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 Post subject: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Sharp Shooter

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How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Step 1

The first question you really need to answer for yourself about Firearms is what you are going to be using the gun for. For home protection you'll want the largest caliber gun with the biggest capacity magazine that you can shoot accurately and be comfortable with. If you are thinking about concealment then you want the strongest gun in the smallest and lightest weight package. If you are in Law Enforcement or need a duty pistol for something else like security you might be looking at a size and power combination somewhere in between the two. Remember, in a situation where you are forced to defend yourself you will never wish that you had a less powerful gun or less ammunition, so choose carefully.

Step 2

When you've really got an idea of what you'll be using your Firearms for you can start to answer the age old question or revolver versus semi automatic pistol. Revolvers tend to be extremely reliable but you do sacrifice some capacity in terms of rounds and reload time is usually slower for most shooters. With a semi automatic pistol you get increased ammunition capacity but semi autos do jam from time to time. There are old schoolers who wouldn't consider anything else but a revolver, and others who swear by their semi automatics. Most Law Enforcement agencies have gone to semi automatic pistols for their standard issue guns due to the increased round capacity and faster reloading time, so that is an important point in favor of semi automatics. Our armed forces and civilian law enforcement authorities also did away with revolvers, and moved to 7.62caliber and 9mm duty round. To make an accurate choice you really need to spend some time shooting both types of pistol and see what you like from there.

Step 3

There have been tremendous advancements in composite frame designs and this is important with respect to your gun choice. The advantage of a composite frame is great durability with a dramatic reduction in weight over a steel gun. Any time that you have a heavier gun it will make for a very different experience both in draw time and fatigue for many shooters, especially if you have to carry it all day. Some people don't like the "plastic" feel of composite or polymer framed guns so you need to get each one in your hand and examine and fire it to determine what will be your choice.

Step 4

The final aspect of your Handgun purchase that you should consider is caliber selection. The most popular calibers are .30 (7.62), 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP in order from smallest to largest. If you're thinking about self defense on the street you have to consider that the larger caliber you buy will have a greater chance of over penetration, which means that the bullet can go right through your target and hit someone or something behind it. Always being aware of what's beyond your target and using modern hollow point ammunition will reduce this but you still need to think about it. A larger caliber means a larger gun as well so again, which will fatigue you in a carry all day situation. This is much less of a concern in home self defense.
The price of the ammunition with respect to caliber selection is one last thing to think about. .38 and 9mm ammo is generally cheapest of the mentioned calibers and the higher up in caliber you go the more expensive it will be to practice with too. Consistent availability of the chosen ammo in our local market is also another factor that should have a bearing on your decision making process.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Master at Arms

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Very comprehensive guideline for a new buyer. Thanks for the effort shooter :)

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

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@Shooter

Thank you for the informative share !
If one follows up on the above points , he would be able to chalk down to a precise choice.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

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@Shooter
Very informative share in general, and particularly for beginners.

I would however like to disagree with the suggestion that higher calibre in handguns leads to over penetration. To my limited knowledge, it is the other way around in some cases, with 0.30 being the most penetrative (its length is 25mm vs 19mm length in 9mm round), and 0.45 the least. Please give your comments on this.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

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Thanks for sharing such an informative post :)

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Standard Shot

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Very informative.
Can someone please start another thread? “How to determine barrels condition/life”

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Shooter

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With much respect to Shooter for orginating the thread, I have a differing opinion.

I teach a Basic Pistol class at the range where I am the USPSA match director. I am also an NRA Pistol instructor. I opine thusly:

1) Life is full of compromise. While many believe that smaller is better for concealled carry, this is an opinion and the size of the weapon a person could conceal is dependent on many factors- the person's size, the manner in which he dresses, the manner in which he carries the gun are a good start. With a smaller gun comes compromise. One has to sacrifice something- caliber and capacity are the two which come to mind immediately. One either gets very fewer rounds of a 9mm/.380/.32 caliber in a small gun or even fewer of a larger caliber (.40/10mm/.45). One suffers from greater felt recoil, and one must use a short sight radius. Conversely, a person can enjoy a great capacity of 9mm in a full sized gun or moderate capacity of larger caliber in the full sized gun but suffer attempting to conceal or simply a carry full sized handgun. You simply adjust to the gun.

