Guns for Beginners: Three Tips for Buying Your First Handgun


Choice is a good thing – except when it isn’t. Ever seen someone standing stock still in front of the spaghetti sauce section of their local supermarket? Like that. You can also find analysis paralysis at your local gun store, where blank-faced first-time customers confront hundreds of choices. Salesmen [sometimes] try to guide consumers through this farrago of firearms. More often it’s a “helpful” friend touting personal preference as received gospel. Never mind. Here are three steps for first-time handgun buyers to help them buy the right gun . . .

Step 1. Identify the gun’s role

Begin by deciding the handgun‘s purpose: fun and skill building at the gun range, home defense, carry (open or concealed) or a combination?

A good range gun is a usually a large firearm; bigger guns tend to have less recoil, greater accuracy and better comfort. A large gun is also good for home defense; a comfortable, accurate, high-capacity firearm is a handy thing to have when things get dangerously gnarly. A good carry gun, well, that’s a matter of debate and personal preference. Most – but not all – buyers prefer a relatively small gun.

The important point to remember: there is no one handgun to rule them all. Sure, you can buy a handgun for the gun range, home defense and carry (e.g., the GLOCK 19). And yes, there’s something to the old adage “beware of the man with one gun.” (Being really good with one gun is better than being OK with a range of firearms.) But generally speaking, a do-it-all gun involves unnecessary compromise.

Think shoes. Would you buy one pair of shoes for a night on the town, the gym and casual wear? The handgun market is just as competitive and diverse as the footwear market; handguns are highly-evolved machines designed to satisfy specific niches. Choose your niche. Choose your gun.

Bottom line: your first handgun should be task-specific. Once you master that firearm you can buy other handguns for other tasks – increasing your chances of success within each firearm’s assigned role. Buy a handgun that’s uncomfortable to shoot or wear or difficult to fire accurately and you won’t use it. You won’t practice, reducing your chances of deploying it effectively. You don’t want to do that.

Step 2. Shoot guns

Revolver or semi-automatic pistol? There are a mind-numbing range of considerations surrounding this seemingly simple choice: firearm size, cartridge capacity (number of bullets the gun holds), reliability, your desire and ability to reload under stress, grip strength and more. How can a newbie choose between a revolver and a semi when they have no hands-on experience with the two types of pistols?

They can’t. They shouldn’t. Don’t.

You wouldn’t buy a car without learning how to drive. Well, you might. But if you go into the car buying process with driving experience under your [seat] belt you’ll make a much better choice of automobile. The more cars you drive and use, the better your final choice. The same applies to firearms. The more guns you fire, the better you’re able to tell which one – or ones – are right for you.

It’s one thing to buy a revolver because someone tells you it’s simpler to operate (which it is, unless you’re under stress). It’s another to choose a revolver having fired and reloaded both revolvers and semi-automatics.

And then there’s recoil (the gun’s backwards movement caused by the momentum of the bullet leaving the barrel). Recoil can reduce accuracy and kill the fun factor. It’s impossible to know how much recoil is enough and how much is too much without experiencing the differences between pistols at the range.

And then there’s caliber (bullet size). You can buy a lower-caliber firearm to avoid recoil-induced inaccuracy. Or purchase a bigger gun in a higher caliber to achieve the same result. Proper grip and stance – enabled by training and practice – can “tame” recoil.

“Stopping power”? Triggers? Ergonomics? Controls? Ease of slide racking? External safety or no external safety? Don’t get me started. Don’t you get started on the buying process without shooting handguns.

Find a range that rents guns and rent a gun. And then another. And another. Different sizes, types and calibers. After you’re finished, forget it. Even if you take notes (allowed) chances are you won’t be able to remember what worked and what didn’t. Go back another time and do it again. I recommend three sessions before putting your money down, but two is the minimum.

Step 3. Don’t get married to your first gun

When I bought a fish tank, the fish guy told me to think of the first fish in the tank as Marines. “They might survive. They might not. But they will secure the tank.”

