Choose Carefully When Buying Your First Pistol

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that many people 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 XD(M)s 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 a semi-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 semi-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, a Springfield XD(M) in .40 (okay, I was sold on the “upgrades” of the XD(M) platform – I’m 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 S&W 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 XD(M) 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, though, 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 attach 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 XD(M) as the XD(M) 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 XD)M) “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’m 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 XD(M) without a round in the chamber which, in turn, meant that in an emergency, I would have to take an additional second or two to rack the slide. 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 de-cocking 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 that 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 offers 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 I’m qualified to work on my SIGs without voiding the warranties.

My .40 XD(M) has already been sold and the 9mm XD(M) is currently on the block. Once I get rid of it, all of my guns will either be DA/SA or single action 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 have money tied up in guns I will never use.

Many people will continue to swear by their GLOCKs. Price-wise they’re 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 plunking down the plastic will save you a lot of regret down the road.


  1. avatar Sean Guerin says:

    Great story! I’ll still get a revolver for my first though, I have my eyes on a 4″ Colt Trooper. I wouldn’t trade simplicity, style, and class in a good old revolver for the most customized auotloader in the world.

  2. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

    they say your first gun should be a revolver. mine was a S&W model 65-3 .357 in stainless steel.

    1. avatar Chaz says:

      My first centerfire handgun was an S&W 442 snubbie, rated for 38 +P. I quickly learned why new handgun shooters sometimes become dis-enamored with small and light firearms. They are easy to carry but difficult to shoot accurately. One needs to practice with them but their recoil makes that unpleasant. Ten full power shots are about all I can handle in one session.

  3. avatar ST says:

    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 to do that than to have money tied up in guns I will never use. Many other people however will continue to swear by their Glocks. Price-wise they are certainly a bit better than the Beretta and a lot better 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.


    The dilemma all shooters face is that the knowledge that you made a mistake buying your first firearm would not have came had the mistake not been made to begin with.

    I won’t bore anyone with the sob stories of my first two pistols, but lets just say they were complete opposites in carry and construction with what I strap on in the morning today. The irony is, I don’t mind that I wasted money and time swapping pistols until I found what worked for me. Much like women ,the first gun you fire probably won’t be your life partner. Its better to try on guns and realize they don’t work for you, then to call on them in the hour of need with any reservations about them. Life is too short to own guns you can’t shoot well or don’t like, and if you use a gun that you hate in a moment of need your life may just be shorter because of it.

    My advice for newbies would be to research their purchase, but don’t over-analyze it. One day , much like with a girlfriend ( or wife in some circumstances…) a man finds a better match than his current selection. Unlike women, a man can add or subtract firearms as needed in most places in America much easier than he can swap significant others.

  4. avatar NCG says:

    Good info. I’m contemplating my first carry pistol, leaning toward a CZ with a de-cocker (very similar to a lot of Sigs), or even a surplus CZ-82, since if I don’t like it, I’m not out much, and it’s sort of a cool collectible. I’ve shot a couple of Glocks, and I just don’t like the feel of them. 1911ish/Highpowerish pistols are more comfortable for me, and I am more comfortable with a hammer, ala my lever action rifle and my first gun ever, an H&R single shot 20ga youth model. My handgun experience is limited, and everybody swears by the thing they already have, so it’s good to here from other handgun newbies.

    At a gun show a few weeks ago, there were a number of women looking at little revolvers and pistols, and one seller had a bunch of mousy Rugers and S&Ws – LCRs, LCPs, etc., and he was telling one woman, who didn’t seem very knowledgeable, “Go with the one that feels good in your hand!” She then put down an LCR and picked up an LC9 – “Does it feel good in your hand? That’s the one for you!” This kind of irresponsible dealer is not helping. This is even worse than the kind of gun stores where nobody will even talk to you if you don’t know exactly what you want.

  5. avatar JS III says:

    I got a P226 in 40 because it had the tfo front sight I liked. I had never shot 9mm before, only 45, 40 and rifles. A year later I have a P229 and a CZ75 in 9mm. Cheaper to shoot, less muzzle flip and easier on my bad shoulder. Needless to say for ammo simplification I am going to ditch my P226 in 40 and pick up one in 9 or maybe a Beretta 92A1.