But, I do not think that one should choose a smaller gun simply based on the criteria of choosing for concealed carry. Is it a factor- absolutely! However, I do not believe it to be rule that one chooses a smaller weapon for concealed carry.

I recommend to my students that they choose a gun according to these criteria and then adjust carry method (location, dress, etc) accordingly:

1) The gun must be comfortable in your hand. When you first pick it up it should feel good and point well. If it does not then there is a longer learning curve to using the gun properly.

2) The gun must be reliable. Different persons have different definitions of reliable. Must it should shoot 100s if not 1000s of rnds before has a malfunction.

3) The gun must be one you can shoot well. While one may not know if he can shoot the gun well before buying it, you had BETTER learn to shoot it before you trust your life (and the lives of others) to the gun. You may be called upon to save the life of a loved one and you had better be able to make the shot. No matter the case, you will likely put other's lives at risk when you use a gun- that bullet is going somewhere!!!

Over-penetration is largely a myth. I have repeatedly challenged persons to show me situations where a person shot well and had a round exit the threat and harm a person. They simply can not. In the challenge the realization dawns on them that no matter the round fired a shot which hits center mass does not exit with enough energy to risk lives. Shots that hit the periphery of the threat are always a risk to others. The solution is not to reduce caliber, but to increase shooting capability.

When it comes to choosing a cartridge for self-defense, the FBI opines that penetration is first- the bullet must reliably penetrate 12" of ballistic gelatin whether it expands or not. The second component is caliber. Essentially the FBI is stating you want a deep driving bullet first and then the larger the better. 9mm, .40, 10mm, .45, .357 sig and even the .22 LR will penetrate 12" of ballistic gelatin. Since all will, the shooter now just chooses the cartridge based on other factors- availbility, cost, recoil, etc.

I have recommended the .22 LR to some students without reservation and even carried it myself. In the end, shooting skill matters FAR more than the round. A hole which is 22/100 of an inch in diameter kills just as effectively when placed in the right spot.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Master at Arms

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Very logical and very comprehensive. I agree :)

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Sharp Shooter

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Steven Cline wrote:
With much respect to Shooter for orginating the thread, I have a differing opinion.


Steve, that is the beauty of this forum. We get to learn and re-learn based on knowledgable and experienced inputs from professionals such as yourself.

Thankyou for your input above.


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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Shooter

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Shooter wrote:
Steven Cline wrote:
With much respect to Shooter for orginating the thread, I have a differing opinion.


Steve, that is the beauty of this forum. We get to learn and re-learn based on knowledgable and experienced inputs from professionals such as yourself.

Thankyou for your input above.



Thank you, sir. I appreciated your post as well.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Sharp Shooter

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Excellent Steve, pure logic from vast deal of experience. Appreciated. :)

1) The feeling of the gun in hands is vital.

Over the past few days, I've been practicing quick draw techniques, drawing a Stoeger Cougar, holstered by shoulder carry, horizontally placed. The gun's out in the wink of an eye, so far so good! But, my medium to small hands can't somehow "catch" the gun's relatively thicker grips firmly, in the first drawing motion attempt, forcing me to do a second, hard gripping effort. This is dangerous, you can drop the gun, in the heat of the moment. I'll move to something else.

2) Over-penetration should not be the critical factor in deciding the right caliber. In 99% of the compulsive SD situations, it will be you and the offender, face to face! Better be loaded powerfully and get him down right away.

