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Six Things Your Gun Store Clerk Wants You To Know
1. Beginners should buy beginner’s guns.
We’re happy you’ve decided to take responsibility for your own protection and are looking for a concealed-carry pistol. However, most small pocket pistols are not for first-time gun owners: They’re hard to control because they pack a powerful punch in a small package and are not easy guns to shoot on a regular basis. Sure, they’re easy to carry around and have enough firepower to stop the threat, but that power and small size makes them very unpleasant guns for practice and training. All the firepower in the world does you little good if you can’t hit the target.
2. You’re not as good a shot as you think you are, especially under stress.
Yes, you may go the range each week and punch a nice, ragged hole in the target with careful, aimed shots. This sort of thing definitely helps, but unless you mix some kind of real or artificial stress into your firearms practice, the adrenaline dump you’ll feel when the proverbial stuff hits the proverbial fan will come a complete surprise to you and have a profound effect on your accuracy.
3. Which gun is best for your wife/girlfriend/daughter? Let her decide for herself.
Most indoor ranges have a wide selection of guns available to rent and professional instructors who can help find a gun that suits them best. A snub-nosed .38 with pink grips might be the best gun for your wife, but let your wife come to that decision, not you.
4. Guns are not talismans of self-protection.
Access to a firearm does not make someone safe: What makes someone safe is access to a firearm and the will and skill to use it effectively. If you’re going to buy a gun, make the commitment to learn how to use it, and then make sure it’s stored in some way that’s safe and easily accessible when you need it. If you carry concealed, get a good quality holster that covers the trigger and a rigid gun belt to keep gun and holster in the same place all the time. If you keep a gun in your home, store it in a way that keeps it safe from unauthorized access. Underneath your bed, unloaded, in its original box is neither safe nor easily accessible.
5. Safety first, second, and last.
We thank you for bringing in your gun for cleaning or gunsmithing work, but if you haven’t visually and physically checked to see if your gun is unloaded before you entered our store, please allow us to take care of clearing it and unloading it for you. Also, while I’m sure that the pistol on your hip is God’s gift to self-protection, I don’t need to see it right now. Please keep it in your holster while you’re in my store. Thank you.
6. Stop believing the myths.
No, snakeshot in a .38 is not the last word in defensive firepower. Racking a pump-action shotgun will not make a determined attacker run away in fear. A .22 Long Rifle may or may not be the preferred caliber for assassins around the world, but you’re not a professional hit man, so carry something with a little more punch behind it. By the same token, carry something you can shoot rapidly and accurately. If you’re hoping for a one-stop shot, you’re certain to be disappointed. And if you carry, please carry with one in the chamber and the appropriate safeties engaged.Published in General, Guns
So here’s my question. I ask the gun store clerk something specific about a particular gun (e.g., how many magazines it ships with). His response is to unlock the case, take out the gun, lock back the slide, and hand it to me. What does he expect me to do with it? I can feel the grip, OK. I can dry-fire (I always ask permission first) and get a superficial feel for the trigger. I can look at the sights. But it’s not as if I can learn anything meaningful without taking the gun to the range….
And I don’t think it’s an effort to get me to “think past the sale”, either. What am I missing?
To be honest, you’re not missing anything. Buying a gun without range time is like buying a car and never opening the doors or taking it for test drive: You’re hoping it will work for you.
Went I bought my first defensive pistol, I went to my local indoor range and rented every 9mm they had, ending up with a CZ75, and I recommend everyone do something similar at the beginning.
Very nice article Kevin. We teach the same.
I cringe ever CHL course and we have to deal with the issues you raise here.
May I add:
Get professional training.
If it has a hammer, it isn’t a beginner gun.
Do not get competition trigger jobs, your attorney will advise the same.
Get professional training.
Thanks for adding the bit about the shotgun racking. That has to be one of those that just won’t die. What sort of idiot does that? Gives your position away and tells an intruder exactly where you are.
