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jp writes:

I live in MA and so my personal experience with firearms has been spotty at best.I was fortunate to have grown up in the Boy Scouts and with several veteran Uncles who taught me at an early age the proper respect and techniques for handling firearms of all types and sizes. I plan on purchasing my first firearm between the end of 2012 and the end of Spring 2013. I am curious what your (individual or collective) opinions would be on what a good all-purpose first firearm would be. I plan to start with a handgun . . .

My purposes for owning it will be a combination of personal defense, leisure shooting at a range, and knowledge/mechanical aptitude.

I have shot:

-Colt Navy model [ED: not on approved list. See: below] and Auto-Ordnance 1911s .45 (overall favorite so far)
-Sig 220 .45 (pretty smooth overall)
-Beretta 92F 9mm (neutral opinion: was neither impressive nor disappointing)
-S&W .357 Magnum Revolver (considerable bullet drop even at very close range)
-Glock .40 (I know they are supposed to be “amazing” but it was inaccurate as a Star Wars stormtrooper)

I like: 

-Colt 1911 Navy .45
-H&K USP Mark 32 .45

I was disappointed by:

-Glock .40 (I know they are supposed to be “amazing” but it was inaccurate as a Star Wars stormtrooper)

I am interested in but have no personal experience with:

-“Heavy” Revolvers (Python? something along those lines….nothing snub-nose or .38 Special)
-Sig Sauer products (look cool and the people that have them swear by them)

Factors I am taking into consideration:


-stopping power
-overall reliability and/or reputation


-how concealable? (I do not plan on carrying it concealed at this moment in time, but they may change down the road)
-availability of ammunition/parts/upkeep/accessories

Any other factors I should consider? Oh, I almost forgot the gun must appear on the Approved Firearms Roster for Massachusetts. [Click here to peruse the possibilities.]

Embarking on this quest is much like a buying a first vehicle: even for someone with dedicated interest doing their homework, the sheer array of options can be overwhelming. I would be grateful for any honest opinions/suggestions you could offer.

Thank you for your time and assistance.



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  1. Go with your gut. If it’s your first handgun then it’s likely that you yourself don’t know what you like or don’t like. SA/DA, Striker fired, safety/no safety, magazine disconnect, chambered round indicator, etc…

    Most likely it won’t be the only firearm you ever own. You’re likely to buy more in the future. So find one in your price range that you’re excited about and just buy it.

    Worst case scenario you can always sell it and buy a different one.

  2. Before worrying about brand/model… I Think you should revisit your priorities:

    1. Accuracy

    There isn’t a gun on the market that will meet your other requirements that isn’t going to be capable of hitting a person under the plausible ranges would need to for personal defense…. or even the center of the head. So, when you say that the Glock .40 wasn’t accurate enough, I have to question what you were trying to do with . Throw this one out the window, it is a GIVEN, not a Priority.

    2. Stopping Power:
    As much as it pains me to see this terminology… I know what you mean. The fact is that nay modern bonded 9mm HP is going to give you the “stopping power” you are going to need in a plausible defensive shooting situation… so, again, not a big issue. Most any firearm that meets your other criteria will be available in 9mm and you can shoot a 9mm faster than any other caliber that consistently meets the minimum standard. More hits in a shorter time is a GOOD thing, so 9mm becomes the obvious choice.

    3. Reliability
    I’m ignoring the “reputation” part.. who cares what people think is cool. Reliability is the MOST important priority in a defensive gun and therefore should be your number 1.
    Closely related to reliability is “Reliable in Context”, which means efficient to use… so throw out any gun with any of the following:
    -Extra Levers or Buttons that need to be actuated to get the gun shooting with actions beyond gripping the gun properly and pulling the trigger.
    -Multiple trigger pulls (DA/SA type guns).

    Next, the gun has to FIT you well. You need to be able to get a proper shooting grip on the gun and be able to reach and pull the trigger comfortably AND, preferably, actuate the magazine release and reach the slide lock lever both with the strong hand thumb without needing to adjust your grip. (an extended mag release often helps).

    And then, make sure you fire 50 rounds of your chosen defensive ammo with ZERO Malfs before you trust the gun as “reliable”.