  6. avatar Don says:

    A stainless steel 3″ to 4″ barreled DA .357 mag revolver is probably the most versatile choice for a first handgun. Simplicity of design and operation (just add ammo), the ability to shoot DA or SA, functions great as a target gun with .38 specials, wide choice in ammo, uncontroversial stopping power with .357, big enough to shoot comfortably, not so big that it can’t be concealed, at home in the city or the woods, simple to maintain, simple to learn, intuitive operation. Also notice that quality DA revolvers tend to appreciate in value over time faster than other handgun choices.


    1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      +1 that’s why the guy recommended it, plus . . . he said my wife couldn’t screw it up if she had to use it when I was not home. #winning.

    2. avatar Jacques says:

      I finally picked up a 3″ .357 CCW to complement my 6″ hunting version of the same model (which I love). The 3″ will do its job but the accuracy with the fixed sights left a LOT to be desired and I was not happy with my groups. Lasergrips solved that problem famously. But I’m not convinced I would recommend this 3″ revolver as an all-around gun for a first gun. The 4″, however, has adjustable/replaceable sights so that’s probably what I would suggest if anyone asked me.

  7. avatar JS III says:

    PS: I am only 25 and thanks to that damn Mel Gibson I too will always love the look of the 92.

    1. avatar Totenglocke says:

      I’m guessing you never saw The Boondock Saints?

  8. avatar Eric says:

    I loved the story.

    If you study the striker mechanism of a Glock, you will see there is not enough tension on the striker spring for it to “go off” with anything but a trigger pull. It is absolutely not like a cocked hammer. I imagine the XD uses a similar system.

    I don’t think a newbie should be careful with their purchase. Most guns have pretty amazing resale value, even after years of ownership. Buy, try, and re-sell. Actually I should say most quality guns have amazing resale value. My crappy Kel Tec didn’t work so great so I sold it cheap with full disclosure of its issues.

    For my story: The only mistake I made was trying to get a small auto to work. They pretty much all suck. I messed with a P3AT forever trying to love it. I also had a Rohrbaugh R9 that worked fine, but over powered. I found bliss with a G 26 and don’t think I will go smaller again unless it is an airweight revolver.

  9. avatar Kevin says:

    I bought a ruger lc9 strIker fired semi-auto for my first gun and carry it “hot” with the safety off. I don’t like the safety even being there and have almost made it automatic to swipe down with my thumb whenever i pick it up. That said, i would trust dropping that gun and it won’t go off. Yes, it’s a mechanical device- so was the space shuttle. You have to trust the engineering that’s been tested and proven.

    1. avatar Jim Barrett says:

      Hmm. Not sure if the Space Shuttle is such a good analogy. Last I checked two of them kind of went boom.

    2. avatar Ron says:

      You are correct Kevin.
      Modern handguns cannot fire unless the trigger is pressed fully.
      Without going into detail modern semi-autos have what is called a firing pin block.
      With revolvers it is called a transfer bar.
      These “safeties” prevent the firing pin from contacting the primer unless the trigger is fully pressed.

      1. avatar Tim says:

        Jim is a Sig Armorer – so I presume he understands the various passive safety features of guns.

        1. avatar Ron says:

          Hi Tim,
          As a Sig armorer I am absolutely certain Jim understands the various passive safety features of guns.
          My comment was in response to Kevin.

        2. avatar Tim says:

          I guess my point wasn’t directed at you – he stated in his article that he never completely felt safe with a round chambered in a striker-fired gun (hence his desire to own only DA/SA guns). And that is fine, in and of itself, but if you have such an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of guns (granted not all the same), you could become more comfortable with all modern guns an their safety features – thereby, overcoming your fears of “failure”.

          But it is his gun/money/time – and you certainly can’t go wrong with the weapons he purchased. To each his own.

  10. avatar Aharon says:

    A few days ago, I held the relatively new Ruger SP101 357 with the longer 4.2″ barrel (Canada friendly?) and new sights. It was perfectly balanced and in person I found it very good looking. I plan on trading in one of my guns and buying the new SP101.

    1. avatar APBTFan says:

      Great choice.

      I owned an SP-101 and it was an outstanding gun. Unfortunately it stayed with my ex (she considered it her gun) and it was a small price to pay to get the hell away from her. I bought a GP-100 4″ for myself at the same time (’96), still own it and always will. A 4″ SP-101 would be a super cool shooter. The Rugers are absolute tanks. They will take the all the hottest ammo you want to put through them and still last a lifetime. They break down to clean easier than any other make and an aftermarket spring kit will give them a sweet, sweet trigger. I bought a trigger kit from a local maker and it is excellent. If you get one, Brownell’s used sell a slick take down tool called the Ruger Popper that’s worth tracking down.

