the ammo weight so at that point the recoil and ones comfort level comes into play as that deciding factor.
          My wife shoots a 380 and I feel (or not) for anyone that ends up being on the business end of her gun.
          I have a 9 mm and will soon be carrying a 38 spcl. 5 shot . I like both of these a lot but again I am very comfortable with both if them…and reasonably accurate.
          Enough rambling on my part.
          Great subject and responses ( not including mine ).

      • You can make that claim all you want, Michael; but the fact is that the Glock points differently than other handguns; and for myself and many other shooters, it just happens that other guns naturally point with the sights closer together when initially aiming. Correcting a more imperfect sight picture takes longer, which is an issue. Period. Great if Glocks work better for you; I know plenty of people they work for. They don’t work as well for me, and I’m not going to waste my time crooking my wrist in a way that doesn’t come naturally so I can drink your favorite flavor of Kool-Aid.

        • That’s quite an exaggeration to use the term “crook your wrist”. It is a slight difference. You’re just used to other guns. That’s it. No problem but it is a problem with repetition not the gun.

        • “crook; verb
          1.
          bend (something, especially a finger as a signal).”

          Yes, you have to adjust your wrist for the 4 degree difference in grip angle. 4 degrees makes a big difference over a few dozen yards. No thanks on the Glock, I’ll stick with what works for me.

        • I find holding and aiming a Glock to feel awkward so I choose to own other handguns. But I have no doubt that if I practiced with one I would manage to shoot it as well as I do anything else. I keep a High-Point in glove box of my old pickup, and I can even hit what I aim at with it, and it goes bang every time I pull the trigger. I don’t much let weight of gun, rough trigger or trigger reset, bore axis, muzzle flip, or grip angle get in my head. I am not a sharpshooter but I can shoot all my pistols equally well. I buy what I buy for my own reasons.

      • I don’t know squat about grip angles. All I know is I went to a range and rented a Glock 19 and a Ruger GP100. I could hit better with the revolver, even with .357 loads.

        Then I had a chance to shoot a Springfield XDM 3.8, and shot it better than either of the first two guns. Is the grip angle different? I don’t know. But why would I buy the gun that I shoot less accurately?

      • “Natural pointing” means extending the arm with the gun in your hand toward the target, without consciously flexing/extending/cocking the wrist–or elbow, or shoulder, for that matter. Not exactly rocket science. And it’s what you do naturally, without having to practice making physical adjustments. If I can do that with my Makarov and hit what it is I’m wanting to hit, why in the hell would I want to spend hours doing something I don’t naturally do just so I can use a damn Glock? If it makes you feel any better, I’ll happily say the problem is my hand/wrist/arm configuration and not the Glock–as if it made any difference. Sheesh.

        • Everybody’s body measurements are different. There is no one gun’s geometry that points naturally for everybody.
          Why is everyone getting so butt hurt over my comment? I never suggested anyone change their preference in any gun. My point is that if your sights come up to the same point every time, you have simply learned to do so. You will have to flex muscles to hold that position because otherwise, the barrel will be facing down under the weight of the gun. Flexing to point A is no more natural than flexing to point B, a couple degrees from A, is “a crooked” angle.

        • “Flexing to point A is no more natural than flexing to point B.”

          It absolutely, objectively, physically, and scientifically is. Sorry man, but you’re just flat out wrong on this one.

        • Can you naturally point a stick at a target? I can and that stick has a grip angle of ZERO.
          Can you naturally point a 90 degree flashlight at a target? I can and it was 90 degrees different from the stick angle or say, a straight flashlight.
          Anybody can naturally point these two objects with a 90 degree differential and you are bellyaching over 4 degrees? Bwahahaha!

        • That comment leads me to believe that you don’t really have much experience with shooting. I’m just going to leave you to the wolves at this point…

        • I could say the same about your comment but that fails to make a point. It merely ignores the points I have made.
          I have spoken to professional baseball players who have no clue about body mechanics or how they were able to hit successfully. Comments on the internet have no bearing on anyone’s experience.
          Look, if you think you shoot one gun better than another, then shoot it, Carry it, Confidence goes a long way. I’m not bashing your choice. I’m really not defending my choice. I am saying that it is the person not the gun that makes or breaks a good shooter.

