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 Smith & Wesson 642 (courtesy

Flying back from Vegas, I found myself sitting next to someone who doesn’t own a handgun but wants to. Again. Seriously, this happens to me all the time. These newbies think that buying a gun is like finding Nemo. I mean Neo. There is The One. If they know something about guns, they fully expect GLOCK to be The One Gun To Rule Them All. Which it is, sometimes. Here’s my two-step process to guiding people to their first handgun . . .

1. What do you want the gun for?

A) Concealed carry
B) Home defense
C) Target practice/range fun

If the first time buyer wants a gun for concealed carry, I recommend they pocket-carry a hammerless revolver: a Smith & Wesson 642Ruger LCR or Taurus CIA Model 650. If they say they want a gun for concealed carry and home defense, I point out that the best home defense gun is one they carry in their front pocket: a Smith & Wesson 642, Ruger LCR or Taurus CIA Model 650.

If they say they want a gun for carry and home defense and range time, I say nope. You can’t do that. A small gun is not a fun gun. If the newbie wants a gun for home defense and/or range time, I go on to question 2.

2. Starter gun or one and done?

A) Starter gun is for people who think they’ll be shooting more than once a month. Prospective owners who might want to get their concealed handgun permit after they master their marksmanship skills. People who can imagine themselves cleaning a firearm. I like full-size metal guns (with night sights) for that kind of buyer. Less felt recoil, more accuracy, more fun. I recommend a Ruger SP101Smith & Wesson 686 or SIG SAUER P226 (for the semi-automatic crowd).

[NB: I know the SIG’s an expensive choice, especially if you equip it with night sights. But we’re talking about protecting life’s most precious assets and decades of shooting pleasure. SIG has a Certified Pre-Owned program, and the guns can be purchased without it for even less. A separate post on “why you shouldn’t buy a cheap gun” coming soon.]

B) One and done guns are for newbies who are not going to buy another gun for a long, long time. If ever. Nor are they going to give this, their first gun, love or attention (i.e. cleaning). For them I recommend a polymer pistol with night sights: GLOCK 19, Smith & Wesson M&P or Springfield XD(m). Their choice, depending on how the gun feels in the hand and how much money they have to spend (always mentioning the possibility of buying a used firearm).

See how easy that was? How do you do guide newbies to their first gun? What guns do you recommend?

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  1. i tell what ever feels right to them i mean i like my 1911s dont matter if its rock island or nighthawk(or atleast i like nighthawks in my dreams) but some people are wheel gun guys its all what feels right to them …

  2. Knowing what I now know I would never allowed the moron who sold me my first pistol would never have been a Sig 229 9 MM as a fully carry firearm

    A wheel gun is a lot more user friendly . For home defense I love my Bernilli M-1

    the sig is an amazing weapon never jammed but not practical for carrying if you want it concealed

      • I have carried my sig p229 EE for about 2 years now. I love the feel, the accuracy, and the magazine count. The only issue I have(had) is the weight. I bought a good gun belt and a wide IWB holster and it is pretty much not there! I do feel it especially when in my car, truck or when I’ve wore it all day I do feel the weight. I might be giving that p320 a try for carry when my local shop gets it in. 8oz lighter, striker fired, and modular. If I don’t like the weight after awhile then I will go with a p938 or something then and settle with a pocket carry

      • I often carry either a P220 and a Glock 21 concealed. I’m 6′ and 200 lbs, not a huge individual by any stretch of the imagination. A lot of it depends on how you dress, and as was said, a good holster and belt are crucial.

        • LMAO, you are definitely a “huge individual”. I am 5 feet tall and weigh 160, so I carry a P938 or P238 and it certainly won’t fit in a front pocket. A good belt and owb holster work well for me, but sure wish Texas had open carry.

      • People think conceal means invisible. It just means covered. People carry so much crap in their pockets these days and nobody tucks their shirt in. Everyone carries and everyone knows it or no one notices. Carry any handgun you want and stop worrying about “printing”.

    • P226 here, unless I’m doing something active or if I need to carry deep concealed (suit & tie requires the pocket pistol, as do certain other clothing options)

      • I always carry a Sig P226 as well. Not hard to conceal as long as you don’t want to wear tight clothes and use a real gun belt and good holster. Maybe a little printing if I bend over but nobody, except another gun person, would have any clue what it is. I’ve even carried in dress clothes in the same tuckable holster with no problems.

      • I find I can at least get away with a G19 in coat and tie/ suit and tie. I can appendix a G19 or IWB a single stack 9 no problem. I want to get a Galco Classic Lite and give that a whirl.

  3. I have always and most likely (.22 LR permitting), will always, start someone out in a .22 pistol or at the most a 9mm/.38 revolver. I got a M&P 9 for my wife to learn on which she likes, and but she likes to shoot the M&P .22 quite a bit more.

    She likes to bring her friends who know nothing about nothing, so Ive been tried a few things and without them having to worry about recoil, then grip, sight picture and trigger control are much easier to learn.

    I was honestly surprised people amplify their fears about something going bang to where they almost shut down.

    If you want to carry, you should know how to shoot, that kind of thing makes me nervous when people use the “magic talisman” thinking. Those gun rentals at ranges would be great for a person in this case, it always helps to have a gun friend.

    • It’s very hard to disabuse folks of “magical thinking”, I’ve found. It’s very much worth the try, though. I agree a .22 in either a revolver or semi-auto is a “can’t miss” suggestion.

      If you’re convinced they’re really set on buying a single gun in their lifetime, though, things become a bit more difficult…

      • Ever since 9mm became harder to find, I’ve been suggesting 38spl or .380 to more and more people that ask me that question. The less people shoot 9mm, the easier for me to find ammo and components.

      • “If you’re convinced they’re really set on buying a single gun in their lifetime, though, things become a bit more difficult…”

        If they subscribe to that thinking your first job should be to talk them out of it. Once they get the itch they’ll be more likely to actually learn about guns and find something that fits THEM not just a possible situation.

        My personal observation is that people with only one gun rarely ever practice.

    • Yeah I thought of the CZ75. Sweet piece. And the FNS-9 is an awesome polymer pistol. But people’s brains stop functioning if you offer more than three choices.

        • There it is.
          Home defense only? G17
          Home defense with the possibility of CCW later? G19
          Definite CCW ASAP? (plus home defense with a 15rd or 17rd mag) G26
          All of the above make perfectly capable/fun range guns too.

      • Is slide area really that important? Just grab the serrations and pull back like your life depended on it, never failed me once.

        Back on topic:

        One pistol for it all: CZ75 SP01 + Cadet kit for cheap practice. Not too expensive, comfortable, accurate and most importantly: reliable. I ain’t advertising for them, just my experience with them. Besides it is the most used pistol by police (not in the US but in Europe).

        • I cannot fault this suggestion in any way, other than the Kadet kit is hard to come by (which is why I just eventually picked up a full Kadet). The size and weight of the CZ 75B SP01 makes it a great range gun for learning fundamentals – little recoil, enough heft to be comforting, and the grip tends to fit most people. One caveat, though, is that I have encountered folk who have issues with the decocker version (which is my preference) because they can’t quite reach the trigger for the double-action pull.

          In any case, there is no greater way to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship – and to perform the practice needed to maintain those skills – than the lowly .22 LR. Unless someone specifically says to me they want a handgun NOW for HD or carry, I tell them to find the .22LR revolver or semi-auto that fits them best, buy a brick of ammo (sigh, those were the days) and have at it. Even if I were to recommend something else as a first gun, say a .38 or 9mm, I would always, without fail, then strongly urge them to get a .22LR for a second gun.

        • Back off topic — the smaller slide surface on the CZs is no issue for me and I love them, but I have fielded complaints from people who don’t know the overhand rack.

        • Still off topic…

          Overhand rack = BAD for beginners.

          They will often sweep EVERYTHING to the left of them including their own ribcage, elbow, forearm… etc.

          If you can’t work the slide correctly it’s not the right pistol for you… Especially as a beginner.

      • I wanted a CZ P-01 really bad for a long time until I actually held it. That slide is a PITA. Im sure it will break in and get a little lighter but there isnt a whole lot of area to grip. Is also not a very aggressive serration. It hurt to do but I handed it back to the dealer and said no thanks. I love my 226 and prefer the ergonomics.

  4. If the gun is for home defense/concealed carry, I recommend 6 steps.

    1. Caliber: Nothing smaller than a 380, .38, 9mm.
    2. Go to a gun store that you can rent guns.
    3. Find some you like, both revolvers and semis. (Both in looks and feel)
    4. If you like the feel, set it down, close your eyes and point it in a safe direction. It fits if the sights are aligned horizontally.
    5. Rent the guns and see if you like how it shoots, feels, and that you shoot well.
    6. Buy the one you like best.