It’s entirely possible perhaps even likely that a first-time handgun buyer will buy the wrong gun. A firearm that’s a PITA to carry. A gun that hurts to shoot. As your shooting skills and tastes develop, you might quickly “outgrow” your gun. You might take a training course and discover your gun don’t git ‘er done. Age takes it toll on grip strength. Whatever. If it’s not workiong for you, ditch the gat.

Pistols don’t shed value like most consumer durables; you won’t take a large financial hit if you sell your gun. Check the current price for your used firearm at (remembering that it’s the asking price). Sell your gun, trade it or pass it along to a friend (i.e. sell it to them for $1). Find something better.

The key takeaway: if you don’t like your first handgun it’s probably not you. You bought the wrong gun. Deal with it.

At some point, you will find the handgun (or handguns). You’ll shoot it with confidence and own it with pride. At that point, do me favor: don’t tell a new shooter that you own the perfect gun. (Don’t be that guy or gal.) Refer them to this article so that they can begin their journey to their ideal handgun.



  1. avatar Shire-man says:

    Even the handgun might not be the handgun.
    I’ve had handguns that for months or years of range time I thought felt great, shot great and were the handgun for me only to take it to a class and run 1200 rounds through it and then see all the hidden faults that simply shooting a couple hundred rounds through paper hid so well.

    Also my hands have changed over the years. Weightlifting has changed my grip shape and size significantly from what it was when I first got into pistol shooting. So much so that previously loathed and very uncomfortable pistols have become very comfortable and vice versa.

    The best gun for me seems to only be the best for a couple of years. At least in my experience.

    1. avatar jake from detroit says:

      ^ The part about taking a class is so important. I’ve been met with general disbelief when I mention having fired ~1000 rounds with a handgun in two to five days. You’re going to really learn what handguns are trustworthy and which ones aren’t.

      Buying a handgun, like any gun, and like almost anything, is always a compromise. But the one thing I won’t compromise on is reliability, which severely limits my choices. To avoid starting a flame war, I’ll avoid brands, but keep in mind that what $300 handgun does at the range for 50 rounds after being cleaned every time it’s been fired isn’t really important compared to what it will do in the desert or the mud for 500 rounds without being cleaned at all.

      1. avatar paulWTAMU says:

        counterpoint: I’m not shooting 500 times in a few hours in a self defense situation.

        I mean, those classes can be fun, but that’s not your actual usage scenario for a lot of owners. I need a gun that goes bang 99.99% of the time, provided I clean it every few hundred to a thousand rounds say. Not a gun that can take 5k rounds without cleaning.

        1. avatar jake from detroit says:

          I was actually thinking about that as I typed the above, and you make a great point: a firearm carried daily or on your nightstand for defense use shouldn’t go uncleaned and maintained.

          However, the weapons available that we generally accept as reliable are relatively inexpensive and available everywhere. No reason to compromise that reliability. You never know when you will have to bet your life on a handgun that you can’t maintain or clean.

          (Sidebar, I know that end of the word thinking is super unrealistic and also borderline douchey, but why not get a handgun that *can* stand up to that level of abuse?)

        2. avatar SteveInCO says:

          If you know your gun will take ten times the hygienic abuse you will give it under normal circumstances, then the chances of it just up and failing due to dirt under a normal cleaning schedule are so small they can be disregarded. That is a good thing.

  2. avatar Gurney Halleck says:

    I was told the most important thing is that it feels good in my hand. Unfortunately I ended up with a S&W Sigma. It really does have a great grip, and it goes bang every time. Those two things are about the only positive things I can say about that gun. I do believe in being married to your gun, however I am a polygamist in that regard.

    1. avatar TTACer says:

      I buy guns. I don’t selll guns.

    2. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

      The Sigma, when you buy it at the ~$200 police trade-in price, is a perfectly acceptable firearm once you fix the trigger (sigmatrigger dot com guy did mine, and quite well). I bought mine precisely because it was stupidly cheap and has a lifetime warranty – if I abuse the hell out of it during training, BFD, I’m only out like $250 max. If I have a thousand dollar custom BHP, or some irreplaceable out-of-production handgun, that’s not what I want to running hard during training.

