A friend and I were discussing handguns today and we got on the topic of his nephew who’d bought a .357 Magnum revolver (the only handgun he owns) but can’t shoot it worth a damn. It made me think about the husband of one of my employees who’s a retired firefighter, stands about 6′ 4″ has a WWE wrestler’s build and whose only gun is a compact .380. Which he never shoots. In both cases they were out with the guys and got a recommendation from someone as to what gun they should buy. In both cases that recommendation was wrong . . .
We’re assaulted by recommendations from all manner of “experts” who are only too happy to tell anyone who will listen about their idea of the perfect gun. The problem is those who are less knowledgeable often follow this advice without really understanding the implications. Until it’s too late and they’ve plunked down their hard-earned cash for a gun they hate.
I’ve been down that road myself. I’ve probably purchased something north of a couple of dozen handguns over the last few years in search of the “right” gun for me. I still own about half of them, but the ones that ended up sold provided some valuable lessons (as well as hits to the pocketbook) as to what I like and — just as important — what I don’t.
Lesson One: There is no such thing as a perfect gun
Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit. Up to their baby blues in it. For most people a perfect gun would be small and easily concealable, lightweight, have a large capacity magazine (at least 15 rounds), have grip big enough to be held comfortably and have less recoil than a .22 while firing a massively potent round.
Absent some sort of Dr. Who-like space/time dimensional warp effect, there isn’t any way to pack all of those characteristics to be in a one gun. A firearm that is small and light will, by necessity, be limited in ammo capacity as well as (to some extent) caliber. A gun that fires a powerful round needs to be larger and heavier to absorb the recoil, or it would be too difficult to shoot accurately for most people.
And as I’ve said in the past, I prefer the DA/SA firing system over the the SAO, DAO, Glock Safe Action varieties. Any gun that doesn’t have a DA/SA is simply not the perfect gun. For me.
Lesson Two: The right tool for the job
Once we’ve established that there’s no such thing as the perfect do-everything gun, most people are better off getting more than one, each of which is good for its intended purpose. This beats the hell out of settling for one gun that does nothing particularly well.
This is why I own a couple of large frame combat/target pistols for when I don’t need to worry about concealability and want large capacity magazines. I also own a mid-size heater, a Sig P229, that I can conceal in the colder months, but still has a respectable round count. And then there are my compact guns such as my S&W J-Frame that, while lacking in capacity, are much easier to conceal. I choose my gun depending on my situation each day. Sure, there’s always a compromise involved, but such is life.
Lesson Three: Understand the context of the advice
James Yeager, the guy behind the Tactical Response videos, is famous for saying, “Every gun should be a Glock, every Glock should be 9mm, and every 9mm should be a Glock 19.” Again, bullshit. He may say that partly in jest, but in my mind such advice undermines his credibility as an instructor.
The good instructors I’ve known don’t give a damn what you shoot. They’ll talk with you and offer suggestions based on what your situation, but they won’t presume to tell you what you need. Everyone’s different and they know it.
Since I have a fondness for DA/SA guns and since Glock doesn’t make a DA/SA gun, I’m damn glad the industry hasn’t taken Yeager’s advice. Check the display case at your friendly neighborhood gun store. Not everyone wants or needs Gaston’s brainchild. Horses for courses.
Another key to filtering the noise: consider the background of the person giving the advice. Ask a SEAL what the best gun is and he’s going to give you the benefit of his experience using the guns he had access to. The problem is that unless you’re planning to hunt the Taliban in the desert, chances are that his view of the best gun won’t be yours. On the other hand, if you’re looking to carry concealed, people like your fellow CCW holders or police officers with experience working undercover might provide you with better suggestions since their experience is a lot closer to your situation.
Case in point: I’m a big cigar smoker and I used to blindly follow the advice of cigar reviewers. After smoking my way through more than my share of crappy stogies, I began to understand the individual tastes of the various cigar reviewers figured out who had tastes that are similar to mine. Now, I only pay attention them and rarely end up with any dog rockets.
The same approach has merit where gun advice is concerned. I’ll never listen to a guy who spews the one gun to rule them all ethos (Glock honks, SIG or Beretta fanboys, etc.) I own handguns from five different companies and like them all. So get your advice from people who understand that the reason there are so many options is that there are just as many different preferences out there, each of which has some merit to the individual shooter. It’s usually the best way to avoid plunking your money down for the firearm equivalent of a dog rocket.