    • “4. If you like the feel, set it down, close your eyes and point it in a safe direction. It fits if the sights are aligned horizontally.”

      Realistically, how often is this likely to occur?

      • It is to check if it points naturally for you, in a HD scenario you might not get time to aim perfectly, Same reason I avoid Glocks, since it points too high for me.

      • It is a valid test to explore how a handgun natively fits in your hand. That doesn’t mean you cannot learn how to use and shoot the gun successfully, but there is a good argument that the less you have to adjust to the gun, the faster you will learn good fundamentals. I’ve seen way too many people do make some really goofy adjustments to overcome a bad fitting handgun.

        And I do actually practice closed-eye grabs and pointing of my HD gun, but then I am admittedly anal, he says sheepishly.

        • Best pistol ever for closing your eyes and checking the natural pointing ability was the Luger. Nothing else comes close. Course nobody uses a Luger for self defense. But a better natural pointer? haven’t found one. Next closest i’ve found is the cap and ball army and navy Colt’s. But nobody uses these for protection anymore, either.

        • A Luger? Those are hard to come by and classy as hell.

          Though isn’t the grip angle similar to a Glock?

        • The grip angle may be the same. That I don’t know. But with your hand in the firing position with a Luger it feels as if the barrel is your trigger finger. That’s the best way I can describe it.

          I never got that feeling from a Glock. It feels like you’re holding one brick in your hand and balancing a second brick above it. For the record, if I had to go to war today I would pick the Glock over the Luger.

          But in classiness and pure fun, the Luger wins hands down.

      • This is a training issue. You can train yourself to do this with any gun, it just takes 15 minutes a day.

        I went from an Jericho to a HK USP to a CZ to a Glock and none of them took me over a week to get back to 95%

  5. As an alternative to the Sig, there are the CZ 75 and Beretta 92. Both are a lot cheaper. During my wife’s first range trip, she got to try all three. She greatly preferred the Beretta and CZ over the Sig.

    • I like the fact that with the Beretta you can chamber/unchamber a round on safe and the hammer drops with the slide. With the Sig you have to manually decock it which opens up the possibility of a accidental discharge. The military went with Beretta in part because they train 18 year olds who know nothing about firearms and you can’t get much safer than a 92.

      • Are you chambering with the trigger pulled? And using the military as a basis of firearms training is a really bad idea. I have met guys on deployment who had only fired around 300 live rounds before they got to the stan, and they were infantry. They went with the 92 cause they don’t won’t to train their guys. Look at the seals, a lot of guys who go to buds never fired a gun before. They still use 226s cause it is a better gun. And if the 92 was such a good gun, why doesn’t any of the SOF units use it. SF and the Ranger Recce teams use glocks, Cag uses glocks, Marsoc went to 1911s for some insane reasons, seals use 226s, and Damneck uses either glocks, sigs, or hatchets.

        • On the subject of best all around gun I would suggest the Glock 23 in .40 caliber! The Glock 23 can be four gun into one! You can install a drop in barrel in 9mm from Wolf with the same .40 caliber magazine! You heard me right! I have one so I have tested it’s functionality! It works so you don’t need to buy 9mm mags! You can also drop a 357 sig barrel still using the same mag and also get a 22 caliber kit for it! Keep in mind that I have owned just about every brand out there! Once you master the reset trigger mechanism you have a gun that can be fired in both single and double action!

        • I’m sorry, I thought we were talking about guns for noobs. My mistake. Perhaps the various special forces don’t use the M9 because the military won’t issue NEW M9s to them? Or maybe they just have more money than brains?

        • We are talking about “noobs”. You stating that the military uses it means it is good for a beginner is my problem. Most army grunts will probably fire less than a 150 rounds through a M9 in their contract. That is why they want a gun that is idiot proof. If you are introducing somebody to a firearm, shooting more than 150 rounds in a day should be a requirement. Much less 150 rounds in a year or two. The army’s training should be honestly be considered criminal for some of the regular infantry units. It shouldn’t be something you are trying to emulate. And Special Operations Forces(not Special Forces, which is only Green Berets) don’t get the pass me down gear. And more money than brains? Are you seriously trying to suggest that a M9 is a better gun than a Glock, 226, or even those 1911 Colts that Marsoc went with for some reason?

        • ‘Are you seriously trying to suggest that a M9 is a better gun than a Glock, 226, or even those 1911 Colts that Marsoc went with for some reason?’


          Glocks and Sigs don’t have safeties and therefor will never be a standard issue military weapon in this country, and when they had the 1911s soldiers were forbidden to carry them with a round chambered. The M9s were also much more accurate and held twice as many rounds. 1911s can be just as accurate but they need to be made tight which means they won’t run when they get dirty. Because the M9 uses a locking block and there’s no barrel bushing, the M9s can be tight and run dirty. (And if you think the 1911s would have worked well in Afghanistan with sub-par aftermarket magazines you’re delusional.)

          Quite honestly I don’t get your argument that because the military doesn’t properly train our troops with handguns that that somehow makes a 92 a poor choice for a noob. Just because they SHOULD train extensively doesn’t mean they will.

        • Are you trying to suggest that the M9 is a better quality weapon than a glock or 226 since it is the general issue firearm of the military? Are you next going to suggest the standard M4A1 is a better gun than the MK18MOD 1 or the HK416. And I absolutely hate 1911s, and think they have no use as a military or defensive handgun, but I will give credit where it is due and call the Colt that Marsoc is using way better than any M9 out there. And half the bases you go to in the STAN you still can’t carry a round in the chamber even for the M9s. And the M9s accuracy probably came more from the fact that the 1911s at the time were probably of WW2 era.

          What I am trying to say that you are not comprehending is that you shouldn’t buy a gun just cause it is used by the military cause they barely train its soldiers. You sound like the person who says a woman should buy a 20 gauge instead of a 12 gauge cause she is new to guns instead of actually training them to use the gun properly. Which isn’t that hard to do. If you are going to recommend something, recommend a good gun and tell them they need to train on it or not get a gun at all. They is no reason spend more money on a gun like the M9 than a cheaper more reliable gun like a glock cause it is “IDIOT PROOF”.

        • I would contend that the build quality of a Beretta 92fs or M9 is better these days than a Sig P226, which is sad because the Sig costs 50% more. 10 years ago maybe not but Sig has gone downhill lately. As far as Glock goes I’ve never owned one but my issues with Glock are in the functionality not quality, although they are pretty homely and the grip angle sucks. Personally I like safeties, even pros have occasional brain farts and newbies have them all the time. I especially don’t like the fact that you have to dry fire them to take them down. You may be smart enough to remember to clear the weapon every time, but you cant tell me there’s not a few dozen holes in walls around the globe because of this. Stupid way to design a weapon IMO, and while I don’t own a Glock I do own a Taurus with the same take down procedure. And I just checked Bass Pro’s website on price, the Glock 17 is $599 and the Beretta 92fs is $629, so they are both in the same price range. (I’m sure a better price can be had on both counts.)

          I would definitely not recommend a 12 gauge shotgun to anyone who had never fired a weapon before and that goes double for a woman who’s slight of structure.

          I’ve introduced a number of people to firearms and I’ve seen them do some downright scary stuff. Like forgetting to remove the magazine when they rack the slide to check the weapon and then drop it with the hammer back thinking it was clear. Or keeping their finger inside the trigger guard when they pull back the hammer on a single action revolver and having it go off unexpectedly (fortunately pointed in the right direction). Yes, range time will cure most bad habits, but I think you expect too much of people who may or may not be fully committed to learning the ropes.

          Personally I like 1911s (although I’ve never owned one), but more for the same reason I like Ruger Blackhawks. Probably not the best combat sidearm, but then again, if you’re shooting at me from a hundred yards with your Glock or Sig and I’ve got my .44 mag you will not win that fight. In fact I’ll still have 5 rounds in the chamber when the fight’s done. Guess it all comes down to having the right tool for the job.

        • 1. This has come up many times on TTAG. My turn.
          2. The Army pistol trials featured 9mm candidates because of NATO standardization.
          3. The Sig and Beretta beat out Colt in testing. The Beretta was cheaper than Sig.
          4. At the time we were dubious about the long slide cut-out. That has proved to be a problem.
          5. Even on crew served, grunts seldom need or use pistols. Rifles are infinitely more useful to a grunt than a pistol. In a fight you want a rifle (not to mention supporting arms).
          6. Special Ops types have many taskings which may require a pistol.
          7. Most Special Ops forces (world wide) are allowed to choose their own weapons. Amazing how many of them carry M4 variants. Saw several M79’s and M60’s out there.
          8. Be interested in why the Marines went with the 1911.

