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 SELECTING A HANDGUN

How To Select A Handgun For Personal Protection

Revolvers | Semi-Automatic | Ammunition

 

There are many reasons for choosing to purchase a handgun. These include personal protection and defense, target shooting and collecting.

 

At Trigger Trainers, our goal is for you to BE PREPARED, WILLING and ABLE to protect yourself and your loved ones in the case of a personal attack. As such, we will limit our discussion of handgun choice to the purpose of personal protection and defense.

 

When choosing a handgun, the most important decision is that it be as close to 100% RELIABLE as possible. There is nothing in the world worse than hearing a 'click' when you expected a 'bang', especially when it means your life or that of a family member. This goes for the handgun as well as the ammunition. You want to be sure to buy the best quality handgun and ammunition that you can afford. While this is not necessarily your primary selection criteria, it is very important.

 

SIZE and FIT

 

You should select the most powerful handgun you can shoot comfortably, consistently and accurately.

 

It must be comfortable as if it were an extension of your arm and hand. You must be consistent so that every shot goes where you want it. You must be accurate so that you hit your target. It is said that you are only HALF as good on the street as you are on the range. If you cannot be consistently accurate you will lose the gun fight and your life. 

 

Some say that the single most important factor in choosing a handgun is the fit and feel of the gun in your hand. A handgun that fits properly will be easy to use, accurate, and fun. A handgun that doesn't fit will be hard to shoot accurately, annoy you with just-out-of-reach controls, and feel wrong. You want to be comfortable with using your handgun. The goal of any handgun purchase is to acquire one that will become an extension of your hand and arm. The proper fit is what makes this possible.

 

Fit cannot be determined by reading about it or by hearing about it. You must hold the gun, preferably with a full magazine  (semi-automatics) or a full cylinder (revolvers) for weight and balance. A competent shooter can hit a target with any functioning handgun, but it may not be comfortable. With a handgun that fits properly, shooting is a pleasure; the recoil is not painful, and hitting a stationary target with a flash shot is easy.

 

Type (Revolver v/s Autoloader)

 

Ruger SP-101 5-shot .357 revolver (left); Para-Ordnance 14-shot .45 semi-auto (right)

 

There are two basic types of handgun; Revolver and Semi-Automatic (also known as an autoloader). Each has their own pros and cons, and you will need to determine which are most important to you.

The advantage of the revolver lies in its simplicity. Revolvers are more dependable than autoloaders in the sense that they aren't as prone to jamming, although most 'modern' autoloaders are quite dependable and not nearly as prone to jamming as they once were. Revolvers are also quite less complicated to operate, and may be more appropriate for those who are new to handguns. For a more detailed explanation of how revolvers work, click HERE.

 

The "downside" of a revolver, if any, lies in the fact that an unloaded revolver can't be brought into action by most people as quickly as can the unloaded autoloader (even using a speed loader device). Accurate follow up shots also tend to be easier to make with a single or double action autoloader when compared to the revolver because the autoloader automatically re-cocks the trigger after each shot, making for less trigger pull for each subsequent shot.

 

Remember, leaving a handgun loaded at all times may be dangerous, especially if there are children in the house who may gain access to the handgun, and there are severe criminal penalties in the event of accidental access or use by a child. If you do keep your handgun loaded at all times, you should keep it in a quick access gun safe that requires a combination to open.

 

The advantage of the autoloader lies in its size and reloading. Typically an autoloader of similar caliber to a revolver is smaller, primarily due to the way the ammunition is stored in the handgun. In a revolver, it is in a round cylinder. In an autoloader, it is in a flat magazine (or 'clip'). This makes the autoloader narrower.

 

Autoloaders, as the name implies, automatically cycle the slide after the first shot is fired. This extracts and ejects the empty casing and then 'scoops' another round off the top of the magazine and inserts the new round into the chamber of the barrel. Typically the slide recocks the hammer after the initial shot making for an easier trigger pull for subsequent shots. Autoloaders are also termed semi-automatics or self-loaders. For a more detailed explanation of how autoloaders work, click HERE.

 

If the primary use of the handgun is personal protection, the size of the handgun is very important since you will want to be able to carry it on your person in some sort of holster. Click HERE for information about holsters.

 

Barrel Length

 

As a general rule, the longer the barrel, the more accurate the shot. However, if your primary use is personal protection, you will not be shooting long distances. Inside your home most rooms are shorter than 20 feet, and with practice you should be able to shoot with accuracy at any point in the room. Outside your home, a personal confrontation occurs within only a few feet, again, making long distance accuracy a non-issue.

 

Mechanically, barrel length makes a difference in bullet performance. A longer barrel means greater energy from an identical cartridge. However, there is little significant difference between energy produced by a 2-inch barrel versus a 4-inch barrel, and a 4-inch barrel versus that of a 6- inch barrel.

 

Typically a 6-inch barrel is too long for comfortable concealed carry. If you are a larger person (by height), you may be more comfortable with a 4-inch barrel than a 2-inch barrel since your larger size means you can more easily carry the larger handgun. Typically a 2-inch barrel is the size of choice for most concealed carry purposes. Some manufactures have introduced barrels in mid-range sizes such as Ruger's 2 1/4 and 3-inch barrels.

 

The longer the barrel, the larger the gun frame (and the heavier the weight). For revolvers, a longer barrel and larger frame means that the handgun may have a 6-shot cylinder versus a 5-shot cylinder. (This can vary depending on manufacturer as Colt had a line of .38 caliber, 2-inch snub nosed revolvers with 6-shot cylinders). One advantage to the heavier handgun with a larger frame is that it makes it easier to handle a more powerful load in the ammunition.