      1. avatar Aharon says:

        Thanks. I appreciate your reply. I will call Brownell’s tomorrow.

        Sorry to read about your ex- getting to keep the Ruger. You got away from her and are now a free range man. I’m active with the men’s rights movement and the weekly stories that I learn about what men have experienced with their ex-wives and the Family/Divorce and Criminal Courts are horrifying. One out of six adult male suicides occurs during the divorce process largely because of how men are treated. You might find this site interesting:

        1. avatar APBTFan says:

          Thanks for the link. It’s been 17+ years since then and I’m still happily unmarried.

          I don’t believe the Ruger Popper is made anymore so it’ll probably be a second-hand prospect.

  11. avatar Matt in FL says:

    That’s why they make different flavors of ice cream. My first handgun was an XD(M) .40; I’ve had it for about a year. I still love it. I shot quite a few guns before I bought it; most of my rounds were through my buddy’s Glock 23, but I made the rounds of the rental counter at the gun shop, too. I will admit that, like you, the “upgrades” over the original XD line helped sell me on the XD(M), even though I didn’t have an XD.

    I’ve put hundreds (thousands?) of rounds through it now, and although I’ve shot quite a few other guns in the past year, both rentals and friends’ guns, coming back to mine always puts a smile on my face. The only thing I’d do differently, if I was doing it again, is that I’d buy the short-gripped compact version. I didn’t realistically think I’d be carrying it at the time of purchase, but six months later I had my carry permit, and now it lives on my hip. One inch less grip would eliminate 95% of my printing issues.

    Oh, and I carry Condition One (Zero? No manual safety). I carried Condition Three (no round in chamber) in the beginning, ’til I realized that 4-6 weeks had gone by, and I’d never even come near touching the trigger inadvertently. It’s just something you learn.

  12. avatar Phil H says:

    My first handgun is the one still in my pocket – a S&W no-lock 442 in .38. I obsess over this 1911 versus that polymer 9mm, but still think my next handgun will be another revolver. I admire and respect the simplicity and safety of a revolver. Perhaps one of these days I will pick up a semi-auto… I like the theme of your article, though. Know yourself and act accordingly.

  13. I agree with you on the carry option as am a bit squeamish with the notion of carrying cocked and locked (condition one). A gun that is double action capable allows condition two carry (round chambered but not cocked) and I’m a whole lot more comfortable with that. Nice choice on the Sigs by the way. I have at least one in my future.

  14. avatar John Onderdonk Jr says:

    M&P 9mm, I research the heck out of it, and took it shooting a few times. So I hope I avoided any of those pit falls.

  15. avatar Richard says:

    I agree special after have neglect discharge with used glock 17 police trade in. I did realize dealer that buying my used glocks 17 police trade in sold me glock 17 worn out slide release untill went take my gun apart for feild striping. I blame my self not gun for have neglect discharge lucky did hurt my self or any body went off in door frame my house. How ever did help thing that slide realize on gun did work that I could find any one fix gen 1 glock 17 police trade in. Learn some thing hard way if gone buy used gun make sure before put money down that works. Becuase people selling used gun might not care if does.

    1. avatar BCM MIDDY says:

      I dont see how having a worn out slide release made you have a ND…sounds more like you had a round in the chamber you forgot about.

      You post was very hard to read and understand, maybe take some time to look at it and make sure it makes proper sense before posting?

  16. avatar CarlosT says:

    I would never buy a double action gun, because of the heavy trigger pull. Single action or striker fired is the way for me. Just thinking of those heavy triggers makes my finger ache.

    1. avatar Aharon says:

      Time for finger push-ups.

      1. avatar CarlosT says:

        Time for time travel and for me not to cut my finger to the bone when I was ten, requiring micro-surgery to repair all the muscles and ligaments, resulting in a deep, zigzag scar 3/4 the way up my finger.

        For most purposes, the finger is fine, but strength, range of motion, and especially endurance are all somewhat compromised. I can do the occasional DA trigger pull, but a session at the range full of them would be unfeasible, and I would never practice with that gun.

        1. avatar BCM MIDDY says:

          You shouldve mentioned that in your OP. The way I and most others read it was your staying away from DA purely because of the heavier pull. It needed cleared up.

    2. avatar Silver says:

      I’m with you on that one.

    3. avatar Chaz says:

      A customized Colt Python revolver a gunsmith let me handle had a double action pull that must have only been a few pounds. What I don’t know is how expensive such customization is.