      • While I will admit that the overall quality of Sig has gone done in the last couple of years, the 226s I have seen haven’t. Its their flagship weapon, and they do a good job on it. And if you are wondering what my background is, I have attended two different armourers schools, one military and one civilian. I have been dealing with the maintenance and construction of firearms for over 8 years now. I have yet to see a M9 deal with the same amount of abuse as a 226. I have worked on Sigs with well over 250000 rounds on the frame. Try that any day with a Beretta and tell me how that goes. Over half my time in the military has included firearms instruction. I have trained plenty of small framed women who have never shot a gun how to properly handle and fire a 12 gauge. Its not hard. We aren’t talking about something like a .45-70 government here. Its a 12 gauge. My last 4 years have been on the operational side of things while still being the unit armourer in the field. I have yet to see a unit or organization use Berettas by choice. Not one. I have heard nothing but disdain from the guys who it is forced on. And you last statement of winning a fight with a .44 is honestly insane. What I am in, a hallway with no cover. And maybe you should look up what people can do with a 9mm pistol in terms of range.You probably would be surprised. And yes the glock breakdown is stupid, but so is everybodies excuse for a ND.

        • Well I can’t say I’ve dealt with any firearms with a quarter million rounds under their belts but I’m guessing the frame is about the only original part left. I do have to wonder who’s been shooting them so much if the soldiers are shooting them so little. Perhaps if those who had Berettas thrust upon them had NEW Berettas thrust upon them instead of ones with 250,000 rounds under their belts they’d have a better opinion of them. The people who I know who were there when they replaced the 1911s loved the way they could actually hit what they were aiming at. But then the 1911s had the same problem as the M9s, they were still using WWII pistols in the late ’80s. For a civilian the Beretta should easily last longer than I will, so which one lasts longer is probably moot. I prefer the way the Beretta functions, although I will concede that the stock plastic cheese grater grips are awful. Probably not the best choice for someone with small hands either.

          For civilian home defense a 12 gauge is overkill anyway. A 20 gauge slug hits with 1800 ft/lbs. of energy. A 9mm +P hits with 400 ft/lbs.

          I know what a 9mm is capable of, but the .44 Blackhawk is freakishly accurate.

  6. I usually suggest several guns, then have them go to a range and fire several different types to see what they like. It wouldn’t work in Roberts situation but if they are local, I take them to the range and can tell them what’s good and bad, and why I feel that way.

  7. I think ergonomics and shootability are paramount. I try to assess things like physical strength and disability, as well as how much desire they have to practice/train with the pistol. I know some people who have a hard time loading a magazine of their 380 pistol, but they can rack the slide. So we load all their available magazines with defensive ammo after a range session so they can make the pistol ready when they need to. They have a hard time with a double action only revolver. So even though it is easier for them to load the revolver they are not consistently getting hits on target. I agree with the idea that there not one solution for everyone. If I can I take them to a range with rental pistols and a few different options. If I can’t do that in person I try to find a range with a good variety of options and staff I trust to point them in the right direction. The goal is to give them a chance to defend themselves and if possible get them to also enjoy a life time of shooting too.

  8. The one thing I stress to a non owner that’s looking is that it is so easy to change their mind. And unlike a lot of hobby items they can usually get all their money back out of a gun they grow tired of.

    Also, I usually encourage something like a used p226 for example over a new gun from a less reputable manufacturer.

    I NEVER discourage an interest they have in a particular gun that might be impractical for a beginner. If they want to start with a 1911 because they love history or the want a desert eagle because of their favorite movie there is no way I’m going to tell them why that’s bad for them.

    I have tons of biases. But I try real hard to just focus on the fact that getting into guns is tons of fun and buying, selling, reading, sampling, and trading around for something you like better is just as rewarding as time on the range can be.

    • The $1200 and up price tag is usually enough discourage newbies from owning a Deagle. Of course, if they have that much more cash than sense, the most you can do is steer them toward the .357 chambering and hope they listen.

  9. This should be a permanent sticky or something. All excellent alternatives. I personally think .357 revolver is a great choice because you can start small and light (.38) and move up. Nothing turns someone off more than pain in the hand. More practice leads to more accurate shooting (and its less likely they are one and done).

    • This has long been my thinking, especially if it’s for someone who will have a hard time racking a semi auto slide. Either that or a glock 9mm (either Glock brand or otherwise.

      Of course, fir anyone who feels intimidated by firearms I recommend a firearms safety course and repeated readings of the four rules.

      • And cleaning, don’t forget about that. Revolvers are much simpler to clean, especially for people who are not mechanically inclined.

  10. I like your approach, Robert. I often get asked when speaking to the public on gun issues, “What gun should I buy?” I reply that’s like asking, “What car should I buy?” It depends on your personality and objective needs, i.e. “What will I use it for?”.

    • Does it fit me, physically?

      Size of hand, finger strength, etc. play into this.
      At one time I thought I wanted a Toyota MR2. Then I sat in one and realized I wouldn’t fit unless the sunroof was open…

      • Dang right. I’d love a Dodge Viper but I know I could never sit comfortably in one. I can dream but realistically it is a pass. My Accord gets mr around town just fine.

        • Being 5’7 and skinny ftw! I can fit in just about any of my dream cars just fine. Still haven’t bought a gun yet, but fondled many of the obvious choices. Smaller hands make the 92 and G17 grips WAY too big for me. Full size 1911 just feels right, but Bersa bp9cc fits like a glove. Will likely get a p95 due to cost and my preference for as a first purchase, though, as it’ll be a house/range gun.

      • Are you in the NBA or something? I bought my 91 MR2 from my 6′-3′ friend, and he fit in it just fine.
        Or maybe it was a 1st gen MR2 that you climbed in?

        I no longer give out advice on what guns anyone should buy. I’ll tell you about the guns I own, and why I bought them. That, and I’m not entirely sure if most newbies know exactly what they’re going to use the gun for.

  11. Excellent recommendation of choices! One of the pros of the hammerless revolvers that is rarely discussed is the multiple options to shoot the wheel gun! You can grab it anyway you want, and pull the trigger with any fingers that feels right, without worry about the web of your hand getting in the way! And for ladies they can even pull the trigger with two fingers using both hands if the trigger feels too heavy! And of course what no other gun can do, is shoot from the inside pocket for the ultimate surprise!

    • I heard and thought that too about shooting from the pocket but I got thinking: assuming you are using a pocket holster like you should it does not seem possible without a lot of fidgeting

  12. No offense intended Robert but I believe you are taking the wrong approach to this question. When asked I always answer “well, it depends…”. I explain that a gun that doesn’t feel right in the hand will be put in the safe and never used. Also, a gun that is too heavy will never be carried. It all depends.

    I usually schedule a time to go to the gun store and let them see a selection, hold them and, in some cases, fire them. I found that, although I love the looks and all, I cannot shoot a SIG for the life of me. There is something about that long trigger pull that puts me at the bottom of the target. With a few minutes of range time you can find out these little gems of wisdom without dropping a grand on a gun that will never get through a full box of ammo.

    I do have some generic pieces of advice like get a gun from a major manufacturer and avoid Jennings like the plague… Get a caliber that you can shoot accurately and doesn’t have so much recoil you hate it.

    Finding the “one” right gun for any purpose can take significant time and patience. A good friend who knows something about weapons can be invaluable.

    If I had to pick the “one” for me it would be the XDS 45. I have 40+ in the safe but this one strikes the right balance for carry and home defense. I can put a few rounds down range with it but I wouldn’t call it a range gun. If I had to choose, I would go with the defense gun. But that is just me.

    • My point: there is no “one” (perfect gun). Finding the best gun for an individual is an individual learning process – that most gun owners will never attempt. They want “the” answer.

      My advice is designed to provide a “good enough” gun for most people who are, let’s face it, overwhelmed by choice and the selection process.

      • And that’s a very important thing to consider, Robert.

        There are times when a “newbie” needs a self-defense gun right now.

        Example: A woman being stalked hasn’t time to be overwhelmed with choices and arcane gun techie knowledge. She needs something that will fire reliably, without a lot of learning. I’d be recommending a DA revolver, the original “point-n-click” interface, and probably in something like .38 Spl. Is it perfect? Hardly. Will it change the odds she’s facing? Oh yes.