      1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

        .sigmatrigger dot com

        Thank you! The trigger is the absolute worst thing about the Sigma. You really notice it after shooting 400-500 rounds in a day. Ouch.

    3. avatar Art out West says:

      The Sigma is inexpensive, relatively lightweight, good capacity, has great grip ergonomics, is extremely reliable (at least my SW9VE is), and has a very heavy trigger. It isn’t a bad first handgun for someone short on funds. I’ve got other handguns that I like quite a bit better, but the SW9VE is ok for what it is. A Glock 19 is similar but has a much better trigger. My Glock 19 was $500, and my SW9VE was $275. They each have their place.

    4. avatar GuyFromV says:

      I never used a Sigma, but I have an SD9VE which is supposedly the evolution of the SWVE Sigma mated with the extinct SD. In my opinion its one of the best buys in the handgun realm right now, terrific for new and experienced shooters. Stock or with any of the add-in parts from Apex and other companies its almost been like clockwork…one FTfire stock and one FTfeed with Apex AEK poly trigger in over 1,400 mixed rounds…and I’m sure the FTfire was a terrible primer.

  3. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    The right gun for each person is the theme of a journey, not a destination. 🙂 Each step of the journey presents new information, new technology, new circumstances.

    I look at the vast number of gun and accessory choices available and say: OH YEAH!!!

    Personally, I may never even get to touch more than a few of them, but I’ll almost never pass up the opportunity. I love gun shows, as much for that as anything else. And so I urge all of my students to look at and handle as many different guns as they can, and find ways to shoot as many as possible. And not to stop doing that when they think they have found the perfect gun and gear.

    1. avatar Gman says:

      Mama – Absolutely concur, wholeheartedly, yes. A journey which I hope will never end.

    2. avatar IdahoPete says:

      And don’t forget “Pete’s Laws”:

      1. If you can’t decide between two guns – buy both.
      2. You are legally entitled to a MINIMUM of one gun of every type (you define “type”) for every year of your life.


      1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

        Oh my stars! In that case, I’d best get busy buying guns. I’m 59 guns short of the minimum!! EEgads. LOL

        1. avatar SteveInCO says:

          It’s how much you’re entitled to, not how much you must have.

          But by all means, do NOT let that stop you.

        2. avatar LarryinTX says:

          I’m thinking I need a storage shed, y’know?

  4. avatar -Peter says:

    A great article. One thing I would add is “beware the self-proclaimed expert.” I’ve seen too many new shooters (or want-to-be new shooters) totally soured by a lousy gun store clerk who tries to talk them into a particular new pistol for some truly stupid reasons. Often times, the experience just leaves the would-be buyer confused, and they leave the store with a sense of confusion or defeat.

    “How to buy your first handgun” would make a really good companion article to this one.

    Come to think of it, “Guns for Beginners” could be a whole series of articles. I’d really appreciate having a resource like that to point out to newly interested shooters.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      It is a series. Search “guns for beginners” at the top of the home page or use the drop down menu to find more.

      1. avatar -Peter says:

        Awesome. Great minds think alike.

      2. avatar SteveInCO says:

        I’d go so far as to suggest making it a top-bar category right next to FACTS ABOUT GUNS.

      3. avatar Chrispy says:

        Hey Robert, can we get a beginners article about building a range at home? Different berm materials, safety concerns, rifle vs. handgun?

        1. avatar Tdlcorsi says:

          That (putting together a home-range) is a GREAT idea!!

        2. avatar Ron says:

          I would very much like to see ideas.
          Currently looking for undeveloped rural land in central FL to construct a range for family and friends

    2. avatar fishydude says:

      My first visit to a gun store I simply asked to be shown what they had for ambidextrous 9mm. Turns out that is pretty much just H&K and FNH.
      We have 4 9mm pistols at home now. Only my wife’s Walther CCP is not ambi. The others are. VP9, FNS9, and FNS9C.
      Next one will be an FNX-45. 🙂

      1. avatar SteveInCO says:

        The CZ-85 is just like the 75 only ambidextrous. (If you move “up” to .40. then the CZ-75 in that caliber is ambidextrous to begin with. Yes, a bit confusing.) Too bad your store didn’t have it.