 

I found that it was easier to shoot my .357 Ruger using .38+P ammunition than it was to shoot standard .38 ammunition using the Colt. While the handguns were similar in size and weight, the heavier frame of the Ruger made it easier to shoot primarily due to less effective recoil.

Due to small size and weight, particularly "air weight" aluminum alloy or titanium models, the effective recoil can be extreme, a factor that may detract from follow-up shot placement. Some manufacturers have introduced models with factory installed barrel porting, a feature that helps offset effective recoil. Porting is not recommended, however, on handguns intended for self defense since the shooter may be stunned or temporarily blinded by hot gasses and debris thrown vertically upward through the exhaust ports in the barrel.
 

Practice Practice Practice

 

Regardless of your choice of handgun, practice makes perfect. It doesn't matter too much which type of handgun you purchase. Your effectiveness with the handgun will depend on how much you practice using it.

 

We all hope to never have to use our personal defense handguns for the purpose for which it was purchased, but if  we need to use it, we better be sure that we can use it properly and effectively. Even if you don't plan to use your handgun very often, you should still become familiar and practiced with its operation. You should read the manual for your handgun and go to a local shooting range and practice. You should become familiar with your handgun so that you are comfortable and confident when using it.

 

Ammunition

 

Like I stated earlier; you should select the most powerful ammunition you can shoot comfortably, consistently and accurately.

 

There are always those who believe that bigger is better. That's only half the story. The size of the shot is irrelevant if you can't hit your target.  If you can't hit your target because you can't control the handgun properly, then you need to consider a different handgun. If the gun is too large or if the ammunition too powerful, you may never get a second shot. Being unable to hit your target reduces your confidence. Especially if you are only half as good on the street as you are on the range. You need to feel confident so that you will win when your life is at stake.

 

Click HERE. for more information about ammunition.

 

Holsters

 

Although it sounds simple, choosing a gun holster can actually be a difficult and confusing process, mainly because of the wide selection of holsters. The following information is designed as a basic guide to holsters. This basic info should provide you with enough information to be able to do more detailed research as to what will be most practical for your needs.
 

Like a handgun, a holster is based on personal preference. A holster that fits properly will be easy to use and help to make your handgun use easy and confident. A holster that doesn't fit will make the access and use of your handgun difficult. You want to be comfortable with using your holster.


Before you start searching for a holster, take a few moments to decide how and when you will be carrying your handgun. Be realistic with yourself as it will have a significant impact on your choices. You need to honestly evaluate when and what you will doing with the handgun. Will you be carrying it concealed? To and from the range only? Will you be using it in shooting competitions? Is this a primary handgun or a back-up that needs to be carried in a secondary position?

The answers to these questions will provide you with the information you need to start making your decisions. Please realize that you may find that you end up with more than one specific use for the handgun. You may also find that different styles of clothing require a different style of holster. A holster can be considered a clothing accessory, and like any accessory, it needs to 'fit in' with the rest of your attire. For example, a 'tuckable' Inside the Waistband (IWB) holster may be sufficient for casual attire when you won't be wearing a jacket, and need to keep your shirt tucked in. A 'belly belt' type holster may be necessary if you are wearing running shorts or sweats while exercising outside. An ankle holster may be needed if you want to carry a back-up handgun.


Material
In the 'Old Days'(like when I was a kid), leather was pretty much the only choice of a holster material. These days choices include holsters made of thermoplastics (kydex) or ballistic nylon. Each material has it's own pros and cons. Leather is the most popular and makes a great holster. Kydex is completely waterproof whereas leather isn't. It is great for high humidity environments (like down here in Tampa). Ballistic nylon is the least expensive of the three, but really won't mold or form fit like leather or Kydex.

Holster Types
 

Belt Holsters - Belt holster are designed to worn threaded through the belt. They can't be worn without a belt, and are sometimes called Outside the Waistband (OWB) holsters. Belt holsters have a number of applications and can be used for the following:

Concealment (certain models)
General range use
Competition
General carry (also called field use)
Belt holsters tend to be the most popular and are typically worn on the strong-side (same side as the shooting hand).

Inside the Waistband Holsters (IWB) - These are designed pretty much for concealment only. The holster is worn inside the waistband with most of the handgun inside the waistband, with only the butt being exposed above the belt line. IWB holsters are probably the most popular type of concealment holsters on the market.

Crossdraw Holster - These holsters are a variation of the belt holster and is worn on the weak side of you body. With this holster you reach across your body to draw the handgun.

Small of the Back Holster (SOB) - These models are designed to be worn right on the small of the back. SOB holsters can be either belt models or IWB models.

Pocket Holster - Only made for small revolvers and semi-automatic handguns, pocket holsters are produced in designs that can be worn in either a front pocket or a back pocket.

Ankle Holster - Ankle holsters are generally produced for small revolvers and semi-automatic handguns, and are designed to worn on the ankle of the strong side leg. For example, if you shoot right handed, an ankle holster would ride on the outside of your right leg.

Shoulder Holster - Shoulder holsters consist of a single or double loop harness system that fits over the shoulders. The holster itself typically either rides horizontally or vertically under the weak side arm. So if you right handed, the holster would ride under your left armpit.

 

Regardless of the type of holster you purchase, you must practice using it. Make sure your handgun is UNLOADED, and practice drawing and replacing your handgun. Rarely do confrontations occur in broad daylight, so practice in a dark room or with your eyes closed. 
  

 

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