By Tim Carroll
What gun should I carry for self-defense? This question has been asked more times than I can remember during my professional training career and the answer is, well…complicated.
First we need to look at one of the most important aspects of carrying a handgun for self-defense, the ability to stop a threat. Statistics will show that a handgun round is a poor choice for stopping an attacker. If I told you that we were going to get into a gunfight at a particular time and place, we would probably both choose rifles. A rifle is a much better option to stop a threat.
On average, it takes 3 to 4 hits with a handgun caliber round to stop the bad guy. Notice I said hits, not shots. Odds are, no matter how good you think you are, you’re going to miss somewhere between 50% and 100% of the shots you take in a stressful defensive gun use situation.
So now let’s do some math. If it takes 3 to 4 hits and I miss half my shots, that means I have to shoot 6 to 8 times just to stop 1 threat. What if there is more than one threat? You can see how ammunition capacity is very important part of stopping power when making the choice on what handgun to buy and carry.
That’s right, from .380 ACP all the way up to .45 ACP, using good, modern defensive ammunition, the caliber doesn’t matter. It still takes about the same number of hits to stop a threat regardless of the calibers mentioned above.
Personally, I’m choosing the firearm that I can carry that has the most capacity.
A lot of folks are still hung up on external safeties. With a lot of new model handguns, the external safety is there for one reason. To make people feel good.
If you want an external safety, OK, but be sure to train properly when using it. During my classes, with inexperienced students, I’ve seen too many forget to take the safety off and put the safety on.
I’m not saying external safeties are a bad thing, but you need to be able to use it without thinking and all of the same firearm safety discipline still needs to be observed. You can’t use an external safety like a crutch.
The Right Fit
How are you going to carry your gun? Inside the waistband? Outside the waistband? In a purse? All of these decisions will affect your choice of handgun.
If you’re unfamiliar with the different types of carry, I would strongly suggest getting some in-person training to see how you feel about each one. You have to be able to deploy your firearm when you need it so being familiar and comfortable with your carry method is critical.
How does the gun fit your hand? This has to factor heavily into your choice. You cannot choose a firearm for someone else and they cannot choose one for you.
You have to see if the gun fits your hand, if you can rack the slide, how the trigger press feels. Rent a gun you’re thinking of buying if you can to see if you can handle the recoil, load its magazines, and perform proper manipulations. Most importantly, it has to be your choice.
All of these factors and more will go into choosing the right handgun for you to carry and you need to consider each one carefully. A handgun is a life-saving defensive tool so it needs to be safe and reliable. Low cost should not be the driving factor. No one goes into the parachute store and says, “Give me the cheapest one you got.”
Tim Carroll is head instructor at Tennessee-Carry.com.