        1. avatar fishydude says:

          Yup. No CZ’s.

        2. avatar Art out West says:

          CZ82/83 are fairly ambidextrous (ambi mag release, and safety, but not slide release), and are pretty reasonable guns for a beginner.

        3. avatar SteveInCO says:


          Albeit not in 9mm Luger. I do wish CZ still made them. I’ve never had the chance to try either model.

    3. avatar Accur81 says:

      The self-proclaimed expert definitely sucks. I’m opinionated (guilty as charged!) but much less so than a lot of know-it-all gun store guys. They’ll regale you with how the .40 sucks, 1911s suck, GLOCKs suck, 1911s rule, GLOCKs rule, etc. It’s a waste of time.

      I’d also suggest 9mm or .22 LR as ideal starting calibers due to low recoil and cost.

      Great article, RF.

  5. avatar Gman says:

    My best recommendation is to find someone you know who shoots a lot and owns a lot of guns. I am always willing to help a newbie avoid the myriad of mistakes. Heck, how can you even begin to evaluate your first handgun purchase if you don’t even know how to hold it properly? I have guided many people through this transition and all of them were thankful for the help. I purchased the S&W M&P 22 compact just for this reason, though I have found it to be an excellent tool to practice and evaluate trigger control since it is so light.

  6. avatar Mike says:

    When I bought my first handgun, I wanted a full-sized 9mm (full-sized cause it was gonna be for home/range use, and 9mm cause it was a cheap[er], common round). Spent a couple trips at the local gun store handling what they had to offer that fit those parameters – and eventually worked down to an EAA Witness vs a Beretta PX4 Storm. Decided to go with the Witness cause the thinner grip felt better in the hand.

    About 2 years later (after trying out other guns, and getting a better idea of what was out there), I sold the Witness to… get a PX4 compact. The Witness was a decent gun, just that I wasn’t accurate with it and it had some horrible trigger-slap that I hadn’t noticed the first year I had it. The larger grip of the Beretta actually feels more comfortable now, also.

    1. avatar Mecha75 says:

      I went with the Full Size PX4 type F in 9mm as my first gun. I still don’t regret it. I actually hate my wife’s Sig 250. She loves it and hates my Px4. But we each still use the others at the range so that we maintain familiarity.

      My reasons for the Full size PX4 9mm was:

      1) home defense
      2) external safety
      3) 9mm was a cheap common round with some stopping power
      4) must hold 15+ rounds

      I now use it as my EDC and while bulky, I feel lopsided when I don’t have it. I also have the safety off and just use it as a decocker (I should modify it to the type G version which only has a decocker and not a safety decocker. )

  7. avatar Mack Bolan says:

    I tend to name my guns like Jack named his mules on Grizzly Adams. Needless to say there is no #1 in my safe.

  8. avatar fishydude says:

    Nice pistol shown 🙂
    My EDC is an FNS9C. IWB leather single clip on weekdays. Hybrid kydex on weekends.

  9. avatar gun dude says:

    over the years, I’ve acquired *cough* a few *cough* handguns. When taking a new shooter to shoot, I always try to present a range of options for them to try – various calibers, revolver/pistol, classic vs. modern – to give them a flavor of what is out there. The hardest thing about buying a new handgun for a new shooter is having the experience to know what you like or don’t like and how to evaluate a handgun without any experience. My goal is to give them a little bit of experience and a little bit of information about why I chose the handguns that I have. I am also cautious to tell them that these were *MY* choices and someone else’s choices are sure to be different. Just because I have/don’t have the XYZ brand tactical special doesn’t mean that it is/isn’t the best thing out there.