  17. avatar Wes says:

    A cocked XD with trigger safety and grip safety is bad, but a cocked 1911 with grip safety and thumb safety is good?

  18. avatar John says:

    Of the 12 handguns I’ve bought, I still have 11 of them. If I could find that one I sold, I’d buy it back in a heartbeat. I may be in the minority, but every gun I’ve sold, I wish I had back. Now, once I buy them, they are mine till I leave this earth, then they belong to my kids, and hopefully my grandkids.

    1. avatar Ron says:

      I feel the same John.
      I still have all twenty-six (26) guns I’ve bought.
      Including my Remington Nylon 66 .22 semi-auto rifle I bought at age twelve (12).

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Including my Remington Nylon 66 .22 semi-auto rifle I bought at age twelve (12).

        I also got mine when I was twelve. I haven’t seen that rifle for nearly fifty years, and I still pine for it every week.

      2. avatar Tom says:

        Still have my childhood Nylon 66.

        1. avatar Kevin T says:

          im 19 and I’m at 2, and not a day goes by without a trip to the gun shop tempting me.

    2. avatar HAVE GUN says:

      I’ve bought 13 firearms. Never never crossed my mind to sell one.

    3. avatar Allan says:

      Response to story:

      Sad but true. But experience is the best teacher. We wouldn’t know what we like from trying out others’ guns. I think about 1,000 rounds AT LEAST to know for sure.

      Response to comment:

      I agree. I just bought my fourth one yesterday. The only one I sold was my first and I’ve regretted it ever since. I wish I can find the guy and buy it back.

    4. avatar Jacques says:

      I’ve never sold any that I bought either. There’s really only one that didn’t warm my heart out of the box due to minor reliability issues and its the least accurate of the collection. But the reliability is improving the more I shoot it and it’s become my mission to find a role for it, most likely a winter carry gun because if I ever have a DGU I’ll feel less badly if the cops refuse to return it.

  19. avatar Mark N. says:

    I fortunately had a nearby indoor range that had a reasonable selection of firearms for rent. I started shooting only 9s (the .40 rage had yet to hit) and the occassional 22 revolver. I’d shot revvolvers in the past, and had never been able to hit anything in double action mode. I primarily shot H&K, Glock and XD. When I was ready to buy, the H&K was too pricey, I didn’t like the way the Glock felt in my hand or how it shot, and so I ended up buying (for a very good price) an XD9. I still have it, and taught my kids to shoot with it. It has never had a failure that I can recall, and it’s been shot a lot. It is my son’s favorite handgun. The only reason I don’t carry it is it is too thick in the grip. I’ll give it to one of my kids before I ever sell it.

  20. avatar GetSome says:

    Wheel guns are real guns! It doesn’t matter what you have if you can’t hit your target. SHOT PLACEMENT IS KEY. War heads on foreheads people.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      War heads on foreheads people.

      I’m totally stealing that.

    2. avatar Aharon says:

      #1 You are the man!

      1. avatar GetSome says:

        I’m glad you guys like that. IYAOYAS

        1. avatar Ron says:

          Hi GetSome,
          I love your screen name.
          Wish I had thought of it first.
          Straight to the point and works under most every circumstance.
          Shot placement is key.
          It also doesn’t matter what you have if you CAN hit your target, .22 through the c-spine works 100% of the time.

  21. avatar cz82mak says:

    I went milsurp for my first pistol. A buddy of mine started acquiring guns a few months before me. After seeing him have to send 3 new guns (s&w, ruger, & sig) back to the factory for service in the 1st 500 rounds, I decided against new. Did a lot of research and decided on a CZ-82. Its small, ambidextrous, reliable, accurate, sweet trigger, carries 13 rounds of 9×18, and only ~$200.

    There are some sweet surplus weapons out there, some good 1st pistol options too.

    1. avatar APBTFan says:

      Hard to go wrong with a Makarov or variant.

    2. avatar NCG says:

      You’re helping to sell me on the CZ-82. I guess I better get one quick, everybody’s catching on. And as I said in my previous post (which apparently will never be posted, thanks again TTAG) if I don’t like it, I’m out $200ish and I have a cool collectible which will likely increase in value.

      1. avatar cz82mak says:

        You will like it. The only complaint about it is the rough finish. They look beautiful when refinished.

        1. avatar NCG says:

          That’s half the appeal! I love messing with things (I’m a contractor, and a shade tree bicycle/car/motorcycle mechanic). I’ve Googled up some great pics of refinished surplus CZ-82s. I’d love to pimp one. I recently made walnut grips for my old Ruger Mk I.