    Secondary Issues:
    The one important factor you have in your secondary area is the Concealability/carryability of your gun… this is important. If you can’t carry the gun with your normal style of dress, you’re setting yourself up for failure through less carrying.

    This is an incredibly important decision… not one to be made lightly… Buying a gun ill-suited to defense would be like buying an F-350 and trying to win an Indy Race with it. What you “like to shoot” or “like” in general is largely irrelevant. You are purchasing a life & death tool… treat the decision as objectively as you can, focusing on important attributes.

    Good Luck.


    • This.

      The only thing I’ll add is that when I was looking for my first gun I tried out a Glock because of their reputation and how common they are. I hate it. I tried out an XD9 (a rather similar pistol, but with some significant changes) and loved it. Five years later its still my EDC pistol. I also have a friend with an M&P9, I liked it, but the grip was longer (better suited for his long fingers) than I preferred.

      Moral of the story, there are lots of options, look around. Also get an XD 😀

      • Over the years I’ve learned one thing above all else when it comes to guns: if you don’t like the trigger you’re not going to be happy with it. It sounds like you might not be used to the Glock trigger. Or maybe the barrel was shot out on the gun you tried (if it was a range rental). Or maybe your shooting mechanics could use improvement. Whatever the case, get what you’re comfortable with and like the most.

        I second Pinky’s 9mm recommendation, though. However, he seemed to have forgotten an important factor for us average folk: ammo price. Good 9mm range ammo is significantly cheaper than .45ACP or .357 magnum. Plus the defensive loads out there for 9mm are light-years ahead of what they used to be.

        And if you have to have a single action trigger pull you can get a 1911 chambered in 9mm.

      • Nailed it!
        Seriously, I tried a dozen or more handguns from those I found a) to be readily rentable at nearby ranges, and b) had a reputation for being functionally reliable.
        I love my XD.

        Lesson – Try before you buy, and buy what you like and will use.

      • Thats funny cause thats sort of how my experience was, but it ended differently. I initially held a Glock 19, didn’t like (hated) the way it sat in my hand, held an XD9 and loved it. Ended up ordering a XD9. Well it was taking to long for my XD9 and I started regretting my decision on not getting a Glock because of aftermarket stuff and after learning more about Glock I realized that was what I wanted. I changed my mind, ended up canceling my XD9 and got a Glock. While the Glock doesn’t fit my hand as comfortable as the XD, I shoot it much better than I do with my brothers XD9. I like the Glock trigger much better, as well as the way the gun sits a bit lower than the tall XD’s. Not a fan of the reset on the XD’s as well. Glad I changed my mind. Funny how I thought a gun had to fit my hand perfectly for me to shoot it well.

    • Excellent!

      To this I would add: find a range that rents guns. Try as many different types as possible. Shoot a combination of ammo you would practice with, and ammo that you would use to defend yourself with (i.e. Golden Saber, Critical Duty, SXT, PDX, etc). Find a gun or guns that works reliably, that you like, and buy it.

      Go home, clean the packing grease out of your gun, read the owner’s manual. Return to the range with your practice ammo and DGU ammo. If you can shoot 200 rounds without a malfunction, you’re in good shape. It’s an expensive and time consuming process. In the end, you’ll have a gun that you know that you like, have experience, and a whole lot more confidence that you will be able to use it to good effect.

    • “Closely related to reliability is ‘Reliable in Context’, which means efficient to use… so throw out any gun with any of the following:
      -Extra Levers or Buttons that need to be actuated to get the gun shooting with actions beyond gripping the gun properly and pulling the trigger.
      -Multiple trigger pulls (DA/SA type guns).”

      What is it that you know that

      – the United States Secret Service
      – the U.S. Navy SEALs
      – the British Special Air Service
      – the Texas Rangers- Jason Bourne
      – Martin Riggs


      • martin riggs and jason bourne? how about maxwell smart, his gun didn’t have any levers or impediments and he was the top man for a government agency.

        • Would you believe I missed it by that much?

          PS — It’s depressing that the 2008 movie version of Get Smart has an imfdb page devoted to it, but the 1960s TV version does not.

          Even Seinfeld has an imfdb page.

        • truly, there’s no justice. just from many decades old memory i believe max carried a colt detective special as his weapon of choice.