3) For SD, no need to select a gun from the reviews of target shooting results, longer barrels and higher scores! In an SD situation, with the common CQB distance of some 0-21 feet, even a short barreled monster can do the job efficiently, and with a bit of practice, one should be able to land some good shot placements with the heavier calibers, like .357 Mag, cal .45, also. The problem occurs when you start target shooting with these compact models from 15-25 mtrs and do your judgement from that! An SD gun can have a totally different criteria to be met, some good torso shots from 25 feet max , with any compact and powerful gun will aid you sufficiently.

4) In my opinion, higher capacity is more for longer duels, prolonged interactions/engagements. This also, for the LEA's mostly. For the common man, 6-8 shots even are enough, most scenarios are over within the first 2 shots, till then, either the threat is down, or you're down, or the threat is gone!

Just some humble opinions. Regards. :)

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Marksman

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AK47 wrote:
3) For SD, no need to select a gun from the reviews of target shooting results, longer barrels and higher scores! In an SD situation, with the common CQB distance of some 0-21 feet, even a short barreled monster can do the job efficiently, and with a bit of practice, one should be able to land some good shot placements with the heavier calibers, like .357 Mag, cal .45, also. The problem occurs when you start target shooting with these compact models from 15-25 mtrs and do your judgement from that! An SD gun can have a totally different criteria to be met, some good torso shots from 25 feet max , with any compact and powerful gun will aid you sufficiently.


I agree with everything you wrote except this above "no need to select a gun from reviews of target shooting results" for SD use.
How can someone expect to hit a person's torso if he cannot even shoot properly at paper targets when he has all the time in world to do it?
My shooting results are three times worst atleast when I fire fast in dummy SD situation practice comparing to when I shoot relaxed easy and take long time to aim and shoot.
If I am not able to learn about my errors and mistakes i am making while shooting paper targets i will never be able to shoot accurately in SD situation.


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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Sharp Shooter

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@Alvi Sahib.....My bad Sir, if my point was inadequately explained in above post. However, kindly do re-check these lines in my post again:


In an SD situation, with the common CQB distance of some 0-21 feet, even a short barreled monster can do the job efficiently, and with a bit of practice, one should be able to land some good shot placements with the heavier calibers, like .357 Mag, cal .45, also. The problem occurs when you start target shooting with these compact models from 15-25 mtrs and do your judgement from that!

Hence, my point was simply, that do not necessarily compare pure SD purpose smaller guns with those from the reviews of target shooting from longer distances, with longer barrels, like the Viking MP-446, PT92/99, etc.

Course, you should train on paper, but my point is, that one should reduce the distance of shooting, with the SD CCW guns, and outdo the benefit of the shorter distance, by increasing the firing rate, double tapping, etc.

I am sure, even a snub nose 2" barrel .357 Magnum revolver will perform fine enough with a bit of practice, when you use these smaller guns for what they were actually meant for. We still, however, do not have a separate section for reviewing handguns from the pure SD perspective. Regards. :)

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Last edited by AK47 on Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Shooter

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Zargham Alvi wrote:
AK47 wrote:
3) For SD, no need to select a gun from the reviews of target shooting results, longer barrels and higher scores! In an SD situation, with the common CQB distance of some 0-21 feet, even a short barreled monster can do the job efficiently, and with a bit of practice, one should be able to land some good shot placements with the heavier calibers, like .357 Mag, cal .45, also. The problem occurs when you start target shooting with these compact models from 15-25 mtrs and do your judgement from that! An SD gun can have a totally different criteria to be met, some good torso shots from 25 feet max , with any compact and powerful gun will aid you sufficiently.


I agree with everything you wrote except this above "no need to select a gun from reviews of target shooting results" for SD use.
How can someone expect to hit a person's torso if he cannot even shoot properly at paper targets when he has all the time in world to do it?
My shooting results are three times worst atleast when I fire fast in dummy SD situation practice comparing to when I shoot relaxed easy and take long time to aim and shoot.
If I am not able to learn about my errors and mistakes i am making while shooting paper targets i will never be able to shoot accurately in SD situation.