      • “I said that the common theme throughout the gun community that people can’t shoot Glocks as well as other guns due to some minuscule difference in grip angle, is a myth.”

        So mathematically and physically measurable things affecting natural aiming among different shooters is a myth? It might get exaggerated in some anti-Glock circles, but that doesn’t make it a myth. That’s a huge stretch dude. You have one body to test your unfounded theory with. Until you get interchangeable arms and wrists which you can use to objectively prove this is a myth, I suggest you stop giving bad advice.

        If you shoot a Glock better, shoot a Glock. If you shoot a SIG better, shoot a SIG.

        • I shoot all guns effectively. Some sight pictures are below the the point of impact and some are right on impact. Line it up accordingly and pull the trigger. If you missed then you flinched or something else went wrong. Geometry is the last thing if at all to cause a missed shot. If you hit low all the time, bring the gun up higher. If you hit high all the time, don’t bring it up so high. If you are right on, repeat repeat and repeat again until you get it to feel natural. That’s what’s happening. Not the grip angle.

        • Good on you if you can shoot that well, but denying that grip angle and the build of a person’s physique can make a difference is silly. 4 degrees at 25 yards means you could be hitting 1 yard high or low. If your arms naturally want to point a certain way with your shooting stance, and one gun just points better; why get another and give yourself that extra margin of error to combat?

        • Nice contradiction. You say someone’s build can make a difference but that one gun, the Glock is wrong for those people with different builds. All I ever said was the person made the difference and not the gun.
          And stop arguing about angle of the shot making the difference in point of impact at distance. NO SHIT! You state something obvious to make it seem like you are correct on all points. I’m not pulling the trigger on a gun where my aim is 4 degrees off. That is not the argument we are having here so just stop it. We are talking about the Glock’s inability to get aimed on target “naturally” which is a myth. I don’t use the term “muscle memory” that much but for the laymen, that is all natural shooting is.

        • “You say someone’s build can make a difference but that one gun, the Glock is wrong for those people with different builds. All I ever said was the person made the difference and not the gun.”

          I never singled out the Glock. I said that grip angle AND (as in combined) with a person’s physique can affect aim. In fact I’ve already stated numerous times that some people just naturally aim better with Glocks…

          Of course Glocks can be aimed naturally, but some people aim a 1911 more naturally. Why that offends you so much is beyond me.

        • Good god such a long thread.

          The grip angle thing involves 5 elements, all affecting how the gun points:

          Front strap angle vs boreline.
          Back strap angle vs boreline.
          Height of the trigger guard undercut vs boreline.
          Height of beavertail vs boreline.
          Sectional shaping of the grip.

          Any one of these changes, the gun will point differently.
          1911, P226, Beretta92, they dont point the same.
          Plug in the individual differences in arm length, eye height, wrist&hand construction…
          You honestly believe there is ONE design that is universally natural to MOST?
          We just got trained on 1911s and guns that roughly mimic its grip profile. Had we begun with Glocks you wouldve felt the other way.

      • I don’t like Glock. I think they’re overrated and overadvertised. I also find them less comfortable to hold than a any of the Springfield XD series or many of the other competing guns from other companies.

        I have yet to hear of anything that a Glock does that I can’t get out of a Canik TP9 for half the price (but stuck with a full size model), or a Springfield XD-whatever for about the same price.

    • The Glock 43 is surprisingly comfortable to carry and shoot (and I don’t like the 19 much). You can also get the LCR in .327 Magnum if you’re feeling adventurous. And those two are hard not to recommend to new buyers. I’m trying to help 3 people in my family narrow down what they want and it’s maddening.

      • Before getting the Glock 43 for my wife, we did a side by side shoot comparison with the Shield. I prefered the Shield but she decided on the Glock.
        I shot the hell out of the G43 last night. We play a game with a dartboard target where one player takes the numbers 1-10 and the other 11-20. You have to hit three of each number to close it and doubles and triples count. Each player takes three shots per turn. If you hit an opponents number it counts for the opponent. The first player to close all numbers and hit two bullseyes’ wins. We switch between the G19 and the G43 to be fair. We played from 7 yards. The triple ring is only 1/2″ wide. I hit 4 triples with her G43 and after the game ended, I took three extra shots at the bull. I hit two singles then put one dead center of the 1/2″ double bull. It’s a fine gun but consider the shield that holds more rounds and the trigger felt lighter to me. The Glock is supposed to be 5.5 lb but feels more like 8 lb. Definitely feels heavier than my G19 and they are supposed to be the same.