  3. +1 on 9mm. if for no other reason than the ammo is cheap and plentiful which will allow you more range time to get good with your gun. only ammo better price wise is .22.
    +100 on reliability. if you face a moment of danger, worrying about your gear will add useless stress to an already bad day.

  4. Get a .22lr first. Everyone should have a 22 cal pistol. For starters the ammo is inexpensive. You can get a lot of range time for your dollar. And 2nd but most important is the lack of recoil from a 22lr chambered pistol. My experiance I learned from my dad who ran a indoor range when I was a kid is most new shooters would get a pistol of a larger caliber and they could not shoot it. Most times it was flinching from the recoil or noise. He would let them use his 22 highstandard to get comfortable before moving back to there pistol. I have a highstandard and a Ruger single six that fires 22lr and 22 winmag. And when I get it the new Scorpion from Volquartsen.

    I would recomend for the money the Smith & Wesson model 22A. Price is decent and it’s a good shooter. I bought one for my sister this year so she could learn to shoot a pistol.

    If you look in gun reviews on this site I think there on some on 22cal pistols worth looking at.

    Most importantly if you can try as many pistols as you can to see what one you are most comfortable with.

  5. Since you’re in MA your are (somewhat) limited in which handguns you can buy–for example, no new Glocks, and pretty much no custom 1911s (Les Baer, Wilson Combat)

    If you were leaning Glock, you might be happy with the S&W M&P.

    Since it looks as if you’re leaning 1911, S&W makes some very nice MA-legal 1911s. My personal favorite is the 1911PD with the Scandium frame and 4.25″ barrel.

  6. While I’m at it, I may as well make the pitch for Four Seasons firearms in Woburn. It’s been years since I bought guns in MA, and they’ve changed ownership since, but friends tell me they are still great guys to do business with…

    • Ya, I wouldn’t recommend places based upon hearsay from popular internet forums where the owner makes sure to have any and all negative comments removed. Take a visit first. There are many knowledgeable salesmen there, but unfortunately their hands are tied from giving their TRUE opinions on the inventory…sad really.

      • I don’t recommend any place lightly. I did business with them personally for many years, during which time they even allowed me to store my Boston-prohibited rifles in their vault. I haven’t done any business with them since the new ownership, but I have actual (not Facebook!) friends with whom I’ve visited the shop on several occasions and who speak positively of their experiences.

    • I have traded at Four Seasons in Woburn on at least a monthly basis for the last 2 years or more and can highly recommend it. It’s my first-choice gun store in Eastern MA. Stop in and introduce yourself to the owner Carl.

  7. Goodness, where to begin? Your list has lots of good choices.

    A few quibbles:

    “-S&W .357 Magnum Revolver (considerable bullet drop even at very close range)” Don’t be so sure about that bullet drop, it’s probably shooter error. If you don’t plan to concealed carry the gun a Ruger GP100 or S&W 686 would be a great first gun.

    “-Glock .40 (I know they are supposed to be “amazing” but it was inaccurate as a Star Wars stormtrooper)” Ditto the shooter error. Not to start a caliber war, but Rob Pincus is right: 9mm will get the job done and practice will be cheaper.

    “-H&K USP Mark 32 .45” If price is a factor then H&K might not be your best option. Ditto the 1911s.

    My recommendation? A S&W M&P, Ruger SR9 or Glock in 9mm. For around $500 you can have a proven design that has a reasonable array of accessories and that you could carry if you had to. Fun to plink with too. Just pick one that fits your hand with and eye to whether you want a thumb safety.

  8. No Colts, no Kimbers, no Springfield Armory. Residents of MA, how the actual fvck did you people allow such a thing as this list to come into existence?

    • The handgun “bans” were the result of an aggressive Attorney General who instituted them, without legislative action, under “product safety” regulatory powers.

      But the “assault weapon” ban can be laid right at the feet of the current Republican presidential nominee, who (happily, and without fuss) signed it into law.

  9. Buying in MA, Four Seasons no doubt. They are helpful, patient and know how to help newbies. Just don’t go on a Saturday. They are often very busy. Also, seriously consider a .22lr pistol for all the reasons mention by Karl. Good luck and welcome.