  22. avatar pair-o-dee says:

    Over 22 years: S&W Model 13 .357 revolver -> S&W Model 49 .38 revolver -> Sig Sauer P226 9mm pistol -> Walther PPK/S .380 pistol -> Ruger SR1911 .45 pistol (and, finally, home). It’s been a nice trip, too. 🙂

  23. avatar Matt Gregg says:

    I’d hate to see the number of people buying a judge or governor as their first handgun.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      I think I see a Judge laying on the counter on at least 75% of my visits to my local gun shop. To their credit, it’s not the shop guys recommending it, it’s the customers asking to see it. I have seen them work hard at dissuading people from buying it, esp if they’re thinking carry/personal defense, but if someone really wants it, they will sell it to them.

  24. avatar Silver says:

    My first was an XDM 9mm. Good gun, but the balance never did sit right with me, and the grips were too small no matter what panels I put on. In truth, I bought it because I was a novice at the time and everyone told me it was great, so I figured it must be.

    But, guns are like any other preference, it varies person to person. After that I tried a Beretta 92fs, HK P30, and RIA 1911 before finally finding my perfect match and carry piece, a Walther PPQ. I must say, I enjoyed the journey.

    Next up, a Ruger GP100.

    1. avatar Jacques says:

      Its hard to go wrong with a GP-100 IMHO.

  25. avatar RandomHero says:

    My first, which i purchased a few weeks ago is a Ruger P95. my only problem is that its the old model without the rail, and its too big for concealed. But im already studying on what i want for a good conceal gun. Also eying a few surplus guns for fun such as the Polish P-64

    1. avatar cyriaque says:

      They have an awful trigger pull.

  26. avatar William says:

    My first was a 60s vintage S&W M19 in .357. I sold it a year or two after buying it used. I just contacted the guy I sold it to to ask for it back! What a sweet revolver. I didn’t know what I had till it was gone.

    Since then, I’ve only sold one other gun (a Springfield stainless 1911 – meh). My motto now is to never sell anything again, ever. Especially since the wife and family make buying new guns hard, and selling old ones easy.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      You occasionally regret buying a gun, you almost always regret selling one.

      1. avatar Talmon Burke says:

        This. I can attest to this from personal experience. Think twice before buying a gun. Think thrice before selling.

  27. avatar glockhome says:

    Good article.
    Enjoyed reading it.
    Now I need to check out some Sig’s.

  28. avatar GlockMan says:

    Hopefully, you will get through the mental turmoil you are putting yourself through and eventually have the guns you want that suit each and every need you have. Best of luck with that endeavor.

  29. avatar KYgunner says:

    My first handgun was a Hi-Point. Man, talk about a mistake. That one was like losing your V-card to a fat chick and telling everyone about it. I still catch crap from my friends about getting it in the first place. Lesson learned. It’s currently on
    My tax-return gun is going to be a Sig Pro 2022. The price point is sweet (college student poverty sucks) and by all accounts its a great gun. It’ll be interesting getting used to the DA/SA with an external hammer though.

  30. avatar supton says:

    How many “big” purchases does one make, expecting it to last a lifetime? Cars, trucks, power tools, houses, computers… the list goes on. A great deal of things we buy are short term. Should firearms be any different? Some things wear out, some are traded out.

    Can’t hurt to buy used, until you find that which you love. And even then…

    I tend to justify purchases based upon how long I will keep them, and if I can live with the cost/year or cost per round fired or any other metric. If I can’t hit that measure of cost per, then I don’t bother. Well, that, and if I don’t plain have the money in the first place.

  31. avatar John Fritz says:

    … And ask the range owner to show you how to take the gun down for cleaning. …

    That little gem right there is perhaps the best bit of info out of the whole article. Make sure someone (friend, range master, gun seller) has shown you how to properly disassemble and clean your new firearm.

    Very first handgun I purchased/owned was a 1911. I had no freakin’ idea how to get that thing apart to clean it. Didn’t take me long to install idiot scratch prevention on my new gun by giving it a big ol’ idiot scratch. Thoroughly beat myself up over that one.

    I got around to going to a different gun store and watching someone break the gun down correctly. I wish someone would’ve shown me that before I had gouged my new gun. And no, there weren’t any instructions. It was a used gun.

    1. avatar ScottA says:

      Youtube is great for this. There are tons of videos that will walk you through step by step of how to disassemble your new firearm. If you rather have the one on one instruction I agree the gun store route is good but if you’re a bit of an introvert youtube is a good source.