      • Just choosing between those two, i d go G43 anyday. Unless one of the 3 people has strength issues to reliably hold the gun without limpwristing. Carry a spare mag.
        But, how about a G26? It’s not that much thicker, seriously

  3. I’m a BIG guy, but I have never felt like a pistol in my front pocket was adequately concealed, nor comfortable. My choice is and would be to go with an IWB holster and a good gun belt. I carry a 642, or an LRC or an SR9c that way and have never been concerned about “printing” which most newbies will be paranoid about.

    • Fixed the 642 reference.

      It’s extremely difficult for a newbie to find a suitable inside-the-waistband and/or outside-the-waistband holster. This leads to discomfort and frustration, which leads to carry guns sitting in safes. And while the 43 is JUST small enough for pocket carry and DOES print, it does fit in the pocket and doesn’t shout GUN when it prints.

    • Perhaps for a newbie the Ruger’s trigger would be preferable?

      Absolutely!

      The stock trigger on Smith and Wesson snub-nose revolvers are too stiff. While that extra stiffness all but guarantees that those revolvers will never go “bang!” unless you really mean to shoot, that extra stiffness also makes it a lot more difficult to place shots where you intend to shoot.

    • +1 I am also an above average sized guy and I can barely carry a spare mag in a front pocket without printing. However I can carry full sized revolvers and semi autos IWB all day with a good holster.

  4. Should talk about manual safety. I believe it is a requirement, and it may be a very important thing for the beginner.

    • “In the ammunition section, you refer to the Ruger LCP. I believe you mean the LCR.”

      Site admins can you correct that error please … especially since this is for newbies who are struggling to understand and could find themselves confused/derailed with a reference to yet a third handgun.

  5. Nice summary Mr. Farago: excellent guidance for choosing semi-auto versus revolver … and which of those to choose.

  6. Another disadvantage about semi-autos I would add is the gun could jam when shooting from inside a purse or pocket. Also, limp-wristing.

  7. Add disadvantage to semi-auto: This pistol can malfunction, so you will need to learn the tap-rack-bang and lock-rip-work drills.

    • I’d bet dollars to donuts that most newbies may never, ever learn that skill. While it’s an important skill, they don’t have to master it. So mentioning it now would only confuse them. IMHO.

      • RF, I will take that bet. But I’ve already won.
        Remember when we took your GF to the range at my place and her brand new baby Glock failed, over and over again? Seems like that new shooter had to learn to clear a malfunction on day one.

        • Don’t confuse me with the facts!

          In MOST cases, the 43 won’t fail. Is it any more likely to fail than another tiny nine? I don’t know for sure, obvs., but I’d say not.

          At the risk of going all double negative on you, I’m also not saying a new shooter shouldn’t learn how to clear a malf. They bloody well should! I’m saying they most likely WON’T and PROBABLY won’t need to.

          It’s one of those not letting the perfect being the enemy of the good deals. Which is pretty much the point of this article.

        • I, like most of the people commenting, thought it was a good piece. We can argue about grip angle, slide size, caliber, malfunction drills, all that noise, later. In the mean time, either of these choices is a fine gun to start carrying and shooting. And, in fact, most of those arguments disappear the more you carry and shoot.

        • 100% agree. The gun is not a magic talisman. You don’t “find the perfect gun” then ignore your responsibility. If you want to shoot any gun perfectly, you must shoot it often. If you don’t want to spend the time and money training with your chosen side arm, then most of the arguments are moot anyway. And like you said, you can train out the rest of the problems.
          I’m not here to win a debate. As long as there are two people on Earth, there will always be disagreements. I just want people to be able to hear another side to the discussion so that they can make an informed decision rather than go with the status quo coming from a large group of traditionalists.

    • Add advantage to semi auto: load the G17 to full capacity and tell those with limited brain capacity to treat it like a revolver.

      As long as the guy doesnt limp wrist it’s as reliable as if not more than a revolver

    • I’ll learn to tap-rack-bang as soon as one of my Glocks malfunctions.
      I haven’t had a chance to practice that technique yet.