  10. I’m more interested in the approved list of guns. You can own a Seecamp but not a HK P7? The S&W Governor is on the list but you can’t have a Colt Navy? Is this some other colt Navy? Not the cap and ball revolver in .36 caliber? The same pistol I can mail order and have delivered without an FFL?Massachusetts is weird.

  11. I’m gonna cast my vote for the S&W 686. Reliable? it’s a S&W revolver. Accurate? Yep. Stopping power? it’s a .357 Magnum so . . . yeah. Plus, .38 special is cheap for range time. Depending on your body it might be hard to conceal, but who doesn’t love a revolver?!

    • Nice pick on the revolver. Way easier for new gun people to use and take care of. If you get out of guns, the thing can sit in a drawer for decades and you just pick it up to shoot (still not a good idea). A Ruger SP101 with 3″ barrel is the ‘everything gun’ in that you can use for HD or all forms of carry (even front pocket for a short period of time in a sketchy situation), as well as a trail gun (snake loads, black bear, 2 legged varmits). You can shoot weak and standard load 38’s or +p’s or low, medium, and high pressure and weight 357 magnum rounds. The barrel length does not neuter the 357’s power and accuracy like a snubby and at 27oz the gun can be controlled at all levels.

  12. “Residents of MA, how the actual fvck did you people allow such a thing as this list to come into existence?”

    There are 52 institutions of higher education in metropolitan Boston alone…nuff said.

    • Not sure what that means… last I knew Harvard and MIT both had shooting clubs.

      Pigeon-holing educated people as being anti-gun doesn’t help the effort. If anything, it makes it more likely that educated people who are pro-gun will shy away from being associated with RKBA.


      • RJP-
        Do you deny a meaningful correlation between academia and the cultural elites that dominate higher education and the more aggressive quarters of the gun control movement? You’re being naive if you do. This is one case where you can’t oversimplify – the correlation is high. Also, be careful not to conflate “educated” with “highly credentialed” and do not assume that when one speak’s of higher education one is talking about the former as opposed to the latter. In a classic sense, you can argue that education is entirely lacking from the modern day university. Throw in a ruthlessly enforced – via social acceptance and career opportunity – cultural uniformity and a geography heavily dominated by the higher education industry is bound to have some non-sensical and/or restrictive gun laws on the books. That’s what I meant.
        B.A, M.A.

      • OK. What percent then is pro-RKBA?
        In my estimation it’s 85% anti-gun. Where I live, NYC, it’s easily 95% anti-gun.

        • On the whole, academia is very unfriendly to guns. Not all of it, but a significant majority.

          It also depends on location. In a state that’s already largely anti, the percentage could easily be 90%. In a state like Utah (to name one I’m familiar with), academia might be the *only* place where anti-gun people have a significant foothold, let alone a majority.

          Still, Rob Pincus is right. It’s true that higher education has an anti-gun elitist mindset — and it’s incredibly frustrating and annoying — but constantly expressing disdain for “that type” of people doesn’t gain us any ground.

          I say that as one of those educated liberal-arts BA-plus-MA academic types, as someone who works on a college campus, and as a born-again gun owner and 2nd Amendment believer. We might be a minority, but I like to think that despite the discouraging ideological climate, there still are plenty of people who emerge from the academic crucible not just with credentials, but with an education in the best sense of the word.

          As for the actual subject of this post… This is a MUCH better venue for this kind of question than any of the gun forums I’ve seen. More actual thought, fewer fanboys, and a generally higher intelligence level. When it comes to general advice, I’d trust the recommendations of TTAG readers more than any other forum.

      • It doesn’t “all” have to be in order for there to be statistically significant (and probably overwhelming) correlation between concentrations of academics and concentrations of antigun sentiment.

        • All-
          I never said we should express disdain for higher education, I was simply answering Moonshine’s question as to how the MA guns laws could be so inhospitable/nonsensical. There is a simple logic to the answer. High concentrations of people who hate guns equals restrictive guns laws. QED.

  13. My 2 cents: Get a handgun that is reliable, but more importantly, gets your motor going so to speak. Buy the handgun that you’re excited about. I know you’ve probably been scouring the internet and going to the range to rent guns. If one really tickled your fancy, go with that one.