Kind and gentle Zargham Alvi,

Please don't confuse the shooters skill with that of the accuracy capability of the gun. Please, also, don't confuse the shooters ability to place tight groups at 25 mtrs with his ability to make some form of an fight changing hit at 4 mtrs. These are examples of comparing apples with oranges.

I believe I understand you point, but reconsider brother AK47's points:

- Just because handgun X can deliver .25" groups at 100 mtrs doesn't make it ideal for daily carry for self-defense.
- Just because handgun Y cannot deliver a 2" group at 25 mtrs does not make it unacceptable for self-defense.

Though AK47 didn't communicate this consider...

- Just because shooter A can make great shots at 25 mtrs does not mean he can rapidly make acceptable hits at 5 mtrs on a threat attempting to kill him while moving to cover. He may, but the one skill is not proof of the other.

You are correct that your accuracy will degrad under at least the time stress of a self-defense shooting. But in a self-defense shooting I ask you to consider that you neither need or want 1" groups. You want shots hitting either an 8" cirlce in the high center chest or a 6" by 14" rectangle running down the chest. And, you want them three to seven seconds ago.

You can learn a lot from the slow fire for accuracy at distance. But at spitting distance, the errors which make for a 4" group at 25 mtrs are irrelevent.

Submitted for your consideration.

Steve

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Shooter

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wow!!! very very good thread...i finally realised what the heck was wrong with me and my gun. ive been trying to do target practice with my Makarov at 40ft and hate the results. now i realise that i really dont need to do that. i need to excel with my Mak at 10-20ft as thats where i will be needing it most. its not like i am going to take part in a competition with my little monster.

thanks all


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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

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@Steve........Thanks bro, you're not a wonder only with the finger on the trigger, but equally much with the fingers on your keyboard! Appreciate your full elaboration above. Regards. :)

@Alvi Sb..........My point is simply that most of us select new handguns more for the SD aspect of it than for the sports/target shooting practice, and hence, when our experts find any specific gun as performing below standards at the range - in terms of scores and bulls - it doesn't necessarily have to be less efficient for the pure SD use as well.

Only the form of practice with each of the types would/should be different, and Steve explained the rest of it pretty explicitly. Regards. :)

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Sharp Shooter

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@ AK47 Sb and Steven Cline

:text-goodpost: :text-bravo:


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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Master at Arms

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Read this thread thorougly and enjoyed every bit of it. Thank You @ AK47 Sb and Steven Cline sir
:text-bravo:


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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

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Very knowledgeable inputs by Shooter, Steven and Ak47 but I have questions for all of you!! (sorry for bugging you guys again!!)

1)We are assuming that SD situations will be at close ranges like max 25-30 feet...however if that is not the case (may be like 20-25 mtrs/yards) do you really think that an average shooter with a 2inch snub nose can be expected to perform to an acceptable level? I am of the view that one should carry a larger frame weapon with more punch and capacity at all times rather!!

2)Also when it comes to penetration can someone tell me whether a JHP/HP will also penetrate 12 inches of ballistic gel?


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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

Sharp Shooter

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1. I am a large frame man myself. My daily carry is a 5" 1911 or a 6.5" SW .45 acp revolver. Yet, I know some folks that practice enough with a snubbie to do their work right. But it takes more than a casual approach to SD. But I'm not sure folks who won't put in the range time will do all that great with any weapon. I don't know

2. That might have to be determined manufacturer by manufacturer. Also, that barrel length comes into play. I haven't done much research into how HPs work in short barrels since I just don't prefer them.

Overall though - sounds like you and me think the same concerning firearms and self defense.

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An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject. (Unknown)


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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

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@ Phoenix, As far as the ballistics gel Testing is concerned take a look at this thread
http://thegunforum.net/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=313

cheers

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

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Phoenix
Look under ammunition posts. I posted my results about shooting a deer with a handgun.

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 Post subject: Re: How to Choose The Right Handgun for Yourself

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wow, very helpful indeed you guys! :D


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