    • Love the Ruger SR9c. But the tiny safety kills it for me as a carry gun. And semis make lousy carry guns for newbies who don’t know jack about racking, loading, tap/racking, etc. People who won’t learn. Just the way it is.

      • Ah, the learning curve. You make an excellent point there. Still. Modern semis are NOT that complicated. I mean hit the mag and rack the slide ain’t brain surgery.

        • Like the American Express add says…don’t leave home without it. That is how it is with my SR9C.

        • That’s true, but my very first malfunction with a glock was a failure to extract where I had to think for a minute about how to clear it. I have shot a lot so it was only about 3 seconds before I figured it out, but for the inexperienced, or people who don’t care about knowing how to clear a jam, that malfunction could have been fatal. I could have tapped and racked all day long and nothing would have happened. Needless to say, I’ve added a new clearing drill to my training routine.

      • Yep, I love mine too. I just got some Traction Grips and I like it even more. Now, I just need to get to the range and see if it shoots as good as it feels. The original grips aren’t quite enough in my hands. Other than that, it’s a great carry gun. I’ve put close to 1,000 rounds through it–ok, I know, I’m just getting started– no misfires, no fail to eject, no fail to feed. Great gun.

        • I absolutely loved the Ruger. I actually bought it based largely on TTAG’s review and carried it every day for a year. Robert’s complaint is valid only in regard to engaging the safety. Pushing it up is definitely no fun due to the size and angle, but despite the small surface area I found it incredibly easy and natural to slide it off while drawing. A little practice and you’re good to stow. Plus the price, capacity, and reliability are hard to beat!

      • I have the full size SR9 and love it. The safety has never been an issue for me, as it is quite easy to disengage. I like that it’s small. One less thing to snag.

        I think the SR series gets a lot less attention than it deserves.

  13. To me, a first gun is a lot like a first car. Depends on the skill set on can bring to the table. Just like you know that no mater what you purchase for your teenage son, he is going to wreck it, Same for a gun, first thing is to make sure they know how to use one. Then find something as near idiot resistant as possible. Just like anything else in life, not being familiar with the use of any object nearly always ends in disaster.

    Just my two cents but for the person who will not be using a firearm on a regular basis, I would recommend a good quality 32 ounce Louisville Slugger. If they still insisted on a fire arm, I would suggest a wheel gun of good quality that feels comfortable in their hands. Something made well enough it does not have a 12 pound trigger pull and one that is not going to recoil out of their hands after the first shot.

    While I am a firm believer in the 2nd amendment, allowing people to purchase a weapon without any semblance of training is like allowing someone to buy a car with no prior knowledge of driving. Might as well tell them to buy a chain saw and have at it, still the most dangerous implement allowed to be use without a license.

    Besides, I’ll bet any perp sneaking into your house would run like Hades once they heard you crank up your trusty Stihl….

    • As any trip to a public range will prove, the average gun owner is crap with a gun. Really, really bad. And those are the one who GO to the range. And yet . . .

      The vast majority of defensive gun uses are performed by these woefully untrained gun owners. They somehow figure out how to put the bullets in facing forwards, point the gun at the bad guy and, if necessary, pull the trigger.

      Training is more important than gun choice. But every American has the right to keep and bear arms with or without training. Or, for that matter, the “right” gun.

      • Yeah amen. The whole point of the gun is that it is force distilled into the common denominator of point and squeeze. How else can you so efficiently equalize folk?

      • I’m a serious skeptic on the accuracy issue. In real life people seem to hit the perp when, as usual, it is at close range. I think it’s gun handling that is under-emphasized. Safe handling. Safely and quickly drawing from the pocket or IWB under time pressure to first trigger pull. If they can hit a dinner plate at seven yards reasonably fast from a draw, I think that’s a good start. In fact that sounds like me with anything but a 1911, and I usually carry a G30S. Well, maybe a butter plate.

        It seems to me that newbies aren’t told nearly enough, “make most of your practice dry fire snap shooting with an empty gun in front of a mirror, firing from a draw. Triple check that the gun is empty first, and have no other person in the room.” Most indoor ranges do not allow drawing and firing from a holstered gun. People who don’t practice tend to get a horrible grip on the revolver or pistol when pushed for time. Or so I’ve seen.

    • A chainsaw is far more dangerous than any firearm. If your state has magazine restrictions, a revolver might make sense. Do consider that reloading a revolver is far more difficult than even a smaller low capacity semiautomatic. If you need say, over 10 rounds for your safety, you’ll be forced to buy 2 revolvers instead of one.

  14. I would only recommend a .357 snubbie after informing the new shooter that s/he will curse your name after firing it if .357 is used instead of .38 spl. I like my LCR .357 just fine, but those things offer a mountain of full-power recoil that could dissuade a person from ever shooting again.

    • true, but the advantage of a 357 is it also shoots 38 or 38 +P. There is very wide range of loads available.

      • Oh, I certainly agree. I think they’re a fine choice for anyone. They just need to come with a disclaimer and some supplemental advice regarding ammo selection.

        • ahh, yes, “good advice”… that is the #1 reason not to buy a gun from Dicks, Bass Pro, or another big box retailer.

    • Isn’t that what .38 Special rounds are for? Learn on the .38s, poke holes in bad guys with the .357s…

    • Hahahahaha. I love my Automag, but what it is best at is drawing a crowd on the range. Bring at least 100 extra rounds every time because everyone from the RO on down is going to want to put a mag through it. It would make an exceptional bludgeon however.

  15. Do the make other guns besides the Glock 17?

    Seriously a Glock in 9mm is the starter handgun for almost everyone. I prefer the 17 over the 19 but whatever floats your boat.

    Anything and everything you might want to do with or do to a Glock 9mm is possible and usually at a much cheaper and available way.

    • I agree. When I’m asked about what gun I would recommend for a new shooter. I generally recommend a glock in 9mm. It’s really an impossible question to answer(which gun is best for me?). But I think with a little practice, everyone can shoot the glock pretty well, it’s reliable, and can go without cleaning for a good while, and it has adequate stopping power. Is it a good carry gun? It depends on the person, but it is doable even though there are probably a few better options. Either way, it’s not perfect, but I don’t think they would regret their purchase.

    • My problem with a Glock is there is no safety. Yes I know all the reasons not to have a safety on a carry gun, but people make stupid mistakes, and newbies make more. It’s just to easy for the trigger finger to slip on to the trigger (I mean, that’s the way the guns designed) when you’re thinking about other things like stance, target, background, etc. Also, a new shooter probably won’t have a good way to store a gun when they first start out, which means anyone can pick it up, and without a safety bad things are bound to happen.

      • The other side of that coin is that newbies who actually need their gun will forget about the safety. So on which side do you err? A negligent discharge is statistically more likely, true, but who’s to say of what happens when the gun doesn’t go bang? Either way it’s a risk, it’s just on which side do you prefer to fall?

        My shield doesn’t get as much carry time as my 19 because of the safety, despite being more comfortable to carry. AND I train to sweep the safety on my draw stroke it just depends on how “automatic” i’m running at that point, as I shoot GLOCKS for IDPA. I guess I aughta get my smith to remove the safety for me.

        • Plus with Glocks, they will reliably go bang when the trigger is pulled depite receiving poor cleaning – or no cleaning, reliable in spite of enormous abuses (you know, that whole ‘shot from a cannon, buried in mud, baked in a pie, run through the cement mixer’ thing). As a selling point for a self defense handgun, that’s hard to top. Also in their favor is the interchangeabillity; every Glock being like every other Glock.

  16. I’ve always found revolvers a lot easier for beginners to understand, with fewer details to remember, and no need to take things apart for basic cleanliness. They’re just intuitive, and can easily be unloaded and manually cycled at a speed that allows the operator to actually SEE what’s going on. Also, no concern about remembering a chambered round with the magazine out.

    The 642 is a champ, if you can get one with a reasonable trigger weight, or have an Apex spring kit installed. A good double action trigger goes a long way in making these belly guns easy to control.

    A 686 can be a pretty steep investment, new. There are all manner of K-Frame police trade-ins around though (model 10, model 19, models 64, 65, and 66) at less than half the price of a 686. Don’t despise the .38sp models, either. I’ve seen a lot of people turned off forever by being introduced to shooting via the .357 mag.

    • I agree that revolvers are simple for newbies until they have to reload. I teach the proper reloading technique for revolvers to newbies, and it’s like doing mental gymnastics. It just seems to take a really long time to reload. So as long as they keep it loaded, and they only use 5 or 6 rounds then they are good to go.