    If I was doing the picking for myself, S&W M&P in 9mm. Reliable, feels great in my hands, accurate and easy shooter. Looks better than most all of the other polymer, striker fired guns as well. Im eyeing a CZ P07 Duty at the moment. Damn you, now Ive got the itch too.

  14. My choice since you are limited in MA would be an M&P 9mm…I own several and they’re great guns, great gun for a new shooter. Very ergonomic and affordable. Aside from that…do some research and try and shoot the gun first. Next go to a reputable gun store, my first choices would be Northshore Firearms, GFA Armstech, Zero Hour Arms and Collectors in that order…stay away from the other big name store that was mentioned…they’re notorious for selling people guns based off of what they have a large supply of sitting dormant in the back room. The aforementioned stores have great customer service and knowledgeable/no pressure staff that will take care of your needs…not what they want to get rid of.

    • @LoW, the M&P 9mm is a terriffic pistol in factory form, but the MA-compliant version has a 10 lb boat anchor of a trigger. The pistol is unshootable as it comes from the store, making a trigger job absolutely necessary. The 10 lb administrative rule — adopted by the MA attorney general without any legislative support — applies to all DA triggers from all manufacturers, not just S&W.

      • @Ralph I would say that the M&P is GOOD in factory form, but even some of the pro series triggers can be gritty. That said, there is no law against getting a trigger job done. It may not be suggested by some, to mess with the factory parts, so you could always have a factory “free state” trigger installed. Some of the first names that come to mind for trigger jobs would be Business End Customs, Santurri Gun works, and Derr Precision.

        Aside from that, check your “compliance” statutes…Ruger SR9/SR9C series of pistols do not have 10lb trigger pulls

  15. MY carry is a Glock 27.
    After a few changes, like trigger, grip, etc it preforms well for me.

    9mm and .40, and 45ACP ammo isn’t a problem for me, since I re-load, except for my carry ammo.

  16. @jp, you haven’t mentioned the type of license you will or do have. To carry in public, you’ll need and LTC-A and a handgun that’s concealable. If your town or city only issues licenses for home defense, target shooting and sporting uses, you will have either a restricted LTC-A or and LTC-B. If you’re stuck with an LTC-B, you cannot own any pistol capable of accepting a magazine that holds more than ten rounds, whether or not you actually own such a magazine.

    Keep in mind also that new Glocks cannot be sold in MA. They are on the big list, but are excluded based on the AG’s bogus “safety” regulations. The regs prohibit DA triggers of less than 10 lbs (Glock could sell guns with the NY trigger in MA). I understand that the real hangup was a dispute with the AG’s office about Glock’s loaded chamber indicator, resulting in Glock wisely telling the AG’s office to pound sand.

  17. I was in the same boat. Fortunately, I lived in Western MA, so a LTC-A was fairly easy to get (even if it took 3 months). My first pistol was an ATI 4.25″ 1911, for the following reasons:

    1) Standard mag capacity of 8 rounds. While 9mm is certainly plenty powerful, it really irritates me to purchase “neutered” magazines. Plus, they tend to be more expensive than standard capacity mags. With the 1911, I don’t have to worry about that.

    2) .45 Caliber. Since I’m limited to 9 rounds, might as well make ’em bigger. In the 1911 platform, .45 is quite pleasant to shoot, and a pretty slim package, which leads to

    3) Concealed carry. I carried the 1911 outside the waistband Fall through Spring. Anytime I could wear a hoody, I could conceal the pistol no problem. The extra 3/4 of an inch off the barrel made a surprising amount of difference, though a true Officer model (reduced capacity by a round) would be even easier. One of the few nice things about carrying in MA is that nobody expects it. I’ve had people hug me, get deep in conversation, and help me jumpstart my car without knowing I was carrying.

    Honestly, I wound up pocket carrying a S&W j-frame .38 most of the time, but you mentioned you’re not interested in that.

    The other pistol purchase I was most pleased with was my Ruger GP-100.

    • One of the few nice things about carrying in MA is that nobody expects it.

      Bingo! Sometimes it seems like I could tape a pistol to my head and call it a tiara and nobody in MA would blink.

