How to Pick a Gun

I recall that after Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, a run on guns and ammo ensued.  People feared that the election of Democrats to control of the White House, Senate, and House portended fresh gun control measures. I wonder whether a similar rush to gun stores is occurring now. Does anyone have any anecdotal evidence?

But my more serious question is, if one were going to go out and a buy a first firearm, what would it be? Most would say a shotgun for home defense. After one gets a shotgun, what would be the first handgun you would buy? What are the virtues of, say, a Glock versus a Sig Sauer or a Smith & Wesson? Go for a revolver or a semi-automatic? What caliber?

From the postings on Ricochet, it sounds like there are many gun owners. Time to share your knowledge while the gun stores still have some inventory.

By the way, for what it’s worth, I think the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago makes new gun controls — Bob Costas pleas to the contrary — very difficult, if not impossible.

  1. CoolHand
    Keith Bruzelius

    kesbar: Built my own AR-15 this year.

    Did you blog about it, or post on some kind of forum where we could learn about the process?

    Brownells has already got you covered.

    Go here: How to Build an AR15 Video Library  Watch every video.

      Pack a lunch, ’cause it’s in-depth, but you will come out the other side confident in your ability to assemble an AR15.

    If you get confused, you can always go back and watch any given section again while you’re doing the assemble to refresh or clarify.

    It’s a great tool for someone who’s never done any gunsmithing.

    To see what all the different parts look like assembled, you can go here:  AR15 Builder  and drag-n-drop parts into whatever configuration you like.

    It’ll make up a parts list and give you a price to order them when you’re done too.  Be prepared for sticker shock if you outfit a really whiz-bang version.

  2. CoolHand

    One thing I’ll say about pistols is that for me personally, I do not care for plastic firearms.

    The reason is simple, I cannot TIG weld polymer.  If I get a fatigue crack come out of the ejector foundation on my 1911, I can vee out the crack, TIG it closed, and then dress it back flat and be back to shooting in a day or so.  With a Glock, I’d be buying a new frame or sending it to Glock for them to “re-manufacture” my frame (which I’m fair certain means riveting my serial number plate to a new chassis).

    I like being able to fix the things I own myself, and since I don’t own an injection molding machine (YET!), I like my weapons to be made from steel and aluminum as much as possible, at least the functional parts.

    Some of the furniture on my AR15s is made from plastic, but if those parts break I can replace them with wood or aluminum without a lot of fuss.  That’s hard to do with a pistol frame.

  3. Pigboy

    Here’s why I’m particularly fond of my third-generation Glock 17:

    • high-capacity magazines (17 rounds, plus one 33-rounder I got just for kicks)

    • 9mm is cheap, easy to find, and easy to shoot
    • lightweight (I backpack a lot)
    • incredibly easy to strip
    • pretty much idiot proof: just point and shoot
    • accurate right out of the box
    • inexpensive (I got mine for under $500)
    • as indestructible a pistol as I’ve ever owned
    • my kids LOVE to shoot it
  4. Aelreth

    http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/handgun-stopping-power

    I’m partial to the .22 because besides the shotgun it requires the least number of shots to end an encounter.

    I own both a .22LR pistol and a P99.

  5. TheSophist

    We’re gonna need a bigger comment box…

  6. Illiniguy

    I have the full range of shotguns, and am looking for a handgun. I don’t like the semiautomatics because I’ve got eczema on my hands, which makes the process of chambering a round painful. What I’m looking for is a nice lightweight revolver which is simple to use. Any suggestion would be appreciated.

  7. Guruforhire

    It will come down to personal preference.  Many ranges have rentals.

    I would find something you like to shoot defense loads 25 times or more at a time.

    If I were to recommend a gun to a friend that wasn’t a carry weapon I would recommend a ruger gp100.  The greater mass of the full frame revolver helps with the recoil, and the grip is padded where the web of your hand between the thumb and pointer finger is.  Important that.  Also very accurate.