    For me, there are only 2 ‘musts’ in the new-shooter-intro:
    1. discuss and enforce the 4 rules
    2. have fun

  10. avatar mike says:

    1) Glock 43
    2) Glock 43
    3) Glock 43

    1. avatar jake from detroit says:

      Handing a brand new shooter such a light, small pistol is a great way to turn them off, potentially for good.

      Small handguns have their place, but teaching a new shooter with a pocket gun is a mistake.

      1. avatar SteveInCO says:


        I must be the only person interested in a small, heavy pistol. And I mean, make-the-frame-out-of-tungsten-since-neutronium-is-unavailable heavy.

        I don’t mind weight in a carry gun, but sometimes actual size of the gun is an issue. (And yes, that opens me up for all kinds of “out of context quote” jokes.)

        As it is, though, we contend with gunmakers who seem to think the ideal weight of a gun is about 0.2 ounces. (Indroducing…Combat Styrofoam, because combat tupperware is just too heavy!) Better keep it loaded or a stiff breeze will blow it off the table.

    2. avatar PeterW says:

      It’s nice to fantasize about new guns, but here in California that is as far as it gets.
      Once you have narrowed down the use (size), cost (gun/ammo) and style (revolver/automatic) there are very few choices of a new handgun due to the friendly Kalifornia Roster of Endangered Handguns
      If I wanted a new Glock 43, my choices are:
      1. move out of state
      2. Shield 9
      3. Kahr PM9
      4. ? Quick browse of the roster shows no other subcompact single-stack 9mm handguns
      If you can narrow your choice down to size/price/caliber, there aren’t that many choices.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        You jest. Ruger added a safety, a mag disconnect, and a LCI to the LC9/LC380/LC9s/LC380s to satisfy KA’s stupid demands, they are silly under any circumstances, esp given the success of the LCP with none of those “features”. And KA does not include the LC9 etc in their precious “list”? You guys are in a lot of trouble.

  11. avatar arsh says:

    It all depends on wants and or needs. I don’t like compacts thanks to my p64 which was my first handgun. tiny cool little bugger that kicked like a freaking mule despite only using a makarov round. Bought my XD45 after which is 1000 times easier to handle. I think a lot of people just want something they can shove in their pocket, but full sized can be just as easy to conceal.

    My next gun will be a Zastava Tokarev in 9mm. It’s as slim if not slimmer than your average concealed gun but built like a tank.

  12. avatar tdiinva says:

    Of all the advice I go with #2 as the best piece of it. Shoot a lot of guns and find out what works for you. I still go with if you are only going to have one gun either because that’s all you want or can afford get a compact because it has the attributes of a larger gun and is still very concealable. Just to tweak the Glocksters my other bit of advice is save the Glock for your second purchase. You here a lot of people call a 1911 an expert’s pistol well the Glock is an experienced shooter’s pistol. You need to ingrain the four rules and get some experience handling firearms before you walk around with a safetyless gun which has a high rate of NDs.

    1. avatar SteveInCO says:

      As often as we’ve butted heads over the 1911, I’ve never bought the argument that it’s necessarily an expert’s gun (given one that works reliably). Have to take a safety off as you draw it? Big friggin’ deal!

      A bigger issue for new shooters is the amount of recoil. Some probably will never be able to deal with .45 recoil and will want to stick with 9mm. In which case, (momentarily wearing a Church of JMB hat) perhaps the best way to introduce them to Browning’s work is a Hi Power, given that 1911s in 9mm are necessarily a bastardization of his design. 🙂

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        My 3″ Kimber really does not impress me with its recoil, and I’m not certain how a 1911 could get much lighter. My bride’s .38 Spl S&W Airweight flat out HURTS to shoot. I mean, OMG pain. Hand a new guy a full size 1911 a thousand times before a carry gun, they may be scary but you can get used to that far quicker than blood blisters. It’s. A. GUN! Deal with it, or don’t.