    • The ‘everything gun’ would be the Ruger SP101 as it is easy to carry and because its a revolver, is much simpler for new people to use and take care of. If committed to HD only, I would look at a s&w627pro with 4″ barrel and 8….eight….rounds of versatility (110-200grain/150-800foot pounds of energy). I would probably use a low pressure 357 myself. The Ruger GP-100 is a great gun if you can get a good price for it. 10 round rule is wretched if indeed thats how they roll over there.

  18. SIG Sauer P228/P229!

    Both are wonderful little pistols, 9mm so the ammo is cheap. Only thing that puts me off is the $45/ea factory magazines. But you cant go wrong with the ones Mec-Gar makes, worked well for me for the past few years.

  19. You are most likely going to own more than one pistol because you are not going to find one that meets all your needs. And as your interest grows, your needs will change.

    My first handgun was an XD9. Very reliable, good self defense round, lots of fire power and rang the “cool factor” bells for me. Still have it, love it, but it’s my bedside home defense gun.

    My EDC is the fourth handgun I bought, a S&W 642.

  20. The ones I can recommend adding to your list of guns you’ve shot is the S&W M&P 9mm, the Ruger SR9, XDm 9, Sig P226.

    Your list of guns is distinguished. They’re all fine weapons. If you are shooting any of them inaccurately inside of 15 yards, it is likely something you are doing and not the gun. Don’t take that the wrong way. It took me a while to learn how to shoot a Glock accurately because the grip didn’t fit my hand very well and I wasn’t used to the trigger. I still don’t prefer them, but I can shoot them just as well as anything else.

    The best gun for you is the one you keep going back to. You should have one or two that you keep thinking back to. You want to buy that one. Or the both of them.

  21. Go with what feels, points and shoots best for you. (If I can pick up a new gun and nail a tight group with it first try, it’s definitely right.) I would certainly recommend a SIG or a 1911, but they tend to be a tad pricey. Can you get a CZ in MA?

    As for revolvers, yes: the Python is fantastic. But it’s rare (and that tends to mean very pricey). I love mine. But if I had to replace it, I’d go for a GP100 or a SW 686 (and not worry so much about mangling a piece of art).

    The drop and “Storm Troopering”, if you’re not getting it with other guns, tends to say the gun isn’t as right for you (ergos, trigger, recoil/flip). You can improve your technique over time, but if you’ve already found guns that you shoot well now, go that way to start. I’ve been shooting for 25 years. I can’t hit a bus with a Glock (or a Mini-Cooper with an M&P)–these are perfectly great guns, but not for me. It’s not the plastic factor (though I’m a metal guy)–I do fine with HKs. And I hate long stiff DA triggers.

  22. JP,

    As for the Glocks, only 9×19 for me, as this is the cartridge they were built around. Every other caliber is a compromise.

    My daily carry are Glock 19, HK USPc 357 SIG, and Kahr P9 – Soon my Caracal CQS will be entering the rotation as well.

    Good luck, sir!

    • I was on the range this last weekend with the G17 and G21. Not to go caliber-war crazy, but I found the 21 more pleasant to shoot – a Boom instead of a SNAP!.

  23. You’ll improve faster as a shooter if you choose a gun in 9mm, rather than .40 or .45. The ammo for the larger calibers costs more and recoils more, and the #1 reason people miss when they shoot is flinching caused by reaction to recoil.

    There are lots of guns on the market to choose from. If you look in the holsters of all the top competitors and all the top trainers in the country, you’ll find 1911, Glock, and S&W M&P pistols are hands down the most popular, by a huge margin. All other gun models and makes are “down in the noise” statistically.

    Factors that make a gun harder to shoot:
    DA/SA operation (two trigger pulls harder to learn than one)
    Longer, heavier trigger pull
    Gun fit – if you can’t grip the gun properly and reach the trigger, without twisting the gun in your hand or laying your trigger finger along the frame, you’ll always be fighting the laws of physics in trying to shoot with any skill at all.

    The absolute best thing to do is find a training school that offers a class that teaches fundamentals and lets you try different guns. Find someone that actually has credentials as a skilled shooter and learn from them. The internet is full of well meaning advice from moderately skilled shooters, a lot of which can be very confusing to newbies.