  32. avatar Darren says:

    My first pistol was a Kahr MK9. Got it for concealed carry, not a bad package for that but I soon realized that not getting my whole hand on the abbreviated grip wasn’t going to be a winner in the accuracy or confidence departments. Didn’t even get it to the range before I traded it out (plus some more cash) for the Sig P229 I should have bought first. I still have the Sig.

    1. avatar jkp says:

      My first was also an MK9. The grip was okay with me, actually, but I really hate the trigger. I’d purchased it for pocket carry, however, and it’s just a little too heavy to be comfortably carried that way on a regular basis. It started migrating to OWB carry under a covering garment.

      Then I just figured, hey, since I’m just carrying it OWB anyway, I might as well get something a little bigger with a trigger I like. So I bought a Springfield EMP, and have been loving it so far.

      I still keep the MK9 for times when I want to carry and pocket carry is the only option (for whatever reason,) although I’ve been thinking lately about switching to a .380 caliber for my pocket carry needs. (I keep debating between three, but have been unable to make up my mind: the LCP (I REALLY hate the trigger,) the Kahr P380 (it’s expensive, plus I hate not being able to slingshot to chamber a round,) or the Sig P238 (but it’s almost as big as the MK9 in the first place.) So until I make that decision, I’m keeping the MK.)

  33. avatar LeftShooter says:

    Somewhere I read that if gun shop owners could only have one gun, most would choose a Smith & Wesson Model 686 revolver. The one I have is a 686-plus, so it loads 7 rounds of .357 Magnum or .38 Special Plus P or straight .38 Special. When I train new shooters I use that and its companion piece, the S&W Model 617, which is nearly identical in look, size & weight but loads 10 rounds of .22 Long Rifle. (Thus making training even less expensive.) Quality speed loaders are available for both.

    What frustrates me is that many new shooters, often women, are directed or drawn to J-frame snub-nose revolvers, which can be very inappropriate for a beginner since it is, according to Clint Smith and others “an expert’s gun” due to its weight, small size, trigger pull, short barrel and short sight radius. The first time I shot one I just nicked the target at 7 meters. My round count now is in the thousands and I’m much more of a threat to the paper now, but it took a lot of dedicated practice.

    My advice to a new handgun purchaser would be to go to a range wearing “eyes & ears” (safety shooting glasses and hearing protection—hardware store gear can do in a pinch) and, during a lull in the action, ask a shooter if you could try his handgun. Offer to pay for the ammunition, target, and the experience–most shooters will decline and are happy to welcome another participant into the community. Ask the shooter why he/she likes the gun and what they like least about it. Take good notes and make an informed purchase. I’d also consider the cost of ammunition and try to identify a similar gun in .22 caliber with which you could practice a lot at lower cost. (As with the Model 617 above.)

    Last, a few earlier commenters above have channeled Mel Gibson shooting a semi auto pistol. When you shoot the Model 686 or comparable revolver, you can channel a lot of Hollywood, too, and most of it seemingly saner than Mr. Gibson.

    Revolvers: easy to shoot, easy to clean.

  34. avatar Tim McNabb says:

    If someone said they had to buy one gun, and do it today, I would say Smith 642 with Crimson Trace. Bank-vault reliable, and five shots of .38+p will do the job in 99.999% of DGUs.

    The integrated CT will out of the box let you hit center of mass.

    1. avatar LeftShooter says:

      Maybe first gun for concealed carry, but that was not the topic.

      I’ve got the same 642 set-up, but a laser does not a marksman make. I consider the laser valuable if I’m knocked down or need to shoot around something where I can’t get a proper sight picture. Otherwise, when I’m aiming on target, I don’t even seem to notice the sight. YMMV, right?

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Tim, I’m a first-order S&W 642 fanatic (witness my review at, but not as a first gun.

  35. avatar Jesse N. says:

    I chose a fairly unconventional handgun to be my ‘first’. I picked up a EAA Witness 10mm.

    Pretty good handgun. CZ action, good strong caliber, and they’re built like tanks. The inherent accuracy left a little to be desired… and she was heavy. But I guess you can’t be perfect

    1. avatar John Fritz says:

      I chose a fairly unconventional handgun to be my ‘first’. I picked up a EAA Witness 10mm.

      That is a decent and thoroughly overlooked pistol/manufacturer. Good pick.

  36. avatar Brian says:

    I could never give up my first pistol, not even for twice what I paid for it. I love it too much!