  8. Believe it or not, the Ruger SR9c has one of the best triggers I have ever seen for a small pistol. The 9mm maybe a bit anemic for some (me included), but for the average shooter, it’s a great little package.

    • Not a Glock fan and I own an SR9c (my favorite EDC). The trigger is exceptional and was commented upon in the TTAG review of the SR9C as well. That said, for a total newbie the Glock may well be a very good first choice as the factory trigger is adequate and they would probably not be in a position to appreciate the difference.

      Also, when it is time to sell and move up to a Ruger or S&W their Glock will have a reasonable resale value or trade value.

  9. You may want to get a .22lr Ruger 10/22 rifle and play with it for awhile before you buy a handgun. You may want to get a .22lr Ruger Single Six or Mark 3 to play with before buying a carry gun. It helps getting some experience.

  10. My only two grievances are the LCP/LCR error, and -only- having the gun on your person or in a safe. Depending on your living situation (and neighborhood…), having a bedside gun that is either on your person or in a safe when you aren’t home is fine… but for bumps in the middle of the night, you may need it NOW. Better to err on the side of your article, however.

  11. Not bad but, for someone completely new to guns, I suggest taking an introductory handgun class. The NRA sponsors many such at modest cost. They provide everything but the student which means you get to try out several different guns.

  12. Only reasons to buy a revolver instead of a modern, quality autoloader:

    Limp wrist.
    Weak hand.
    Pocket/purse carry.
    Contact shots (somehow).

    Other than that, the bulk and weight and capacity and trigger and sights are not worth the perceived reliability increase in perfect conditions like EDC.

    If you’re a operator-wannabe like me fantisizing about rolling in the mud and shooting upside down, all it takes is a 2-day high round count pistol class in the mud to realize revolvers are worth s#*t.

    That said, any gun is better than none.

    • I recommend Grant Cunningham’s excellent book, “Defensive Revolver Fundamentals.” He is pretty fair about the relative pros and cons of revolvers vs. autos. He presents one very powerful argument that most people leave out. That is: Revolvers are less prone to “operator induced error.”

      I think this is huge. People who like guns and have shot a lot take this for granted. We all know how to operate revolvers and autos reliably and safely. And we all recommend to people that they get training to handle whatever gun they choose. We go further to believe they should want to do that, because that is what we would do.

      But the truth is, a lot of them don’t and won’t. It’s just the way it is. People buy fire extinguishers and first aid kits and don’t train with them either. But that doesn’t make them bad people and it doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to have a gun to defend themselves. They need guns they don’t have to think about to make them work.

      Then there are people who just feel that even if they know how to handle an auto, they want to have the most “f-up proof” handgun possible when they are under stress, such as the stress of a life or death situation. I’ve been shooting all kinds of guns for over 50 years. I competed with a 1911 and a Colt Woodsman on a Navy team. I have had several combat shooting courses I took with auto pistols. But I carry a revolver.

      • It’s all about cost versus benefit.

        Say, for a healthy adult, how difficult could it be to teach them “crank on the grip tight and stay off the slide”? All the new shooters i’ve taught, including myself back then, didnt have a problem as soon as the movement range of the slide was identified.

        All other controls do not have to be taught about (suppose there’s no decocker or safety, which is not a necessity in the modern day anyway). The guy can just load up and treat it like a revolver with a huge cylinder. And if they ever want to reload, which reload is easier?

        Once this hurdle they’ve got through, they enjoy all the benefits of a modern autoloader, better capacity (factor in hit ratio, and multiple rounds per bad guy, that revolver doesnt seem confidence inspiring does it?), better trigger, better sights, thinner profile and much easier reload.

        • That is all perfectly logical and true, but yet a lot of people will not get even that amount of training and some that do will not practice so that they retain that training. I think these people may even be the majority.

          Also, we see examples continually of people, including cops, who do have significant training and practice, but still mess up with autos with either NDs or FTFs. There is a “double-edged sword” of complacency on one side and the stress reaction to a life and death situation on the other that enables Murphy’s Law in a big way.

          Yes, people can mess up with revolvers also. But it just doesn’t happen as often. I have more experience with autos, but I still carry a revolver. I want more capacity, I carry two. I have nothing against autos. I just feel more confident with wheelguns. My choice, for my carry, my right.

  13. I have had a Ruger SR22 for a few years and practice a lot with it — so ironically a Ruger SR9 is OUT for me since the safety is exactly opposite motion.