  17. Just a personal opinion, but I would recommend the XDM over the XD for a less than enthusiastic nubie first gun buyer. The M doesn’t require dry firing to remove the slide reducing the possibility of a ND. Negligent maintenance may bleed over to the big 4.

  18. I taught my gf on a .22 1911 yesterday and had no issues. Not a carry gun but whatever works. The gun jammed a lot so we rented a m&p .22 as well.

    • The only .22 ammo I’ve found to work reliably with my Colt/Umarex 1911 is the Thunderbolt brand, but I figure any non-jacketed bullet ought to work fine… If you can still get them.

  19. I’ve been a bit of a one and done guy when it comes to pistols, rifles are my bag. I did buy the pistol first for the sake of practicality, an xdm 45 (yes I know a reasonably recent start, but I was shooting years before I purchased) . Most first or new shooters I’ve brought to the range really like the xdm, either mine or a friend’s that is the xdm nine. Not very bulky, but not tiny either. One thing I’ve tried to stress to folks asking me about it is to find a rental first – your hand size can make a difference. I have smaller hands than most women I know, and it can be difficult to find even a small caliber handgun that fits. Weirdly, the xdm 45 is perfect for me.

  20. Just did this for a friend. I let her shoot any gun she wanted to.
    She ended up choosing a smith J frame .38.
    She really liked to shoot it.

    • i know a lot of women tend to go with a j-frame styled revolver. the two in my family that did were somewhat sorry. they liked how cute/ cool they looked. they hate the double action trigger and are not overly fond of the recoil. they deal with the recoil but the double action trigger is a kill joy for them. at the range they always want to shoot the semi autos but hate the slide and loading the mags.

  21. Not sure what to suggest since I haven’t purchased one yet. I do have a bersa .22 in my posession, though. I do like that. And in helping my sister do some shooting it’s nice that it doesn’t hurt or scare her. It’s not super accurate though, so she does get frustrated easily.

    I’m currently settled on a semi (for a lot of reasons, mostly capacity). Trending towards glock 19. Best all around pistol and carried daily by thousands upon thousands of people. availability of stuff being the other big draw.

  22. I tell people new to guns to go to their local gun shop and pick up and handle as many guns as they can. See what they like, find out what feels right to them, and purchase the one they like the best and can afford.

    Much as we debate on it, guns can be a very personal thing. No two are exactly alike. I personally hate Glocks. A lot of people love ’em. I love the feel of my all-steel CZ75, but others complain that it’s too heavy.

    I do suggest people totally new to shooting buy either a bolt-action rimfire rifle or a revolver. They’re simple, easy to clean and pretty much never break. But bottom line, I tell them to buy what makes them happy.

  23. I believe that you should use the one that you are most comfortable with. I also believe that you should train with and feel comfortable with all the ones you own. Call your friends and practice to feel comfortable with theirs too. Then let them train and feel comfortable with yours. Make lots of friends that like to train with guns.

    When you (absolutely have to) go to a gun fight, take all your guns and ammo; take all your friends with all their guns and ammo.

  24. This question comes up often in real life. Of course, it all comes down to the individual and their intentions. That said, the features that tend to overlap the most people and purposes tend to be something in a compact (say, G19 size), double action, in a mid tier price range. Preferably pistol, but revolver is acceptable. Manufacturers include Sig, Taurus, Kahr, Beretta, and similar.

  25. I tell people first and foremost get something that fits their hand properly. Then determine what they want it for (target, CCW, self defense in the home, etcetera) and how much they want to spend. This usually narrows it down to a few models which they can then rent and try out.

  26. I recommend that they find a handgun that fits their hands as comfortably as possible in a smaller caliber (.22 or so) then become comfortable shooting it (if it ain’t comfortable to shoot they won’t practice and will develop bad habits that they will NEED to unlearn). Then work up to a pistol that they still feel comfortable shooting, that works for their chosen pistols purpose.
    I don’t believe in a single pistol that fits all circumstances (nor rifle either).

    • True but not everyone has the money to work up like that… going to a range or borrowing a .22 is a great idea though. Note that in some states… like NY… whatever pistol you choose is going to take months or even a year to go from the store to your pocket, so a nice progression is unrealistic. I know that’s not the case in free states, but thought I’d mention it anyway.

      The idea is why I like revolvers in .38/.357 though. You can start with a cowboy load in .38, go up to .38+p for carry, and have the option of .357 when you’re ready.

  27. My friend and I taught his 12-year-old cousin to safely shoot rifles and handguns this weekend. He’s a responsible, mature good kid and listened well to instruction.Turns out he’s a deadeye with an AR-15 and a Glock 19. In fact, he was making the steel ring more than my buddy. He did not like the 1911 much, though, because it recoiled too much for him.

    If I had to recommend a handgun to someone it would be an early model Gen 3 Glock 19. It’s simple, reliable, fun to shoot and incredibly easy to maintain. Plus 9mm is relatively cheap and with the right bullet it’s a good manstopper.

    If I was going to recommend a centerfire semi-auto rifle for someone it would be an AR-15. Soft recoiling, has an adjustable stock, and it’s fun to shoot. Not to mention that with XM193 it is a damn good manstopper.

    Rimfire? Definitely a 10/22.

    Even if a person goes out and buys a Glock 19 or an AR and they don’t like them, they can probably get what they paid for them out of it (provided they don’t buy them at an overpriced big box store).

  28. I dunno, I carried my first Ruger SP101 without problem and it was a happy range gun with options from .38 to hot-loaded .357 that could fulfill criteria for all three purposes. The only problem was capacity, which is why I eventually got a semi with double that number.

    • My first gun was a 1911 and I carried it concealed until I decided it was too damn heavy. Then I went polymer. As the years passed my carry gun has gotten smaller and smaller. Now I just carry a Ruger LCR .357 and sometimes my Glock 19.

  29. I have given up recommending specific firearms. Instead I tell to shoot a bunch. They will improve their skills, learn about guns and make an informed decision.

    I will recommend classes of guns though. I never recommend a gun smaller than a compact especially if they think it will be one and done. I know most people here are in love with subcompacts and pocket pistols but I usually warn people off unless they intend to carry in a very restrictive environment. You can carry a compact in virtually any environment. They are more reliable, unless you get a revolver and easier to handle. I also warn them off of a Glock until they get more experience. Like driving and flying, new owners are more likely to make a mistake and it easier to make a mistake a Glock than a Springfield, M&P or a Beretta. When they have ingrained gun safety procedures they can make the switch.

  30. I work at an FFL and this happens all the time. This is what I do: I tell them first, don’t listen to me or anyone else. Do research on your own and shoot what you think you want to buy before buying it. Then I’ll tell them “I’m going to start handing you pistols and revolvers – tell me to stop when you find one that feels good.” They will find a few that feels good, then I start talking about pros/cons of each. I have them dry fire extensively, work the slide, show them how to fire a DAO revolver trigger vs. a striker fired trigger (there is a difference!) and after all of that they usually have an idea of what they want.

    When I get this question on the street, I tell people that they can come to the range with me and I’ll help them out.

  31. Go used. I let newbiews shoot one of mine and tell them to buy a good used gun so they don’t mind the dents/dings a new one experiences (like buying a new car and driving it off the lot).

  32. If I can get them to a gun range with me, I’ll give them some exposure to options, as below:

    If they want to try a semi-auto: start with CZ Kadet or Walther P22 (if it’s in a good mood that day), then move up to a CZ 75 or Browning High Power, both in 9mm.

    If they want to try a revolver: start with a Ruger Single Six and move up to either a Blackhawk in .357 or S&W Model 19, either shooting .38 Special wad cutters.

    These options are based just upon what I own and there are no outdoor ranges in our area that rent guns.

    It’s funny, but most people never think about single actions as a good introductory handgun, but I’ve never met anyone over the age of maybe 15 or 16 who doesn’t know the basics of how to operate one. This is especially true of anyone who watched westerns when younger.

    A single action is a very safe way to get someone exposed to shooting a handgun. I realize not necessarily ideal for carry or HD, but I have a Blackhawk in .44 Special as a backup home defense gun and I would have no qualms about using it to defend life and limb.

  33. My first love was the CZ75. Fit my hands well, pointed well, weight was no heavier than others, absorbed the recoil. Just a sweet piece of perfection. Copied by many, but never improved. Revolvers are loud. I got the spousal unit a CZ82 in 9×18. Too snappy with the blowback action. She loves the CZ75, so I picked another one up for her. I carried a CZ75 PRC for a bit, then moved to a Keltec P11 for summer carry. Now I carry a TCP738.
    If I was going to recommend a starter or one gun, it would be a still be a CZ75B.