  24. Like a lot of people I like the S&W 686-plus (7 shot .357 Magnum), with the 4-in. barrel. The S&W 617 is a virtual clone of that gun in .22 caliber for cheaper practice. If it’s the 1911 that you like, I like the SigSauer version, though I think only the target version ( no tactical rail) is available in MA. It drives tacks, though.

    Even though you can only buy a reconditioned or used Glock, I still favor those over the S&W M&P pistols. I agree with the 9×19 sentiments and would get a model 17 to shoot and a model 26 to carry.

    Good luck in your journey of discovery and stay safe!

  25. I’ve had my P220 since 1995, and I love it. I haven’t had a single malfunction that wasn’t due to ammunition, and it still drives tacks.

  26. I have the Sig p239 and the Walther p22 and love them both. The Sig is a smooth beauty, and just a pleasure to shoot — I keep a few boxes of gold dot ammo for self/home defense, but use cheapo Winchester 9mm rounds at the range. The Walther is a compact carry, and is easy and consistent with almost no recoil. I agree with the other posters who recommend having a .22 handgun in your collection — the ammo is so cheap that I find I get a lot more target practice with it than with the Sig (which I love, but those 9mm rounds can add up). I also own a couple of .22 rifles, so I buy .22lr ammo in bulk and always have a few thousand rounds.

    I also recommend Four Seasons for handguns — the selection is excellent, and Carl and his staff are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful. When I bought my first handguns from there a few years back, they offered excellent advice on finding the right guns for my needs and grip. The fact that they were so helpful and non-patronizing to a newbie shooter (and woman) was a bonus.

    Finally, if you don’t already below to a gun club or hunting group, I strongly recommend that you join one or two. Because of the cameraderie and enthusiasm of the hunters and shooters I’ve met, I haven’t encountered the sort of anti-gun sentiment that people associate with Massachusetts. We live in one of the inner western suburbs of Boston, and it was a breeze to get my LTC-A (2 weeks). While there are not a lot of shooters in our town, there are certainly lots of shooters in the towns further out — and plenty of hunting activity. I also have found that there is growing interest in the shooting sports — I’ve had several friends who know I love trap and target-shooting, and ask me to take them out, which is usually enough to get them hooked.
    Have fun!

  27. I’m a Sig fan.

    The first gun I bought was an SP2022. This is an excellent first-timer’s gun, because it meets all your criteria. It doesn’t get 10-out-of-10 in most categories, but it would score at least an 8 in all of the categories, and that ain’t bad at all! It has a polymer frame (low weight), a medium barrel length (not too large), the Sig-quality smooth and crisp trigger pull, and Sig-quality accuracy. It also has three grip sizes, so it will fit in your hand. I like how it quickly and naturally returns on-target after each shot. The price is reasonable too (under $500), which you can’t say about most Sigs. ( I think Sigs are worth every dollar, but I’m a little biased.)

    However, considering what other commenters have said about .22lr as a good beginner’s choice (and I agree), then I would recommend the Sig P226 or P229 (a little smaller and lighter) in 9mm, AND a Sig .22lr conversion kit. The wonderful thing about a conversion kit is that you are using the same gun with most of its shooting characteristics (grips, trigger pull, weight, action, etc.), but the recoil is greatly reduced (less recoil-induced flinching) and the bullets are WAY cheaper (practice time is much cheaper). It’s like having two guns in one for the price of 1 1/3 guns. You also have the option of buying a P226 or P229 in .22lr caliber, then buying a “caliber exchange kit” to up-convert it into a 9mm.

    If you really like the P220 (it rings your bells), then you can also buy a .22lr conversion kit for it. This is the second gun I bought, and I actually prefer it versus the SP2022. Possibly because I have put more rounds through it (.22lr and .45) and so I’m more comfortable with it. Being an aluminum frame pistol, it also is quite comfortable as a carry gun.

  28. I had similar questions prior to purchasing my first handgun, settled on 9mm for the cheaper ammo which allows for a lot more practice. Also with modern ammo, I believe that there can be no questions as to the effectiveness of that caliber.

    As to the make & model of firearm, I had a hankering for something made of metal, with a hammer and a little unusual so after a lot of research settled on a CZ P-01, it has been great! Alas, I see that no CZ pistols are on the approved MA list so it seems that this recommendation is worthless. Good luck with your quest.