        1. avatar SteveInCO says:

          Besides a 12 Ga shotgun with a steel plate on the buttstock, firing 00 buck (and perhaps other 12 gauges, but those run a distant second to this experience), the most physically painful gun I ever shot was a Dan Wesson compact in .45. Of course, I haven’t shot too many puny guns in large calibers. I attiribute it to the extremely sharp checkering on the grips, followed by the agressive front strap tooling. (It also went after the base of my thumb, since it doesn’t have that slight inward curve there that a CZ does.) I’ve shot much more potent rounds through other guns, but none other than this one, and that shotgun, made me think “ow!” so quickly.

          Nevertheless, my point remains, that I don’t see how having a manual safety makes a 1911 an “expert’s gun.” This “expert’s gun” comment is made even in regards to 9mm adaptations with similar ergos. Recoil MIGHT be too much for SOME new shooters depending on the shooter and the gun. A safety? Come on.

  13. avatar foo dog says:

    Good article and good advice.
    Especially relating the handgun to a car, as a tool, a functional device to accomplish a task or objective.
    And the reassurance that just like a car, you will likely change models in future, as you learn more or your needs change.

    A handgun is just a tool, a machine, with some basic rules and laws to obey, that like any other machine takes a bit of effort to learn how to use it, safely, at home and in public.

    It aint rocket science.

    1. avatar foo dog says:

      PS: especially suggestion #2. There is so much information out on the innertubz, well meant or ignorant, that a beginner cant get easily confused = analysis paralysis.

      Once you have decided why you need a gun, for what- then….to continue the driving a car analogy.

      You can learn how to drive on your own, with advice from a family member, OR
      by taking a class taught by a professional who knows tips to help students learn fast and right, first time.

      a. Take a basic handgun safety and basic skills class,at a range from a reputable instructor with lots of experience, who has access to many models of handguns, and ideally is independent of the range, with no need to sell one or the other type gun. This can be before the trying on advice, or after, but

      Trust me if you do this, you will be ahead of 80% of those newbies out there.
      This one step will probably save you $$$ thousands in wasted ammo and buying different guns.

      b. After the class, plan to shoot under instruction at LEAST six times, with a week or two between, max,
      over the next 3 months, in order to lock in those good, basic skills.

      The money invested in beginning technique will save $$$ thousands in wasted ammo, and the additional training costs, times 2, to unlearn and correct bad habits you create on your own. This puts you ahead of 90% of newbies out there.

      c. After 6-12 months, go back to your coach and confirm basic skills, and refine a bit more:
      Learn malfunction and dry fire drills, with coach help, again with a couple sessions of your own practice in between, to be sure you have it right. These will seem confusing at first, but can be practiced at home for free and make a HUGE difference later. Now you are at 110% of newbies.

      Remember- Skills are perishable. If you work at building good skills the first year,
      you will have a good foundation for a lifetime of shooting.

      Remember – shot placement is far and away, the number one factor on successful target, personal defense, and hunting use of a firearm. That comes from basics, first, not caliber, or maker of gun.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        And shot placement is what makes shooting fun! Used reactive targets for the first time, today, with my sons. This rocks! Don’t have to walk up to the target to see a hit! Makes you almost giddy sometimes!

  14. avatar 505markf says:

    What for a first gun is a very complicated issue because there’s a couple of different sets of people/purposes that would drive different choices. Two likely ones listed below, but there are lots of others.

    1. “I want a gun for personal defense (and I’m going to shoot it only enough for familiarization and then keep it in a drawer or lockbox by the bed.)” I may not agree with this purchase strategy, but it’s a free country (mostly). These folks should go for whatever pistol is reliable and feels good in the hand. Probably a 9mm and one of the old standbys. I’m not a Glock fan (or hater), but the Glock 17 is a great starter as long as it fits the shooter’s hands.