  34. Gold tiger striped D’eagle!…LOL.

    Really though, I usually suggest something like a Bersa Thunder .380 for a beginner to keep cost down and familiarize them with the manual of arms most full size pistols have. It may not be THE ONE but it is reliable, concealable, affordable and has “full size gun” features. I have an older model that has seen more range days and beginner teaching sessions than I can remember.

    The only problem I’ve ever had with it was when the notch in the side one of the aftermarket mags I bought chewed itself up a bit and wouldn’t seat properly. It never caused any type of FTF but I blame the REALLY crappy steel of the mag not the pistol. My 2 factory mags have never had any problems.

    The other reason I choose that one to start beginners is because the grip and recoil are manageable for even a small handed woman but not too small for a normal sized set of man hands.

  35. Fun topic. Likewise, it depends. It’s a tool, so the choice must be suited to the task… home defense should probably be a pump shotgun. From there though, any pistol needs to ‘fit’ the user’s hand, handgun caliber ought to be the largest they can comfortably operate. A hand cannon that clunks granny in the forehead when she fires is no self defense weapon! .22 wmr is as viable a choice in low recoil requirements as .32 acp or .25 acp. My sweetheart swears by her Glock 26 (which I find hard to hold), her brother’s wife carries something in .22 wmr (he’s a .45 acp all the way guy). In choosing my carry firearm, reviewers praised a number of pistols which I rented & test fired. Then I reluctantly tried an ugly, blocky did-not-want-to-like-it Glock 19. I carry the .40 cal Glock 23 except in summertime when I use a Bersa Thunder .380. The Glocks suit me well, the Bersa improves so much on the mess someone (names not mentioned) made of Walther’s PPK design that it is night & day difference for ease of firing, relability, etc. You just have to try until you find what works! (Ok, that was the point of my paragraph, so if your eyes glazed mid-way through, skip down to here)!

  36. I’m gonna cheat…….

    If it’s “one and done” for “home defense” with infrequent practice then it should be a “handgun caliber” put inside a pointy stick type thing called a carbine which all family members (and likely under-trained) could conceivably hit the target with.

    Paging…Paging ….Paging Mr. Sub200 and Mr. Glock 33Rounder.

  37. An inexpensive 22 revolver, WITH A HAMMER!
    Only so the person can learn to shoot. The question didn’t say that this first gun had be be the ONLY gun the person could buy for the next year or two. Once the beginner gets used to shooting, and hopefully learns the fundamental working of a firearm, then they can make a choice as to what gun they want, for the task at hand.
    Meanwhile they will still have their “cheapie” 22 revolver to play with, and not be burdened with high ammo cost.

  38. I’m the world’s biggest Smith & Wesson weenie and carry a 642. Previously I carried a 638 and a 637, but a word of caution — it’s not easy to master an Airweight snubby.

    Most shooters, including noobs, can hit a target at five yards or less after a break-in period. Further than that, things get interesting, and not in a good way. And most beginners do not like the snappy recoil when shooting standard .38 Spl ammo (to say nothing of +P).

    I really like toting a belly gun and recommend them highly to experienced shooters, but noobies should try before they buy. Then again, I guess the same could be said for any handgun.

      • Lack of a hammer means little chance of snagging on anything, like clothing, car key rings, etc. Mr. Bad Guy has nothing (short of a cylinder grasp) to stall the gun.

        I carry a DAO 99.99% of the time.

      • I see a lot of positives in a hammerless or shrouded hammer. I just have the feeling there must be a least some compromise I’ve never heard of (other than light weight) that causes many to choose the exposed hammer. Maybe not. I know nothing about revolvers, though I shoot my brother’s Ruger 101 .357 occasionally.

        • I have both the S&W 642 and the Ruger LCR in 38 and one thing that I believe is essential to smooth out the trigger is to dry firing with caps. With the 642 after few months of dry firing I am now able to control the trigger into two stages where the initial pull is about 8 lbs and the second stage is about 4-5 lbs, reminiscing of a double and single action! Same with the Ruger but I can actually stop the first stage where I can remove my finger from the trigger and it remains in single action! I can actually shoot both in double and single action now with both! I understand it’s not quite design for that but at the range it’s fun!

    • Yes, the airweight hammerless j frame is not a gun for beginners. Neither is the 1911.

      For the one and done person who wants just to protect their home and family I recommend a service sized revolver, like the k frame smith.

      For the person who’s willing to put a little work into it I recommend a Glock brand Glock.

      But my first recommendation is always a shotgun.

  39. I’m of the CZ75 mind set. Or clones thereof. EAAs, Canik’s, etc. My first handgun was a steel frame EAA in 9mm.

    Now I carry an EAA poly witness in 10mm, hunt with a EAA Match longslide + red dot in said caliber.

    10mm isn’t for newbies, but I strongly believe it is “The one” caliber, aside from price and availability that is.

  40. Rrgardess of what they end up with get them a package or two of snap caps to practice whatever caliber, revolver or pistol. Pretty much all triggers out of the box are going to be less than smooth. My 1st gun was a Ruger .38 2009 Had to use both trigger fingers to even fire the damn thing. Used snap caps, now use my spent .38 spl. shells. After putting about 500 rounds both dry/live fire trigger is crisp and smooth. From 15 lbs pull weight out of the box to 11lbs now. Hardly notice recoil anymore. Two things that will kill enthusiasm
    !) Heavy trigger pull 2) Recoil that hurts.

    I’ve since acquired Ruger GP 100 Talo 38/357 3″ barrell, Ruger SR .22, pistol 3″ Ruger P959mm pistol 3″ Bersa .380 pistol “3 (will be selling it soon) S&W model 63 .22 3″ revolver. My rules for weapons is a 3″ barrel, at least 10 round capacity pistol. Revolver are usually 5 to 6 rounds, except .22s, revolvers anywhere from 8 to 10, although some only 6 rounds but, personally would never buy one.

    Ruger .38 LCR violates 3” barrel rule but first gun, first love, will never sell, trade or give away

  41. A) Concealed carry

    Semi auto 9mm, I like Glocks and M&Ps, but I’m not myopic, any name brand with a good reputation is fine.

    B) Home defense

    Semi auto rifle or pump shotgun, don’t get wrapped around the axle about caliber or gauge, any long gun is usually better than any hand gun. Just get something reliable and make sure any person you expect to defend the castle with it can actually handle it.

    C) Target practice/range fun

    You should be practicing with the guns you use for purposes stated above, but .22LR is the go to for cheap and easy shooting, ammo shortages and availability withstanding.

  42. FN Five-seveN for all three purposes.

    Very lightweight, even with 20 rounds magazine. And – 20 rounds ! That’s a lot of firepower. And stealing from your very own review, “has the recoil of a peeved gerbil”.

    So if you’re only a regular/bad shooter – having those 20 rounds give you a lot of chances to land at least a couple on target – and that couple w/ low recoil means that even petite women can satisfactorily use the gun.

    Come on – you’re traveling, wife and kids alone at home, noise in the middle of the night – and your wife weights all of 90 pounds, she’s scared, and she rarely, if ever, goes shooting. Who where really believes she’s going to be effective w/ a 9mm gun ?

    • For every one 90lbs wife out there, I’m guessing there about one hundred over 90lbs wives out there. Honestly, how many sub-hundred pound women do you meet on a daily basis?

      Besides, it’s a 9mm, not a bazooka.

    • Good luck finding ammo for it, and if you do, hope you have a platinum card with a large limit, cause its expensive. I also don’t think using a round that was deigned to penetrate body armor is the best choice for home defense, especially if your walls are drywall like mine are, and your house is in close proximity to your neighbors.

      Rather give my GF my AR-15 than a FiveSeven for Home defense.

      • I take part of my last comment back, after a little research, the 5.7x28mm might actually be a really good home defense round. Actually, after reading a little more about the round, I wish I could afford a PS90. The ammo, unfortunately, is still way too expensive and hard to find for me to rationalize owning a firearm chambered in it.

        • Federal AE 9mm 115 grain FMJ – approx .36 per round. Federal American Eagle 5.7x28mm 40 Grain TMJ – approx .44 per round.

          A 15-round magazine of 9mm then comes to $5.40 – a 20-round of 5.7×28 to $8.80 – yes, $3.40 more. But we started from “there’s no limits when talking about defending yourself & yours” – so . . .