  37. avatar Twinkie says:

    Much like just about anything in life, you will make the wrong decision for all the right reasons the first time you buy a gun. Or a holster. But it’s a really fun ride!

  38. avatar Tom says:

    But for me, the peace of mind of the DA/SA is worth the extra cost.

    I agree. I like my Walther very much.

  39. avatar sdog says:

    my first was a ruger p944 in 40sw. the sights were too small and there is a lack of mags over 10 rounds, needless to say it got sold and i have a sig 226 elite and am not looking back.

  40. My first handgun was a S&W K-22, because I was joining a college gun club and wanted something for target shooting. I still have it (I’m not a gun collector; I’m a gun accumulator). I still fire it occasionally. My second handgun was a Colt 1911. While I still have that, I’ve retired it to nothing but dry firing, since it’s had springs, sights, and nearly everything else replaced at least once (in over 50 years of shooting). While I do recommend that everyone have a gun, I will not recommend a specific one because the fit to the hand, weight and balance, etc., make the choice a very personal one. My recommendation is always, try several. Check with friends who own guns. Rent a few at ranges where that’s possible. Even so, you’ll probably change guns several times over a lifetime.

  41. avatar agathis says:

    My first was a .22 Beretta Neos, just a few years back. I got it mostly because it was inexpensive and non-threatening. I still have it, and use it quite a bit. I doubt I’ll ever sell it, mostly because I don’t think it’s worth a whole lot. I’ve moved on a bit since then, with a Remington R1 1911, and a Beretta 92fs. The XDm and Glocks just never feel right in my hand, and while I’ve seen Sigs at the range I’ve never picked one up. Maybe I’ll try one out the next time I’m in.

    I probably wouldn’t suggest a Neos to another new shooter as a first gun, and part of me wishes I’d picked up a 9mm first, rather than a .22. But I’m not finding that I regret the decision much.

  42. avatar JR says:

    People change, preferences change. That is the beauty of capitalism. We are blessed with many options for all discerning tastes. Go America.

  43. avatar KR says:

    If striker guns were unsafe to carry with a round in the chamber, the majority of US law enforcement agencies, top competitors and most of the defensive pistol trainers working at all the major schools would not be carrying them. Your fear of carrying a cocked pistol is based on a lack of critical thinking, a lack of review of historical data, and a lack of understanding of the mechanical design of pistols.

    DA/SA designs handicap the user by adding additional, unnecessary skills to the manual of arms (two trigger pulls, decocker) and make getting a fast, accurate first shot harder, for no benefit other than comforting an illogical fear that’s unsupported by real world data. If DA/SA designs were necessary and/or a good idea, rifles and shotguns would also be DA/SA, and DA/SA guns would dominate in law enforcement and competition — yet none of that has occurred.

  44. avatar G Men Domination says:


  45. avatar Jed I. Knight says:

    I took my 1911 out of my holster (IWB) at the end of the day today and found the safety was off! I guarantee it was on when it went in. To make a long story short…..For sale, lightly used 1911.

  46. avatar Sean says:

    In the Glock, as well as the XDm and other similar pistols.. There is a set sequence of events that must occur in a set order if the weapon is to fire. The Glock and XDm both begin at the trigger, if the trigger is not pulled, gun does not go off.

    Now, if the mechanical exterior safety and decocker make you feel more secure in it, then by all means, go with the DA/SA.. It’s a personal thing that everybody decides for themselves.

  47. avatar CCW says:

    I bought a 9mm XDM 4.5″ two months ago, and sold it two days ago for an XDS. I initially wanted a nice accurate gun to shoot recreationally, but after about a month I realized that it was way too big for a skinny guy to carry in the hot ass climate I live in. I’m sending in my application for CWL tomorrow, and will have my XDS on my hip for a long time to come. The XDS isn’t fun to shoot like my XDM was, but that’s why I have my AR (which I just sold the ret dot scope for a 2-7x acog sized sniper scope because I found out I have astigmatism so red dots don’t work well for me).

    I’ll eventually get a competition XDM after I get a shotgun.

  48. avatar Dave says:

    I totally agree with being a “no striker” guy. I’m shooting much more now that I’m older & the “no hammer” guns just never seemed right for me. Being an old Baretta & 1911 Fan among others, the striker “safety” just never made sense IMUO anyway. With old fracture of right hand, I needed low perceived recoil & Sig 2022 has delivered in spades! DA trigger is long as it should be, but SA is 5 to 7 lbs I think. Drop dead accurate & great ergonimics. Now the Sig 226 is next so..Long live pistols with hammers!