    My daughter is 15 and I had her on the SR22 for three years. I thought the SR9 would be great all around gun to buy and keep for her to give to her when she gets to her early 20s as she has medium size for age girls hands and the grip/trigger reach on the SR9 is very good. I just cant believe they have opposite safety movement.

    Both are good guns, but do NOT buy both

  14. Ha, I just came back from doing this very thing with two of my neices. They both turned 21 in the last 6 weeks. They want their own guns. We went shooting, and they tried many of my guns, and their parents guns. And a few from the rental counter. They both ended up liking S&W’s the best. One really preferred an Airweight, and put money down on the used 442 the store had. Neither her mother nor I would give her ours. The other liked the SW Shield. She liked her fathers full size, but wants something smaller. She said she will buy the Pro model when she gets her tax refund in a few weeks.
    However, they both want AR’s now.

  15. Wow, most of the commenters actually appreciate this for what it is, a simple, effective answer to a problem with far to many unnecessary complications. I expected it devolve into 1911 vs Glock, 9mm vs 45 & Appendix vs Hip carry. Thank you all for not Farago’n it all up. My faith in TTAG is restored.

  16. Well, and with all due respect, there is much to disagree with here IMHO. You can’t possibly boil it down to the two guns mentioned and oh by the way, the Ruger is a terrible choice for just about anyone. Hand size, recoil mgmt etc are jsut a cople of things that need to be taken into consideration.
    Also, carry guns should not be carried off body, again, IMHO. Purse carry is simply not a good idea period.
    Lastly, HP’s are fine but you ned to run a box thru your gun just to make sure they cycle ( not as important with a wheelie for obvious reasons).

    • Also, carry guns should not be carried off body, again, IMHO. Purse carry is simply not a good idea period.

      And he said so, while recognizing that some people are going to insist on doing it anyway.

  17. These are good choices for small, hence most easily concealable guns. Beginners won’t go too far wrong. However, it’s possible, even likely, they’ll change to something else eventually, as they become more knowledgeable about their own circumstances (including their own size and shape) and/or tastes.

  18. Good advice for a noob. My only modification is to question said noob(after an afternoon at the range) as to whether or not they see themselves as a POTG or do they just want basic self defense.

    If they’re excited about their new hobby I push them towards a semi. If not and they just want the tool, I push towards a revolver.

  19. Brilliant article. Flat-out answers the questions with actual answers, so the person can get on with it.

    And I’m fine with the choices, I think they’re both fine choices. Thing is, I think there’s two ways a newbie will likely go: either
    a) they’ll buy it, and never think about it again, never buy another gun. And for them, either a G43 or an LCR would be just about perfect.

    Or,

    b) they’ll catch the madness, and they’ll have a dozen pistols and revolvers within a couple of years. And at that point, they’ll still appreciate the G43 or the LCR for what they are. Or, they’ll have traded it away to get what they really want — in which case, it’s still fine, as a G43 or LCR should both hold good resale/trade-in value.

    But I strongly recommend the earlier suggestion of getting them to take at least one pistol class.

  20. Great article, although I noticed I load my semi-auto for EDC differently than RF does. I rack the slide until it locks open, seat a 9mm JHP round in the chamber by hand & release the slide so the pistol is in battery, then insert a fully loaded magazine. Seems like much less hassle than RF’s technique. No magazine reloading required!

    Am I the only one? Any downsides to this technique?

    • I used to do that also, but I was talked out of it. What I became convinced of was that on some autos, ones with really robust extractors, the extractor can damage the case rim loading it that way. It’s possible this could cause an extraction problem on the first shot. When people with more experience pointed this out to me, I tried it a few times and I did see marks on the rim from the extractor.

      I’m not saying this is a definite cause and effect. You could probably get away with doing it your way your whole life and not have a problem. But it does not seem to be a recommended best practice.

  21. I come down to a very different selection criterion than the above:

    “What fits your hand(s)?”

    IMO, too many people get wrapped up in “semi vs. revolver,” “9 vs. .45” etc.

    Get a gun you can handle. Get a gun that fits you. If you can’t handle the gun competently and confidently, you’re likely going to have trouble shooting accurately, regardless of the inherent accuracy of the handgun. I’ve seen newbie women shooters drill the head out of a B-27 target in their first 50 rounds when they started with a gun that fit their hands, and they liked the position of the features (trigger, safety, releases, etc).