        • I’ve been researching it a bit tonight, looks like 5.7x28mm ammo has gotten a lot more reasonable over the years as other ammo manufacturers have started manufacturing it. I just remember when it was just FN making it, and it was very expensive. Looking at some of the testing of the round it’s pretty sweet round. I feel rather silly, cause I have to admit my assumptions were wrong. 5.7x28mm looks like it could very well be one of, if not the best possible home defense round. I don’t know if I could recommend it to a newbie, which is what this post i supposed to be about, cause you’ll still wont see any 5.7 at WAL-MART or your LGS, at least I never seen it in my area. But I will admit, I am thinking a PS90 SBR could be the ultimate home defense weapon.

  43. The FiveSeven does have virtues. But I would especially recommend it as a house pistol for someone already receiving a disability pension due to deafness, especially if they have large hands.

    I suppose no gun is perfect, other than Glocks and 1911’s (but not both at the same time).

    I’m impressed by how thoughtful people are, and willing to help.

    • “The FiveSeven does have virtues. But I would especially recommend it as a house pistol for someone already receiving a disability pension due to deafness, especially if they have large hands.”

      It’s a little long for a tshirt, but I really like it.

  44. I went to the range with almost no handgun experience. I rented a Glock 17 and a Ruger GP100. I assumed I would love the Glock and I hated it. I found I could shoot the Ruger better, even double-action, even using .357.

    Since then I’ve had a chance to shoot a S&W Governor, an FNH 9mm, and a Springfield XDM 3.8. The XDM was magical. I couldn’t seem to miss with it.

    Your really do need to shoot several guns before you spend the money.

  45. Guns are too personal to follow the same path of recommendation for everyone. Needs, budgets and personal taste are too diverse.

    My only common recommendation is to buy some earmuffs and shooting glasses, then go rent an indoor lane and try out a few different models. Or sign up for an “Intro to Handguns” class. It’s infinitely easier to talk about first purchase options after there’s a minimal baseline of experience, even if it’s something as mundane as “I tried X and it felt too big for my hands.”

  46. On a related note, I’d be curious how many people ended up using their first handgun regularly, especially as an EDC. I know I didn’t. My first handgun now resides in a bedside holster and I carry something else, because I misjudged both my desire to carry (first) and my ability to carry that gun (second).

    • First gun I purchased is a Ruger LCR .38 five round revolver. Pocket carry at home in a pocket holster, have in my car, driver side bin, in a Sneaky Pete carrier. Loaded with .38 special hollow point ammo & use 5 Start loader with same ammo, carried in pocket or Sneaky Petecarrier. When CHL comes, it will be every day carry. I know I’m not the only one, my sister-in-law’s first gun is a Bretta .32 pistol with tip up barrell she carries it and no other.

    • excellent points. IMO, if a first gun is going to be an only gun, then the recommendation needs to be different than if a first gun is intended solely for learning fiream basics.

      I recommend a Bersa Thunder for first gun, because it is easy to shoot, realiable, INEXPENSIVE, and adequate for both carry and home defense. (adequate in my opinion, anyway. someone will probably respond that anything less than a Desert Eagle auto loading magnum is a sissy gun and only adequate for hunting mice).

  47. A .22 rifle. I first tried a target rifle with strap and all, but with my infirm body that was like torture. Then I got a nice CZ rifle, had fun with that. The most fun was with a Norinco Mauser copy, where I could pit my Wehrmacht skills against der Tommies mit der Lee Enfield target versions. Blast away somewhere near the target, who cares who wins.
    (Mein Deutsch ist kaput!)

  48. Remember that ammunition selection is almost as important as firearm/caliber selection!

    Here is my simple process. I assess the newbie’s physical and mental capabilities:
    (1) If they have fairly severe physical limitations, I direct them to .22 LR or maybe .22 Magnum revolvers.
    (2) If they have moderate physical limitations (small framed female or elderly person), I direct them to a .38 Special revolver and light for caliber ammunition.
    (3) If they are average physically and lack mechanical aptitude or physical coordination, I direct them to a .38 Special revolver and heavy for caliber ammunition.
    (4) If they are average physically and have good mechanical aptitude, I direct them to a semi-auto in 9mm.
    (5) If they are above average physically and have good mechanical aptitude, I direct them to a semi-auto in .40 S&W or .45 ACP.

    As for which specific revolver, I direct newbies to consider the smaller revolvers. And if considering a semi-auto, I like Glocks, Smith and Wesson M&Ps, Springfield XD(m)s, and Ruger SR series. Whether or not they purchase compact or full size in a semi-auto depends on whether they plan to carry concealed and how they dress. If dress allows, I direct them to full size semi-autos, otherwise compact semi-autos.

    I do NOT generally recommend sub compact, ultralight semi-autos to people as their only firearm. Those are great backup guns or for specific carry situations when neither a full size nor compact are possible. But they are horrific to shoot at the range. They are meant to “be carried a lot and shot a little”.

    Final important note: I suggest that anyone purchasing a revolver consider paying a gunsmith to lighten the trigger, especially if the newbie is less than average physically.

    • My wife is a small framed woman. She can handle any gun in the safe. Don’t be so quick to discourage a small framed person from using a full sized large caliber pistol.

  49. Striker fired polymer handguns. Their stupid simple, extremely reliable, inexpensive, while also being fun and easy to learn how to shoot well.
    The average Joe, I’d say a Glock 19 or any other “compact” Glock in their caliber of choice. Their big enough to be accurate, while just small enough to conceal.
    Newbies that feel more comfortable with having an external safety, I’d say go with a S&W M&P full size or compact that have a safety.
    Small women with tiny hands or everyday CCW, I’d suggest a M&P shield, SA XD-s, or Walther PPQ. Thin enough that most anyone can get a good grip on them, so easy to conceal, accurate and fun to shoot despite their size.

  50. One of the best cures for ‘magical thinking’ is an afternoon of informal paintball, played with a ‘pretend it’s real’ mindset. Nothing deflates the ego and brings home the idea that real gunfights are best avoided like getting pretend ‘shot’.

    Someone mentioned NY. It’s true the first handgun ‘permit’ can take from never to a few months depending on your county but after that it’s usually less than a month to add another one, two weeks for my last one. A week and counting as we speak for my latest one (hope that didn’t jinx it). I added 4 in the same ‘waiting’ period once. Not defending the red tape bs or the requirement to obtain ‘permission’ but it’s not necessarily ‘one gun and done’ in upstate NY, yet.

    I carry, in order of preference, a full size 1911 (Colt 70 gov), a compact 45 (Detonics mk6, my first handgun btw) or a micro 1911 (Sig P238) when I’m feeling especially lazy. Shot my first handgun at 6, hunting at 14, ccw at 32, I’ll be 63 this year.

    Can’t say I’ve ever had the ‘talk’ with a complete noob. Everyone I know either grew up with guns or have no interest. Never been to an indoor range, not sure there is one within 50 miles. If there is the membership fees are likely out of my comfort zone. ‘Concealed’ means the subject never comes up when I’m out and about, and quite honestly I don’t meet that many people I would encourage anyway.

  51. I see mention of a very wide variety of firearms in consideration of a person’s first gun. It would also appear that defensive/carry purposes are being considered here as well.

    I do find it a bit baffling that with all the guru advice that abounds freely here I really didn’t see but one other person mention about a gun fitting proper to the shooter’s hand(s). Case in point, too large of a grip makes it all but impossible for a shooter to properly place finger to trigger shoe. The popularity of the double stacks wide grip make choices hard on folks with smallish hands.

    There is quite a bit more to consider than name brands & caliber.

    • My wife has small hands and can shoot the gun I recommended, and so can folks with large hands. I didn’t explicitly state the considerations you bring up, but they are covered under “easy to shoot”.

      But I am certainly no guru.

  52. I recommend an all steel EAA Witness. They are cheaper than a CZ with a similar design. They have a clean, smooth, crisp trigger (DA/SA). Their weight and frame-over-slide design makes them low recoil with excellent recoverability. To me, they give you the greatest quality/buck. They can be acquired for around $425. Need a replacement part? They are sold from their website. Want a slide conversion for a different caliber? You can have that too. Their competition grade pistols (if you can afford one) are a sight to see. They are one the few that offer 10mm.

    • I am new to the gun world. I am disabled and have a amputated right trigger finger at the first joint. I bought my first gun at a gun store. After trying many I brought a S&W 638 .38 +p speical. It was great. I went to the range pofter her after every shoot. Then a year later I traded her for a S&W 640 .357 engraved. She is a beauty with more power. I had to graduate myself from .38 to .38+p tp .357. Target rounds and defencive rounds. Yes the first .357 kicked my hind tail. But Im getting use to it.