  49. avatar Larry in AZ says:

    Thank YOU, Mr. Barrett, SIR!, for an outstanding article on the “do’s ‘n don’t” and major considerations of pistol purchasing. I’ve been looking for a nice, CCW, semi-auto to replace my trusty ol’ S&W J-Frame .357 revolver and, frankly, I was more than a little relieved to read your conclusions – particularly regarding the SIG P239! (Thank you for THAT too!)

    FWIW, I’ve always felt the de-cocker option made perfect sense in a semi-auto, so, years ago, I purchased a German-made 380 (9-mil ‘Kurz’) SIG P230. Of course, although a fine little ‘plinker’, this is NOT the gun I’d use to defend myself! I also felt that, with fewer ‘moving parts’, the DAO S&W J-Frame was THE ‘good-to-go-in-a-crunch’ weapon (esp. in .357 Magnum!), so I became a ‘wheel-gun’ aficionado! (My wife actually prefers our .357 Ruger GP-100 ‘hand cannon’, but that’s another story!)

    However, I recently had the good fortune to fire a ‘Gen-II’ SIG P239 at the range and love (L.O.V.E.!) their new SRT (Short-Reset Trigger!) In essence, it (almost) nullifies the differences between POA (Point Of Aim) and POI (Point Of Impact) in ‘follow-up’ shots – something a DAO revolver will never accomplish! Besides, having handled a few P229’s, I’m more than willing to give up a few rounds (plus ounces and ‘grip girth’) for (a slightly) enhanced-concealed-carry semi-auto handgun!

    And, despite all the pro’s & con’s, I maintain that the .40-S&W is THE premier caliber in semi-auto carry. (It is, after all, THE round that S&W ‘engineered’ for the FBI – from the superlative, but hard-to-handle, 10mm – after the Miami shoot-out debacle highlighted the 9mm’s inherent weakness!)

    Finally, it’s nice to know that, for around $180, I can always up-grade the .40 S&W SIG P239 to .357 SIG if/when I ever “feel the need for more speed!”

  50. avatar Matt says:

    Semi—— automatic. Semi. You did not buy automatics!

  51. avatar Dan Larkin says:

    Wow after reading all that I really do mean it in the nicest way possible. The glock is just a name brand gun and was meant to be a reliable pistol just like the ak. But with do time the company tries to save money and glock is not was it used to be. Hk are great guns but you pay big time for the name plus the dbl action trigger pull you are not as accurate as your 1st shot bc of a longer trigger pull. With springfield armory you get the best bang for your buck. Very accurate when you bring it home never had to adjust the sights unlike my hk rugers and so on. So i wouldn’t really let your xdm or xd go bc there were many reasons why is was the number one pistol 9 times out of 13 yrs. Trust me I am a marine corp sniper and shot a lot of different guns and by far the xdm is on the top of the list.

  52. avatar Kimberly Puryear says:

    Wow, after reading all of this, I feel even better about my first gun choice, what I carry now, and how I came to the decision. My first gun buy was a S&W 638 .38 Speical. After much consideration with the help of the sales clerk, I got it really for one reason. To me the revolver was safer than an automatic, plus I have hand challenges. I would rather pull a long trigger than try to grip and rack a round in the chamber.
    However after shooting for a while, I began to hunger for more power, but in the same size gun. I just happend to be in a different gun show out of town. After a brief conversation about gun bags and gun purses, he said he wanted to show me something. It was the S&W 640 .357 mag, engraved. I was beatiful and powerful. It was love at first site. I traded my 638 for it and never looked back. I will get another gun, and maybe a bedside auto. But my CCW is my sweet 640.

  53. avatar prrockssocks says:

    first ruger44 mag hunter for deer hunting.then different rugers glocks sw springfield xdsc for carry.back up pt22 deep carry,want lc9 striker for pocket soon lol

  54. avatar Mike says:

    My first gun will never be sold EVER. it was a gift from my father in law, it was his 1976 Colt .38 detective special. It was his first ever service weapon as a CHP officer and a gift to my wife and I. The wife still carries it beside her nightstand every night and has fired like a champ. Too much sentimental value to ever give up.

  55. avatar Janie Got No Gun says:

    I am a beginner looking for some basic keep it on the tracks info on first handgun purchase. I found this article to be confusing and all over the place and frankly a hot mess. Stopped reading less than half way through – a few clicks down on the google search page found just what I was looking for in another write up. To each his own.

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