    This is especially a Big Deal[tm] for women. Many women will not feel comfortable when they can’t get enough of their palm/fingers around the grip of a gun. When I’ve gone handgun shopping with some women (especially those who have been “taken shopping before” by guys who were obsessed with round counts, semi vs. revolver, etc) they’ve told me how they shut down when offered so many technical options.

    I, however, come at it with an opening line of “Let’s find a gun that fits you.” The woman’s eyes light up and she will invariably say “You mean I can just try guns on?”

    “Yup. You’re going to handle a lot of guns without firing them until you find something that feels nice in your hands.”

    “Oh, wonderful! That’s what I wanted the first time!”

    Even guys will shoot better with a gun that fits their hands. Guys, however, will lie (to themselves and bystanders) that they can handle X handgun better because of the other factors. Most guys won’t complain about fit unless they’re bitten by a slide or some such, they’ll try to just suck it up and move to the bigger and bigger end of the spectrum.

    One of the deadliest guys I ever met who was in the personal protection business carried a PPK. He had a ‘smith work it over until it ran like a Swiss watch. He could draw that little pistol and drop two rounds into the head of a B-27 target at 50 feet so fast, it made you ask to see a repeat to make sure you were not imagining it. What did he claim was the reason for his ability? He was a smaller stature guy (about 5’5″) and looked completely unassuming – and so he needed a smaller grip gun. Putting two rounds of .380 onto a target fast wins against larger rounds from a gun that misses consistently because it doesn’t fit.

    Last issue: The grips on a revolver can change your consistent point of impact. Grips that are too large will tend to make you shoot high, grips that are too small will tend to make you shoot low. Just like fitting a shotgun, there’s issues in handgun grips that help lay rounds on target. My target pistols have custom grips on them – for that reason as well.

    • Perfect timing for this. I applied for my ltc and should have it in a few weeks. Tried a few pistols for the first time yesterday. My thoughts based on this absolute newbie pov:
      Beretta 9mm very accurate, little recoil
      Compact 380 too small for me, not enough fingers on the grip so harder to control and less accurate
      S&w governor accurate and easy to handle. With the 45 round I wasn’t sure I could handle it but it was very manageable
      So many more to try

  22. Carry what you shoot accurately and consistently and select handgun caliber you shoot best.
    Went to outdoor gun range about a month ago, took my Ruger 22lr, shot very accurately with it, even though had not been shot for over a year, all center mass and some good head shots. A couple of months ago used my Ruger LCR 22lr, also shot that one very accurately and consistently.

  23. Your alot nicer than I am. R-E-V-O-L-V-E-R. Done. I’m willing to bet 93% of the people who buy guns for self-defense or HD shoot maybe 400 rounds in 10 years if that. Then add to the “nightstand” gun, that sits in a drawer for 15 years until a “2am” problem a revolver IS ALWAYS the best choice. You have to remember most people are not gun people they are buying something “in case of” or from fear of badguys,the USG, not-being to get one due to banning etc… Fear sells and non-gun people are buying guns.

    • What semi auto is not going to work just fine after sitting in a nightstand for 15 years.

      And the majority of cops never shoot anyone either, so why do they have semi auto? See your strawman?

      Semi auto is not about “fear” whatsoever. It is simply the more rational choice.

      • The semi-auto you don’t practice with consistently. Especially the light cheez-whiz pistols that are apt to stovepipe because they weren’t mounted properly in one’s hand, or one isn’t giving a firm enough grip.

        Revolvers don’t suffer from stovepipes, failures to feed, failures to extract, etc. There is no “tap-rack-bang” drill on a revolver.

        • Nor are there enough rounds when there’s more than one target.
          If a guy cannot even be trusted to hold the gun tight and stay off the slide, how many rounds can connect within 6 rounds or so? And what happens after that? A botched reload or a botched drawstroke given he’s so incompetent?
          No there s no tap rack on a revolver. When it malfunctions if a smack on a cylinder to force a reload doesnt work, it’s done. It’s not like modern autoloaders malfunction any more than wheelguns under perfect conditions like EDC

        • Add that it’s REALLY difficult for a revolver’s magazine spring to take a set sitting loaded all that time…..