    2. “I want a gun for personal defense (and I think I might like to get involved in shooting a lot and really want to build my skills).” This one is where it gets tricky because there is really a chain of purchases likely. Maybe go the same route for the initial one, but I’m a big proponent on building skills using the smallest caliber possible, namely 22LR (of course, that was back in the day when a brick of 500 rounds cost maybe $15). Recoil is always a problem for new shooters because until they get the fundamentals down, they adjust in ways that become almost impossible to correct later. This makes something like the M&P line a greater starter set. I use a similar strategy when I take out new shooters to see what they want to shoot (and as I am a huge CZ fanboy, unapologetically) so I start them with my CZ Kadet in 22LR and then move to a full size CZ 75 in 9mm.

    Personally, my first handgun was a Colt 1911. My second was a Ruger 22. I loved shooting that 45, but I learned more shooting the Ruger.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      There is a compromise. Get a 1911 chambered in 22lr. It allows you to improve your skills by firing lots of rounds under different circumstances and gives also reinforces your skills with standard pistol. I recommend that if you have a pistol that has a version in 22lr buy the it. Saves money and improves your skill with the full bore.

      1. avatar SteveInCO says:

        Can’t disagree with this. I’ll add (in case it’s not obvious to someone) that the CZ Kadet is the .22 version of the CZ-75, and at least used to be sold as just a slide and magazine to convert an existing CZ-75, so you get quite literally the same trigger, safety, etc. to work with.

        1. avatar 505markf says:

          The kits are still being sold, though CZ cancelled the Kadet (not the Kadet Adapter) as a model. That said, I tried for three years to pick up a Kadet Adapter but was unsuccessful. One day at my LGS I saw a used, but as new, Kadet and just bought that instead. No regrets.

          1911+ 22LR kit is a great starter set. I have consistently been amazed at how many women shooters seem to like the 1911 even in .45 ACP, even though the platform “should be too much for them” (not sure who says that, but I guess some people do). Same theory between M&P 22 and a full size as a set. Walther I think has similar products. Lots of options.

  15. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    Step 3. Don’t get married…

    You probably could’ve stopped right there…

  16. avatar Paul says:

    I like this article but as someone who is also looking to buy their first handgun I would offer the following:
    Your should plan on buying at least two. Your first should be a range gun to get you competant before buying a carry gun. Please don’t buy a gun, get a ccl and start carrying it. Make sure you really know how to use it first.
    Sign up for an intro to shooting course where they let you test a range of guns. When you have some you like, do some research to find out which is really good. Use professional reviews though not forums or you will think every gun out there is junk.
    Finally, buy from a good store where the staff really help customers instead of looking for the best deal.

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Buying more than one gun is a great idea, but not at the expensive of learning to use it, IMHO. Good on you for recognizing training.

      Also, the man with one gun adage, I do not buy it. It doesn’t seem to be true based on my experience, nor does it make sense, except in gun shop BSing.

      A chef with one skillet…
      A mechanic with one wrench…
      A house painter with one brush…

      It just don’t make sense to me. All the best shooters I’ve met have lots of guns. I’d bet my next paycheck there are more great shooters with lot of guns, than there are with only one.

  17. avatar scooter says:

    I do suggest that when you find a platform you like, explore variants. I dig 3rd Gen S&W pistols, so I built a system. My 5904 and 5906 share mags. Carry? I have a 3913 that conceals well, and all the pistols function the same. The same could be done with CZ75 variants, Glocks… whatever you like! Prefer revolvers? S&W Model 10 in the nightstand, 642 in the pocket… or a GP100 and an LCR. Definitely shoot a bunch first!

  18. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    Start with Hickok45. Solid advice, real expertise, and honest evaluations. And besides, how many people can hit a gong at 70 yards with an LCP?

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      I like H45, but watching minute after minute of him shooting gets old real quick.

      Yankee a Marshal said it best, “watching someone shoot is like watching someone scratch their balls, it maybe enjoyable for them, but it doesn’t do anything for me.”

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        But when someone says a gun don’t work, spending a few minutes watching him go through mag after mag is kinda enlightening.

  19. avatar mike oregon says:

    I’ve found that gun ranges with a rental counter are a unsurpassed tool in finding the “best” handgun, pick your calibre then test 12-15 different models. Then take a good defensive handgun course, run it hard, get it hot and dirty, then you will know it’s limits and yours.