Yes, that’s what I did too. It’s how I found my beloved Sig P239 (which has a hammer, BTW… what makes that a problem for beginners?).
But I’m still not clear on why the clerk makes a point of taking the gun out of the case and putting it in my hands, when I haven’t asked to see it. This happens at every store I go to.
Not everyone has the option of going to a rental range without incurring even more expense. Any suggestions for those in that situation?
BrentB67 says: If it has a hammer, it isn’t a beginner gun.
I have always thought of revolvers as the “safest” gun for beginners. Could you please explain your reasoning?
I’ve only shot a revolver a handful of times. The limited number of rounds, time to re-load, and challenge to conceal are all problematic to me.
One of my first instructors carried one in his car because he didn’t want shell casings getting in the vents if he had to use it. I wasn’t sure if that was exponential paranoia or ultimate close quarter firearms skills.
When dealing with semi automatics with a hammer they are most likely double action DA like the Sig P239. Additionally, the Sig is burdened by a de-cocker and external safety.
Shooting it DA, first and most important shot, is a 10lb trigger pull that will decrease dramatically when it goes to single action (SA) after the first shot.
The Sig P320 has a similar profile and is striker fired.
“Not everyone has the option of going to a rental range without incurring even more expense. Any suggestions for those in that situation?”
1. Friends who own guns?
2. Fondle as many as you can over the counter as you can before you buy.
3. When in doubt, go with a full-size, striker-fired 9mm service pistol like a Glock 17, S&W M&P9 or (my personal favorite) a SIG P320. Those will be excellent training guns and will serve wonderfully as either a primary or secondary home defense gun. Plus, they have smaller versions available, like the Glock 19 or S&W 9C, that are excellent for daily carry. The manual of arms you learn with the full-size version is essentially directly transferable to the smaller gun.
re: Hammer-fired guns. The CZ75 I bought as a first gun is now my competition gun, and it has a hammer and is a conventional double action/single action semiautomatic. The trigger pull on it for the first shot is significantly longer and harder and subsequent shots. Yes, this is hard to learn, but once you’ve mastered it you can shoot just about anything. It’s not something I recommend these days for beginners, but it does work well.
When people ask what is a good first handgun that may be carried I recommend striker fired semi-automatic and absolutely agree with Kevin, be careful with the compact handguns.
I recommend they start by looking at Glock, Springfield Armory XD/XD(M), and Sig Sauer striker fired service weapons.
I’ve owned 5 Springfields. A TRP that is my shoot occasional high dollar ego gun. The rest are XD(S), XD, and XD(M). All go through Springfield’s custom shop so they have the same sights, trijicon night sights, combat trigger, and match fit barrel.
Springfield makes a good firearm, but I don’t know that it is any better than any other striker fired handgun. I am Springfield guy because it was the second gun I ever bought, they always work, and actually wore one out after more than 10k rounds and 2 trips back to Springfield.
Kevin’s words about training under elevated levels of stress are outstanding, some of the best comments I’ve read. Read and heed he is giving good advice for $Free.99
Keep it simple for the first one and go fancy later is what I tell folks before the come for CHL.
My compact carry gun is the XD(S). It is a great carry gun and I cringe every time I have to shoot it. They just aren’t fun to shoot, hard to handle, and do not help scores.
Assuming that a rookie is unlikely to be accurate and disciplined in a danger situation, would you recommend emphasis on stopping power or on magazine size?
I’d guess that a large magazine would be handy because it’s a rare situation in which an intruder/assaulter isn’t going to be intimidated by a hail of bullets, however inaccurately fired.
I’ve been told that .45s were designed to stop Vietnamese (Korean?) soldiers from advancing after being shot. Does a .38 usually have sufficient stopping power?
Actually, I went with an H&K USP in .40. It’s a wonderful gun that is a beast to carry, especially concealed. I’m looking at something smaller, but not subcompact, like either the Beretta PX4 compact or the M&P Shield.