  8. Mark Monaghan

    I’ve been shooting since I was 10 (Philly cop for a dad) I have had dozens of handguns: revolvers, autos, single shot rifle caliber handguns, derringers etc.  The best handgun for you is: The one that you like enough to shoot enough to be able to hit center of mass under life-threatening pressure.  So find one that looks good and feels good.  Most good ranges will let you try different handguns.  That being said, different situations call for different solutions.   I carry a Colt Anaconda .44Mag when I am fishing in bear country, a Beretta .40 or my Kimber .45 around town or in my car when I travel.  The bottom line is this:  get something you will shoot a LOT and then shoot it a lot.  After that, you will find yourself buying new guns all the time!  If you are NOT going to become proficient, then any old handgun will do as it will just be sitting around anyway.

  9. DocJay

    Illiniguy,  and anyone not familiar with firearms, get a revolver for sure.   They are just fine as the vast majority of confrontations end rapidly anyway.  If price isn’t a big deal the lightweight S&W titanium’s are great in all calibers but the 357/38 combos allow for practice with 38 sp which are lighter rounds yet can be loaded with man killing 357 rounds “for that time”.   Practice every couple months is critical, even if it’s just firing off a few rounds.

    Happiness is a warm gun.

  10. DocJay
    Guruforhire: It will come down to personal preference.  Many ranges have rentals.

    I would find something you like to shoot defense loads 25 times or more at a time.

    If I were to recommend a gun to a friend that wasn’t a carry weapon I would recommend a ruger gp100.  The greater mass of the full frame revolver helps with the recoil, and the grip is padded where the web of your hand between the thumb and pointer finger is.  Important that.  Also very accurate. · 7 minutes ago

    My GP100 saved my little life some 20 years ago.  An excellent larger revolver.  It sits in a quick flip safe next to the bed.  

  11. Mark Monaghan
    Illiniguy: I have the full range of shotguns, and am looking for a handgun. I don’t like the semiautomatics because I’ve got eczema on my hands, which makes the process of chambering a round painful. What I’m looking for is a nice lightweight revolver which is simple to use. Any suggestion would be appreciated. · 11 minutes ago

    as a shotgunner you appreciate the stopping power of shotshells.   Take a look at the Taurus Judge model revolvers.  They shoot either .410 GA or the .45 long colt.  either way there is a lot of lead thrown downrange.

  12. GLDIII
    John Yoo: I recall that after Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, a run on guns and ammo ensued.  People feared that the election of Democrats to control of the White House, Senate, and House portended fresh gun control measures. I wonder whether a similar rush to gun stores is occurring now. Does anyone have any anecdotal evidence?

    John,

    From the blue blue state of Maryland, in the oldest continually published newspaper in the nation. The short answer is yup, and buying in droves.  More than the 2008 election, and we are going to be one of them….See you next cruise.

  13. skipsul

    Mark Monaghan hit it squarely – Buy what you like to shoot.

    For me, I have a rotation of a couple of Glocks, a Ruger LC9, and a Taurus PT92 (basically a Brazillian Beretta 92 at a better price).  All for different clothing situations.

    A good general rule for what types to get:  1 handgun, 1 12ga shotgun, 1 rifle – then get a .22LR rifle for practice / varmits (12ga on a squirrel is not recommended unless you have a mop and cleanser handy).  This way you’re covered for all situations, game, and ranges.  The rest comes down to caliber and action preferences.  First rule of a gunfight is:  Bring a gun.

    For handguns I prefer autos (though the fine lines of a revolver are well appreciated).  For rifles I like automatics or bolt guns (a bunch of old milsurp rifles occupy about 1/2 my safe).  For shotguns I like the Saiga 12 (an AK47 upsized to take shotshells).

    If you still have gun money left, spend some on training.  

    Sophist is right though, 200 words are not enough.

  14. Guruforhire

    Funny mine is in the bedroom too.