  20. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Great article Mr. Farago.

    Important note for people evaluating rental handguns at the range:

    A range rental handgun does a great job reflecting the most important aspect of why you are evaluating the handgun — fit to your hand, sights for aiming, comfort when firing, and recoil.

    Having said that, keep in mind that rental guns may not reflect the reliability or accuracy of a new or quality used firearm. Range rentals get a lot of use and an unknown level of maintenance. You may also be shooting a type of ammunition that the range rental handgun doesn’t like. All of these factors mean that a range rental may be less accurate or exhibit more malfunctions than a new or quality used handgun.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      At least when I asked them a year or so ago, Red’s in Austin performs zero maintenance, no cleaning, no nothing. Cool. If it works when I rent it, I might want to buy it!

  21. avatar txJM says:

    4. Check for safety recalls.

  22. avatar cknarf says:

    Bersa. Thunder. .380.

    I will not, and cannot, stop recommending this to everyone. Especially new shooters.

    They’re accurate, reliable, and very much affordable. They’re a little heavy for a .380, but I don’t see that as a negative. Recoil is extremely mild because of it, and the gun is an absolute pleasure to shoot.

    Anytime I leave the range with a new shooter, the Bersa tends to get the most positive review.

    Also, they’re not f*** ugly.

    Glocks and XDs are fine guns, they WORK, but they sure as hell don’t look good doing it.

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      Bersa model 83.

      You should add the thunder’s more durable and older daddy to your collection. Oh – and it’s all steel.

      Or the 85 (if you can find it) -it’s full size.

  23. avatar neiowa says:

    You can sell a gun? You sure? Doesn’t sound right.

  24. avatar Larry says:

    I see so…..

    1. Glock 17
    2. Shoot it a lot
    3. Get another Glock 17

    1. avatar tom w a glock says:

      Close. But it goes: get a g17, shoot it a bunch, then get a g19, a g34, a g26 then a g17L. Then decide how many compensated models you want… and then restart the process with an additional caliber!

  25. avatar Anonymous says:

    When I bought a fish tank, the fish guy told me to think of the first fish in the tank as Marines. “They might survive. They might not. But they will secure the tank.”

    LOL! That’s hilarious.

  26. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Good advice. I’ve had 10 guns in 3 and half years. I wouldn’t get the same. When I started there was no CC in Illinois either. Your first gun shouldn’t be your last…

    1. avatar doesky2 says:

      Must be a bummer not having any CZ’s.

  27. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Too man y women buying guns which do not fit them because the male friend or relative pushes them into it.

    1. avatar SteveInCO says:


  28. avatar Timmy! says:

    “you won’t take a large financial hit if you sell your gun.”

    You sir, have obviously never met me! I apparently live by the motto: Buy High, Sell Low!

  29. avatar Michael says:

    If you want to start shooting for fun, I recommend a target .22lr pistol. You can learn more on my website

  30. avatar Angel says:

    great article! just a question is there a reason the picture is a FNS 9c? is that what you carry daily?

  31. avatar Joe says:

    When I see articles like this, I must admit, it is disconcerting. Half of them are just marketing – plugging or even providing links to specific products, often products with low market share, poor reliability, and poor value. The other half are written by guys who think the brand and model they own is the best – even if almost no one else regards it as such. Sure it is – and their wife is beautiful and their kids are all above average 🙂

    Simple advice – if you were buying a garden tool, you’d look on Amazon and figure out what is top rated by consumers. As for guns – do the same – there are a ton of online gun shops with product ratings.

    Simpler advice – look to professionals. What type of garden tools do professional landscapers use? What type of weapons are most popular with police? What did they use for the last century or so? If the police carried basic .38 revolvers and 12 gauge pump shotguns for 100 years – that tells you something. If they now carry mostly striker-fired polymer pistols instead of .38 revolvers – that tells you something.

    What is best for a beginner? Look to the professionals and to the reviews.

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