  29. The wrong answer is to buy a gun.

    The correct answer is to attend some training courses. You will learn what is desirable in a handgun.

  30. I was going to say move to another state first but when the Eloi elect Romney or re-elect Obama, the state won’t really matter.

  31. 1. Get training.
    2. Proper amount of training will answer your questions.

    3. Proper mindset and adequete training makes your questions IRRELEVENT.
    4. Listen to Rob Pincus. He’s on TV after all 🙂

  32. jp, I’ve got a few of things for you to consider;

    1. Rob Pincus’ posts above are spot on, particularly his first post at 9/11 – 13:32. Good advice that you should well heed.

    2. If these are going to be your first guns and you want a pistol and a revolver, you should consider the following;

    A. Sig 226 9mm- It’s both extremely accurate and extremely reliable right out of the box. I don’t find the heavy Ma. DA trigger problematic for defensive purposes, though some folks do. Once your running it SA it gets vastly better. It fits me well and I don’t have large hands. They generally now come with decent factory night sights and they have a rail. Further, the 226 can be easily converted to .40 S&W or .357 Sig by merely swapping the barrel, spring and magazine. Both the .40 and .357 use exactly the same magazine. To top it all off, Sig makes a marvelous .22 LR conversion kit for the 226. It’s kind of like the Swiss Army Knife of handguns. This one gun can cover a lot of ground and I’m very confident that it will serve you well.

    B. S&W 686/4″ or Ruger SP101 or GP100/4″ – These are very well made guns. Accurate and reliable. Excellent for training with. Since they are .357 Magnum, you can also run .38 Special in them. This makes for a very broad range of capabilities from light and easy plinking to personal defense and hunting.

    3. Four Seasons in Woburn is a very good gun shop and they have some of the best prices in the state due to the high volume that they do. During the tax free weekend in August, Carl, the owner, was running a special on Sig 226 in .40 for $725. I bought one. Their other firearm and ammo prices are generally pretty good, as is their in stock inventory. Be forewarned however, the place is small and usually it’s packed with customers often making for long waits. Carl has a large, knowledgeable and helpful staff which usually eases some of the pain of waiting.

    4. Seek out good training/coaching and join a good local gun club with both indoor and outdoor ranges. Take a couple of courses at a well respected training center. Sig in Exeter, NH and S&W in Springfield are very well regarded.

    5. If you aren’t already a member, please join the NRA, GOAL (the NRA’s Ma. affiliate), Comm2A and SAF. There is strength in numbers.

    6. Read the forums at New England Shooters. They provide a wealth of information on all manner of subjects.

    7. Lastly, you said, “I am curious what your (individual or collective) opinions would be on what a good all-purpose first firearm would be. I plan to start with a handgun . . .” Well, I certainly wouldn’t knock a man for wanting a handgun as his first weapon and their practically for many uses is beyond question. However, if you want to become a truly well skilled, all-around marksman I have a suggestion for you. Find yourself a used .22 bolt action rifle (single shot or repeater), in very good to excellent condition, with micrometer adjustable aperture sights and sling swivels that will accommodate the M1907 sling. Then, over the course of a year or two, slowly, methodically, thoughtfully and reflectively run several dozen bricks of good quality ammo through it, under all kinds of conditions and weather, at ranges from 20 feet to 150 yards. Read as much as you can about marksmanship and don’t be shy about getting some good coaching. You’ll be glad you did.

    If you don’t already have your MA. LTC-A issued for all lawfull purposes, be advised that the process can take many months beyond the statutory 40 days. Start the process as soon as you can. Good luck, God’s speed and welcome to the club.

  33. IF this was serious,, newbie,, try Ruger Single Six,with 22lr and 22mag cylinders,, single action is safe, having to cock hammer in order to shoot. Ammo is inexpensive as it gets today. Recoil is nonexistent and ideal for beginner. Started two sons on Single Six, in addition to numerous students in firearms safety classes during past 25+ years AND continues with friend’s girlfriend’s two sons who began to shoot a few years ago. Once mastered, go to other firearms for self defense as interests dictate. A 22mag is not shabby for self defense,, and personally IF restricted to ONLY ONE gun, it would be a stainless quadported by Magnaport, Ruger Blackhawk 44mag Single Action revolver.

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