This is a question I get almost everyday: what gun do you recommend? People want a professional’s opinion on what gun to get, and most often for somebody else. Truthfully, anybody who would give an answer to this question without any personal experience with the person in question is not somebody I would recommend taking any gun advice from.
The answer I always give, and which is always deemed unsatisfying, is that the person in question should take our class — FIRST.
Now, not everybody can take our carry permit class. Some are just unlucky enough not to live near Venice, FL, otherwise known as Paradise. And I suppose somewhere, there is maybe some instructor who approaches taking almost as much care as we do to require gun handling of all types of handguns so we can observe how they are handled, and how they suit the person (not to mention safety).
Sadly, we often get students who buy a gun they heard about, their uncle recommended, or they like the color of the grips on it, and determine therefore it is their gun to defend their lives with, prior to taking our class. Probably 90% of the time they determine in class and/or at the range that it is not a suitable gun for them, and occasionally they cannot operate it well enough to even finish the class.
Here are a few considerations which can only be explored with a hands-on gun class and shooting experience with those guns.
Kick — we call it recoil. The actual physics of it is the amount of force the gun will push you back at you. Ammunition choice, caliber and bullet weight, can have a palpable effect on recoil. But add to that what we call “felt” recoil. This is the degree of pounding or push an operator feels while shooting, and it is affected by several factors. All other things being equal, a heavier gun will produce less “felt” recoil than a lighter gun. A bigger gun will generate less “felt” recoil than a smaller gun. A semi-automatic will generate less “felt” recoil than a revolver. A heavy-metal framed gun will produce less “felt” recoil than a polymer or lightweight metal-framed one.
But it’s more than that. Can the person’s finger pull the trigger straight back? Do they have the strength to pull back a heavy trigger without pulling the gun off target (particularly an issue with revolvers)? Does the size and thickness of the grip allow a good purchase? Can they rack the slide (semi-automatics)? Are they afraid of doing so, for fear of getting a finger caught in the port?
Do they specifically want, or specifically do not want, a safety? Is that based on a lack of training and experience with guns, or maybe a bad experience with one?
Is the preferred gun type intended to be used the way the gun was manufactured to be used — double action revolver without cocking; single action semi-auto chambered, cocked and locked; traditional double action semi-auto with hammer down on first round and chambered; striker-fired semi-auto chambered, etc.?
What about the visibility of the sights? Do they match the operator’s vision needs?
And we have not even begun to discuss lifestyle preferences. Will it be carried, and if so, how? What part of the body? Holster material, retention design, ability to stay where you put it, and much more, come into play. Part of this consideration is how much weight you are willing to lug around, for whatever period of time you choose to do so.
And budget considerations are on most buyers’ minds. Prices vary wildly, and sometimes it is worth the extra money, and sometimes the cheapskate pays the most and has a gun they cannot bet their lives on.
And of course you must carry extra ammo. How? How much?
We have only scratched the surface. One major consideration I want to mention is that the operator must like it enough to want to practice a couple of times a month minimum and be comfortable enough with carrying it that they will carry it (and not leave it at home or in the car) and not be fussing with it the whole time.
And there is much more we observe in a class, such as emotional readiness to consider lethal force options, a desire to live within the gun laws, an attitude that lethal force is a last resort, and much more.
Then we go to the range for individual live range training with the preliminary choice of gun and several others as alternatives. Beyond safety, we carefully observe the ease with which they can operate the gun, load the magazines, react to the recoil and noise, and much more.
We do a lot to make sure that a person’s early shooting experiences are positive and encouraging so they will return to practice and really learn the skills we introduced. And we make them practical so that just about any skill level has the ability to defend themselves — today.
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