    DocJay

    Guruforhire: It will come down to personal preference.  Many ranges have rentals.

    I would find something you like to shoot defense loads 25 times or more at a time.

    If I were to recommend a gun to a friend that wasn’t a carry weapon I would recommend a ruger gp100.  The greater mass of the full frame revolver helps with the recoil, and the grip is padded where the web of your hand between the thumb and pointer finger is.  Important that.  Also very accurate. · 7 minutes ago

    My GP100 saved my little life some 20 years ago.  An excellent larger revolver.  It sits in a quick flip safe next to the bed.   · 10 minutes ago

  15. Guruforhire

    My first handgun was a springfield armory 1911a1 milspec.  I still have it and its in my desk drawer.

    there is a les baer 1911a1 next to the tv.

    I wouldnt get one for a first gun though unless you really really into slice of americana affectations though.  Its kind of like buying a zippo lighter.

  16. TheSophist

    I’m going to answer this for John Yoo, since he’s the one who asked. But I think this applies to many urban/suburban dwellers with no interest in hunting. This is solely self and home defense, based on my thin experience, as a suburban yuppie type. Like John. If I could only have one gun, it would be a Glock 19. Utterly reliable and more accurate than I am. CA, where John lives, limits magazines to 10 but that just means buying more magazines; for others, 15 rounds is more than enough for anything short of zombie apocalypse scenarios.. It’s large enough to be a fullsize pistol, but small and light enough to carry comfortably.It’s also ugly and cheap, so there will be zero emotional attachment should an actual DGU happen and the cops take it as evidence for several months. Ask a Wilson Combat owner if he’d feel the same :)But as a first time gun, the best thing about it is the ammo. 9mm is the cheapest center fire pistol round. And a first time owner is going to want to practice, then practice, then practice some more. Ammo costs add up.

  17. Frank Tait

    I’m another Philly guy…and an NRA instructor

    Try as many as you can by actually holding and firing them then pick the one that you feel most confident in making accurate hits.

    If you get the bug – you’ll need a .22lr pistol a 9mm and a .45actp in semi auto at least 1 .38spl revolver, a 12ga shotgun a .22lr rifle and a 5.56 AR15 and if you want to go big time a .30 cal rifle.

    Shooting is a degradable skill and requires regular practice.  Ammo is a must for every firearm you have.  many good online places to buy in bulk to keep costs down and a good inflation hedge too :-)

  18. BlueAnt

    I think there has to be two “first guns”:  a first handgun, and a first rifle.  Regardless of what your ultimate use for a gun will be, one should really have at least a passing familiarity with both types.

    The first rifle is easy: a .22lr, maybe a Marlin or Ruger.  Easy to learn with, ammo is dirt cheap, and a .22 is always useful to have.

    The first handgun is less obvious, but DocJay’s suggestion of a 357/38 revolver is good (I’d go with a 9mm myself out of convenience).

    The key thing is to understand firearms, not just fire them.  You want a person to understand them on multiple levels: tactically, mechanically, emotionally.  Once you understand and get past all the popular myths, then you can start making informed decisions on which firearms suit your particular  needs.

    John Yoo: What are the virtues of, say, a Glock versus a Sig Sauer or a Smith & Wesson?

    Oh Yoo, that is clearly trolling.  We can’t fight the 2nd Amendment’s biggest flame war in a 200 word comment box!

  19. Mark Monaghan

    I have always liked the idea of a Very pistol for home defense.  These were flare guns we had in all our small boats and most flares are magnesium based.  You can’t put out the VERY HOT fire as it generates its own oxygen as it burns, which is why the work under water.   Anyway, I think it would make an intruder VERY uncomfortable and will look into getting one!  Might be good for Grizzlies too.  Except for the burning down the National Forest bit.

  20. Trink

    From my astrophysicist son’s Who Is John Galt Facebook page – the gun for the nervous beginner:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=i65lL3iQ2DM

    P.S. – I like it because it has a dual safety.

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