      I will say this I find the heavy trigger pull to be a built in safety. You are not likely to have a accident by a child with that gun.I did say not likely,possible, but not likely. Also my shorter trigger finger seems to fit and pull just right. I got a great deal on her. I realized how much when I looked up the gun and asking price.

      I likr the revolver. I pray I never have to use her or be in a gun fight. I carry 5 hollow points ang a speed clip of the same. I pratice with target and defencive rounds and part of Shoot Like A Girl gun club.

    • I’ve got plenty of 22lr, but I don’t even shoot it anymore since I can’t reliably get more. 9mm and 5.56 is plentiful for practice, they’re the actual round I shoot, and is really not much more expensive than what people want to ask for a brick of Federal bulk.

    • if someone asks for a first gun that is easy to learn with, AND adequate for self defense, then a .22 is probably not the best choice.

  53. My response to what should my first gun is be is…”when can I take you shooting” without firing about 5-25 different handguns you don’t know what the right one is.

    If I can’t take you shooting then go to a gun store/gun show. look at one of all of the following:
    Springfield XD
    wheelgun in .38, .357, .44 in all steel, or metal polymer.
    S&W M&P

    this is by far not the complete comprehensive list of all firearms but all of them are diffrenet enough to give you a better idea of what you want out of it. once you find the one you want look up the review on a reputable website like TTAG. if you purchased a gun magazine to get your review from take it to the bathroom and wipe your ass with it because thats all its good for.

    buy what seems good for you.

  54. I recently bought a Cabelas FDE M&P9. I absolutely adore it. The new triggers rock, the reset is definite and audible. I tried installing the Apex hard sear and it was actually worse than the stock sear, though not bad by any means. The stock one even has little lightening holes in it. Probably shot nearly 700 rounds in the past week, which was easy considering 3 mags = 51 rounds. Only malfunction was one of the mags stopped feeding when the follower somehow stuck. A smack on the bottom unstuck it, hasn’t happened since the first time I loaded it. I can’t say enough good things about this gun.

    Have a CM9 and a CW380 too. CM9 has been absolutely flawless for 200 rounds. Its not an especially fun gun to shoot though, my trigger finger seems to smack the guard during recoil. It can’t shoot forever like the M&P9 either with those 6 round mags. CW380 is not fun, its the CM9 made even more painful. Had 1 stovepipe and 2 failures to lock back the slide on empty during the 1st 50 round. Its honestly not even a big enough difference in size for me to carry it instead of the CM9.

  55. Newbie male or female? Newbie to pistols but experienced with rifles? Too many variables thats why there are tons of choices. My first handgun was a King Cobra 4″ 357 Mag, this was back in the day when wheelguns still ruled. When you learn to shoot fast and accurate with a magnum wheelgun you really scream when you get into Glocks.

    “Newbies” should rent various guns at a range to see what fits their hand best. You should shoot the biggest caliber you can be accurate with as a general rule. 40SW is optimum for power and managebility.

  56. I’d like to look at this from a slightly different angle. When you said first handgun, I was thinking of my 10 year old son, as well as my wife. The former is learning to shoot as a life-skill; the latter is for fun (and eventual defense). I’ve seen how good shooters can be ruined at my gun club by putting a gun in the kid’s hands that he’s not physically capable of handling.

    In this case, I had to look at something both could handle comfortably, learn on and enjoy shooting. That meant reliability was high on my list as well as size, recoil and ease of handling. Since it’s also being used by a pre-teen child, safety was on my mind, as well. That put me square in the .22LR market and at the end of the day, I went with a Ruger SR22.

    Being rimfire, he’s obviously learned “tap rack bang,” though we’ve only had a couple failures (and those not related to the gun). He’s also learned good basics, such as stance, grip and follow through. It has just enough recoil to teach him not to limp wrist it. Even .22 brass is annoying when it smacks your forehead, though what really bothered him was how it threw off his aim. Unlike Ralph’s review a couple years ago, our trigger is fine and he can handle even double action without problem.

    Bottom line, is going with the SR22 has taught him skills needed to be good and to prepare him for a more powerful firearm when the time comes.

  57. I like the S&W SD9-VE as a starter piece for someone who wants to get their feet wet and I feel is responsible enough and can handle the realities of actually owning a handgun. Its no-frills, solid and from my own experience and others I’ve read, reliable. The lack of any safety but it’s deliberate trigger pull makes it attractive for a beginner who has the right mindset for a first handgun and if they feel the need later on, the trigger has many aftermarket possibilities.

  58. My first handgun was a glock brand glock 19. Was easy to learn how to clean and I’ve learned to shoot it well. It is also the only gun my wife has shot and she likes it too.

    • I have a 3″ SP101, and it would not be my recommendation for a first gun. IMO a Bersa is easier to shoot for a novice, and it is reliable and inexpensive.

  59. Sig P250 with the three grip frames and barrels. This pistol could fit the bill for concealed, home defense, and range fun with its caliber switching, size switching functionality.

  60. I give them several choices… Home defence Full Sized semi auto like an XD, Glock, M&P or 1911. I tell them hand fit makes more difference when you have narrowed it down to a quality weapon.

    Then for concealed carry… I say snubby Ruger, SW 642. I like as deep of carry cover as possible and thus want to be able to pocket carry to IWB carry.

    For range time… The home defense guns all work or anything that trips your fancy just avoid Lorcins, Hi Point, and some Kel Techs.

    Actually I tell them to eye shotguns first for home defense… Pump shotgun preferably in the 870 or 500 model. 20 gauge if you never had a shotgun or shoot much.

    • my wife hated the snubby I bought for her years ago. she liked the Bersa, and could shoot it pretty well.

      IMO, small revolvers are not good first guns.

  61. 4″ barrel revolver .38spl/357mag.
    Shooter can start off with mild .38 loads & work up to defensive loads whilst gaining familiarity with the same pistol.
    Or they can stick with the .38 loads if recoil’s an issue.

  62. Hands down, a Bersa Thunder .380 is what I recommend to my friends looking for a first gun. Two of them have taken my advice. Easy to shoot. Reliable. Adequate caliber. Adequate for home and carry, men and women. And INEXPENSIVE. Did I say easy to shoot, reliable, and INEXPENSIVE?

    Just find one with good sights. Mine is actually a Firestorm, but I call it a Bersa because it’s made by Bersa.

  63. A major consideration for any purchase is ease of field stripping. If they’re a newbie, strike out any handgun that requires you to pull the trigger or reach inside to flip disconnects or exert a lot of physical effort and dozens of steps to clean.

    Guns like Beretta Tomcats, SIG 226, and PX4s are ideal in this respect. It probably best to NOT have a safety and use a DA/SA with a decocker. PX4 type G is one example. DAO guns have crappy triggers that are stiff long and creepy, a kill joy when it comes time to practice. The PX4 is simplicity itself. Just hold down the 2 buttons on the frame, turn the gun vertical, and the slide comes off.

    AKs are also available as handguns too, the Draco being a good example, which makes them technically not off topic. These are simple and lots of fun which means practice will be forthcoming on the part of the newbie.

    If you’re doing a long gun and can get anything you want, go with an AK-74. The hardest part is explaining how to use the front sight adjustment tool. (90 seconds) Using a screwdriver to get a stiff screwdriver to get dust cover off likewise involves only a modest mental effort & is usually unnecessary. While accurizing the AK can take a bit of time to find what it likes beyond 100 yards, getting it prepped to shoot down the hallway is no problem. Use a laser chamber bore sight to get on target. If you can’t find one in 5.45×39, a Ruger 204 one will also work. Getting one in 5.56×46 (the AR-15 round) is also fairly easy to find. A folding stock also makes it more practical. Compare an underfolder to an AR-15 with a collapsing stock to see what I’m talking about.

    The field stripping and cleaning is far easier than any AR and the newbie will probably never have to contend with any jamming issues. The toolkit that fits into the fixed stock versions should be included because it has a slot to flip up the gas tube lever. The cleaning rod is less important because boresnakes just work better with anything. The bayonet can contribute a psychological advantage making a bloodless surrender on the part of the criminal more likely.

    Milled or stamped is not important so long as the quality is good. Avoid older Wasrs. Consider Yugos, Arsenals and Veprs. Saigas are nice if the cosmetics of the typical AK are a concern. Saigas can be modded by a gunsmith to take traditional AK magazines if higher capacity is an issue.

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