My first experience with hand guns was the 1911 when I joined the Navy, so having a thumb safety in ingrained as part of firing in my mind. I’m sure it can be trained out just as it was trained in, but since it’s not mandatory I haven’t tried.
This is a debatable point. The key word of the post is a “determined attacker”. The idea that every intruder (or even a majority) are ready for a fire fight is clearly wrong.
You may feel 100% justified in killing the intruder in self-defense, but the law and a jury might disagree. A person making the choice to rack the shotgun may be trading off giving his position away (kind of, the idea that the intruder has bat like sonar identification indoors where sound is bouncing off of walls is far fetched to me), but he is trading that for a decreased risk of any shooting taking place.
I was skimming and for a second thought you wrote, “My first experience with hand guns was in 1911 when I joined the Navy.”
Now that would be a post I’d like to see on the Member Feed.
RE; Frank –
It must be assumed that any intruder is a “Determined Attacker” and racking the action of a 12 gauge is a given warning and understood. Have had occasion to do so with less than messy results.
It is more than prudent to be aware of laws and their enforcement in your state.
You might find that providing some warning is a legal requirement prior to dispatching and determined assailant and redecorating.
I started with a Colt 1911. Doing it over again, my first gun would have been a 9mm or a .22, but I learned just fine at the outdoor range in my town. I started with the Colt because my dad was in the Army infrantry and always spoke fondly of the 1911.
I later picked up a Glock 23 and an AR-15, all of which I’m still shooting with. I lucked out with a helpful gun shop in Alaska, which I’ve stuck with, but generally I’ve had frustrating experiences with shops. There are a lot of jerks behind the counter. If I wasn’t determined to buy my first gun, I probably wouldn’t have based on my first encounter with retail.
Well presented post. If one commits to owning a firearm, remember – Shooting is a perishable skill and range time is just as much of a commitment as owning a firearm.
The first stay at home pistol was a New Service Colt revolver ( .45 Long Colt, beastly cannon it was). Grew rather fond of the 1911 Commander and the Walther PPK for carry. A Mossberg A1 is suitable for the home (Sans bayonete mount for obvious reasons).
The whole thing comes down to practice, the weapon must become a part of you, not window dressing.
That’s pretty good. Maybe gun stores should consider their own firing ranges, with a “try before you buy” selection.
Aaron, while the 1911 pattern has been useful in making sure that shot things stop promptly, it technically can’t arrive any harder than it left. And the 1911 is not just a model number. The enemy at the time was only notional.
Douglas: Many have that arrangement, although the one you shoot will not be the one you buy. I’ve hardly been in a range that doesn’t sell.
The Moros of the Philippines were the original motivation for the M1911, but it wasn’t issued until the Moro Rebellion had ended. It’s an interesting story.
A well placed shot > high caliber miss.
I shot and carried .45 exclusively for years, but once I started training like Kevin recommends went to 9mm. I can shoot the .45 as accurately, but it is heavy and much smaller capacity.
Caveat: My XD(S) EDC weapon is a .45, but that is because there is little/no advantage to a 9mm in that form factor.
For our Texas Ricochet members this is not applicable and even dangerous advice.
They were designed to stop the original crazed muslim insurgents in the Philippines the Moros…
All beginners start out with the Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnum. It will cure what ails ya!
So I take it you’re not in San Francisco, which is closing its last gun store (on Halloween)?
Great post Kevin! Don’t have a lot to add but lots of good advice.
90% of the shoot/no shoot advice you get on the internet is dangerous advice. :D
If you own a gun for self protection, either take Massad Ayoob’s MAG20 (or better yet, MAG40) class or buy (and read, and read again) Andrew Branca’s “The Law of Self-Defense*”, then document somewheres that you’ve read it, along with any other firearms training you receive.
* In fact, in MY world, a copy of “The Law of Self Defense would accompany every defensive handgun that goes out the door of a gun shop.
Headline from the future: “Rapid Rise in Break-Ins, Assaults, Puzzles S.F. Lawmakers.”