“Straight Shots” Jan 20, 2014

How to choose a handgun for Self Defense

There are so many opinions out there and so many choices, everyone seems to have a reason to purchase a specific handgun and most are not bashful about telling you why theirs is the “best”.  Of course, on a realistic level, no matter how true or well intentioned their claims may be for them, it has almost nothing to do with you. There are however some guidelines that can be followed to allow the purchaser to find the “best” handgun design for their own personal use.

First lets talk about why everyone has an opinion of what is best or better or more tactical or more powerful or more accurate or better at stopping threats or more reliable or ???? and the list goes on and on.

Let us digress for a moment.

As with most popular products available to the consumer, there of course are different manufacturers, price points, designs, more or less options, lots of support gear (holsters, belts, lights, lasers, etc.) of which some are important and some are just extra stuff you don’t want or need, but the marketing departments are pretty convincing through the Gun magazines, T.V. and internet that you need to spend your dollars on their latest “improvements” or supplemental “high speed, low drag” gadgets to make your gun the “best”.

What a bunch of hooooey.

So how do you/we choose the proper handgun for personal use?

Here is a starting list.

  •  You must choose the specific need or purpose. Examples: self defense, hunting, target, competition, recreational, etc.
  • Choose someone or somewhere that you can go and learn about the specific elements of your chosen need or purpose, example: hunting is NOT competition shooting, competition shooting is NOT fighting (self defense) although some will try to convince you it is, target is not hunting and certainly has very little to do with self defense, etc.  Although there can obviously be some crossover usage, the primary purpose must be considered first, as there are compromises that that must be managed and understood or success is minimized. When someones life, yours or a loved one, is in the balance, compromise is not exceptable.
  • Next, the purchaser, looking at the intimidating wall of handguns in the retail store, should first understand design differences to make a wise purchase, what does SAO, DAO, SA/DA, GSA, mean? How about single stage de-cocker, 2 stage de-cocker, frame mounted safety, slide mounted safety, thumb safety, grip safety, trigger safety, firing pin channel safety, magazine disconnect (safety). How about backstrap adjustments, length of pull distance, slack, pressure wall, trigger reset, trigger recovery, receiver mounted magazine release, trigger guard mounted magazine release, etc.

How about properly “fitting” the handgun to each persons hand size? This is not done correctly by guess or “feel” in the shop, you need to clearly understand the correct contact points of ones hand on the weapon system (yes, there are specific guidelines), to do this as well. Understanding proper manipulation of controls (which is part of the correct fitting process) etc.  When spending hard earned dollars AND choosing something that may be defending your own life or the life of a loved one, ALL THESE FACTORS ARE APPLICABLE, do you believe it is OK to make this choice based on someone elses opinion??? The guy at the gunstore? (who may or may not have any tactical knowledge of defensive strategy with guns) and from what I have seen out there, may or may not display any correct gun handling skills at all.  A loved one (who may have all of the best intentions in the world, but that does not make them qualified to do so. How about the latest magazine advertisement/article? Everyone understands that those ads are PAYED advertisement, right? Everyones newest, bestest, coolest, most greatest, gun, ammo, gear including the pulsating underwater in the dark 10 speed multi tasking 1 million lumen tacticoooool gadget. Guaranteed to make you shoot better?
That advertising, although designed to protect you from carrying around to much extra cash, can be very misleading and confusing, but that doesn’t stop some from believing and spending their money anyway and then trying to convince you to do the same.

There are plenty of practical and real world useful items to spend money on, including, good functional support gear, ammo and the proper professional training to learn how to safely handle your firearm in a hostile encounter and to win if necessary, in a violent, life threatening, unavoidable, circumstance.

But wait, out there are other “experts” that will tell you in the magazines, television shows, and in person, which gun is the most accurate, reliable and best handgun for you?????  REALLY???  Here is the test, if they are telling YOU or showing YOU that, based on the performance of any handgun by THEM, how well it performs (or doesn’t perform) for THEM and therefore it is, or is not perfect for YOU, BEWARE.

Let’s look at a couple of concerns.

You are being told by an “expert” what will work for you, yet:

  1. Do they have the same size hands as you?
  2. Do they have the same experience level as you?
  3. Are they classifying the type of gun for your primary purpose?
  4. Are they a recreational, hunter, tactical, competition shooter?
  5. Are they physically the same, strength, age, etc.

Here are 2 commom misleading statements:

They are advertising and claiming accuracy or reliability of a particular handgun based on their ability to shoot it well (or not) and selling you the notion that therefore it will be either accurate or inaccurate or unreliable because it works well or does not work well for them? how does it fit them?? do they even know how to make that determination? I would say apparently not by the standard of the statement itself concerning how it would work for you????

So what is the answer?

The real answer lies within the reality that it takes some effort on the buyers part, and also it takes somewhere or someone who clearly understands the “pitfalls” I am disclosing of properly choosing a handgun design for a specific purpose, like self defense. And then finding someone who is actually able and willing to help.

There are great people and schools out there, and hopefully some of the exposed criteria above will help you in finding somewhere close to wherever you are that can help you with the process. At R.E.A.C.T. Training Systems, I have a designed a specific class called the “Sampler Class”, it has the primary purpose of teaching the information and skills necessary to make an informed purchase the first time, therefore saving lots of money, headaches and the normal hassles associated with choosing and purchasing and handgun specific to self defense purposes. Everyone who has attended this class over the years, have always went out of their way to thank me later and recommend to others this process.

On the flip side, so many have come to other classes to “train” with their already purchased handgun, and have been disappointed in that purchase once they start to actually spend time running that particular system.

This is something they decide on their own, and it is something I can do little about after purchase, other than helping them learn about whatever handgun they do have, and now how to properly function it to the best of their abilities, which is always our mission goal.

Whether a brand new or experienced, the Sampler Class provides an opportunity for participants to get a “hands on” experience, starting with safe gun handling skills and lecture on all of the different designs and functions, basic field stripping procedures, proper fitting procedures and ending in live fire “trials” to allow a participant to handle and shoot different models to help them better know why they want a particular handgun style and size and caliber.

To understand what will truly be the best for THEM and their intended purpose.

“Which handgun is “best” for YOU, the one that fits you best, and is accurate and reliable for YOU.

After all, Law Abiding Citizens never choose to use force, especially deadly force, but if that lethal threat chooses you, will you be prepared to meet the challenge with the proper physical and mental training and a firearm specific to the task and tailored by choice to meet your expectations?

Stay safe out there,


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