        • I’m sure it happens, but after shooting a lifetime I have never seen a revolver fail to fire. I have seen pistols fail to fire all the time. Both have their advantages. Also the average shots fired in a confrontation is 3.

      • Every time I go to the range I see somebody fumbling with a jammed semi auto. Every time. Once in about 50 years I’ve seen a non ammo related stoppage on a decent quality revolver. A s&w model 19.

        Semis are not magic death rays. In stress situations I’ve seen people fumble reloads with a semi, even dropping their mags. I’ve also seen people grip their semi wrong and dump their mag on the ground.

        For a person that just wants basic defense without having to spend weekends with x navy seals learning to “operate” the revolver still is king.

        • Once in about 50 years I’ve seen a non ammo related stoppage on a decent quality revolver. A s&w model 19.

          Not to take away from your point, but an *ammo* related malfunction with a revolver is generally a disaster in a gun fight–revolver is rendered useless without tools to fix the ammo issue.

          As far as the semi-autos, I’ve noticed a lot of fumbling–and it’s typically a 1911 clone with a feed ramp jam. Good thing that’s not one of the two recommended guns.

  24. I agree with the first three rules, but not the last, “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.” I think this depends on your situation. If you have kids or strangers in your house or car, sure.

    But I don’t have kids or strangers around and I want unfettered access to my guns. My house is a “locked case” for myself and my wife. My car is also a locked case, with an alarm system. Having a small safe in either place will not keep someone from stealing your gun, it will only slow them down. They will just steal the safe and get into it at their leisure. Those cable tie-downs can be defeated in about 5 seconds with a cordless Dremel tool with a cutoff wheel. And just as a safe will only slow a BG down, it will also slow you down if you need to use your gun.

    Also, safes are not the only option. There all sorts of gun locks out there that are not safes. I think rule #4 should just be: “Make sure your gun is protected from unwanted access.”

  25. Glocks are the perfect gun….for experts or idiots. Anyone in between should get something that is easier to use without shooting yourself.

  26. God, what a convoluted mess of a conversation. The best gun (for you!) is the one that is sufficiently comfortable that you will carry it consistently, and which you can shot well. Does not matter if that is a .22 mini revolver or a Desert Eagle. Don’t give a shit what other people think – their choices are right for them – does not mean that they are right for you. Rule One in a gun fight – have a gun! (any gun)

  27. Great article with excellent choices
    I would choose different guns, but there is nothing wrong with the two mentioned.
    Someone mentioned the PPK
    I love my Bersa Thunder ( my wife carries the heavier PPK/s)
    There is also the Bersa Thunder 9
    Why no love for the Bersa?
    Inexpensive, accurate and reliable.
    It may be sexist, but I recommend 38 cal Revolvers for women who just want a bedside drawer gun

  28. Einstein said, that an issue should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
    This is too simple.

  29. If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative for a semi-automatic carry gun, my girlfriend and I bought a Taurus 709 Slim for our house. She has smaller hands, which it fits into quite nicely, holds seven shots (eight with one in the chamber), and out of several hundred rounds of different brands, it’s never had an FTF or FTE. When we practice at the range, we set our targets at a distance equal to the farthest line of site you can get in our house (10-15 ish yards), and it’s more than accurate enough for that range. Best of all, I found it used for $160 at a local shooting range/gun store.

  30. Personally–the two choices ought to be a .500 S&W revolver with a ten inch barrel…or a Desert Eagle in 50 AE.

    Oh, not concealable? Whine, whine, whine….

  31. What is the name for the syndrome that every new gun owner HAS to have the tiniest gun in the largest caliber despite their ability to shoot it well?

  32. The safe you recommended is easier to defeat than the peel on a banana.
    The tubular lock on the top is set in a gap in the housing. Right next to that gap you can see the air holes in the side. You can stick a paperclip, bent into a slight “S” shape through those air holes, twist, and trigger the release lever. Can be seen on youtube.

  33. Just my two cents, but I suggest to newbies that they either carry a revolver, or a double action semi-auto pistol. It takes a lot of practice to maintain discipline in tense situations. They may know they should not put finger on trigger till they have acquired the target but unless they have trained to point they have developed muscle memory then when they pull their gun in a high stress situation their finger will go right to the trigger. If that first pull is double action they are not going to fire the gun unless they intend to.

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