Need some help, purchasing my first handgun
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Old 09-07-2011, 07:41 AM   #1
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Default Need some help, purchasing my first handgun

Hello everyone, I read a few posts here and see that there are some very smart knowledgeable people on here - and where better then for me to ask for some help about my first handgun! Just a little background on me as far as guns go, my family has never really done too much involving firearms - not to say we are against them as we have a few, but I do not go hunting nor does my father. I've always had great interest in firearms and history, so the two go hand in hand for me (WWII-era which I'm sure is popular for many, was the big thing that got me interested in guns).

Our family doesn't have many firearms though. My father has a Ruger .22 pistol passed down from his father as well as some small .25 caliber pistol that I'm not certain of the brand, as well as a single shot 410 shotgun. I personally own a '33 hex receiver Mosin Nagant rifle that I purchased via Gunbroker - I really like shooting it and love owning a piece of history! I know some people have problems with Nagants being sticky and other things, but mine operates very smooth and gives me no trouble! As far as shooter skill, I'm not a complete beginner but I am far from anywhere near as good as the people I know are regulars at gun ranges so lots of really "gun" talk goes over my head - and I still occasionally make embarassing mistakes on how the gun operates (Though to be fair to myself, they are guns I'm not familiar with).

Anyway, I turned 21 recently so since I am now legally able to own and shoot pistols I have an interest in buying one that will very likely become a CC for me once I am comfortable with it and have of course passed the CCW course. Now I've shot several pistols, the largest being a .357 magnum which I found fun - though I like a gun with some kick, but of course too much is never fun (Recalling a time I shot a lever action rifle chambered in 45-70 federal, now that left a sore shoulder after coming back from the range). Keeping in mind whatever pistol I purchase will be fully intended as a self defense weapon I'm having a hard time deciding what would be best for me to go with.

I would like this handgun to be something I can still shoot regularly for fun at the range and to hone my skills at using so reasonable ammunition cost and availability is somewhat important. I absolutely want stopping power that will work on bad guys hyped up on drugs. I am open to both revolvers and semi-autos, previously I was dead set on a revolver for their low maintenance and my fear of the complexity of a semi-auto and their rather regular maintenance needs (to prevent jams in a life critical situation) - I still have great concerns about the complexity of some semi-autos in regards to regular cleaning but would be willing to learn.

I am looking to spend around $400-$500 give or take. I am thinking if I chose a revolver it would be .357 Magnum (Though have concerns on the usage of this being so loud it would cause hearing loss since I'd have no ear protection in a life/death situation - and hearing is crucial to me since I listen to music so much) - in semi-autos I have been thinking something like .40 or .45 ACP. The Glock 23 looks interesting and is one I have been considering - simplicity certainly makes me comfortable with doing maintenance on it, but I've heard some criticism over their lack of a traditional safety and the fact they're a plastic gun though I place a large amount of trust in them due to law enforcement use. I've sort of been considering a 1911 .45 ACP style semi-auto as well, but I'd want a DA since the SA requires you to have the gun cocked at all times with a round chambered (Which leads me to believe I'd possibly want a Para). I'm not too well knowledgeable on the 1911's so I'm not sure who offers what in that regard. What would most of you think on a standard sized 1911 for EDC? I'm also curious to the "Glock clones" if you will that are made by some of the other companies that may perhaps offer different features that would improve upon some of the Glocks negative traits while maintaining their positive traits.

I don't have any brands that I am against (little experience with most to be fair), so I'm open to suggestions. Hopefully I've given enough info to help narrow down what exactly it is I'm looking for. I am not opposed to purchasing a used gun at the $400-$500 mark but it would indeed need to be a nice one since I know I can obtain several ones I've been considering new at this price point. I'd also like to say as a point of clarification, I have always assumed that if I were carrying a semi-auto that one would carry it with a loaded magazine and the safety on - but no round chambered; It seems though that I see lots of people who carry these around with a round chambered at all times so that all one would need to do is pull it out, disable the safety and pull the trigger. How common are these two mindsets of carrying and how much risk is there in regards to these different ways of carrying?

I'm not sure what to think about what to get though, I've noticed lots of people are highly preferential to some brands and opposed to others so I really want to get some more viewpoints - as unbiased and fair as I can get. The guy I talked with was big on Glock but not too knowledgeable on specifics of the 1911 style guns. Any and all advice is appreciated!

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Old 09-07-2011, 02:44 PM   #2
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Wow, where do I start?

You have provided a comprehensive outline of your preferences and a good demonstration of your knowledge of firearms. This makes you, in my mind's eye, a perfect candidate for a life-time of shooting enjoyment.

As I read it, the following are your established criteria:

  • Concealed carry is a goal. (...buying one that will very likely become a CC for me ...)
  • Caliber requirements to satisfy both stopping power and economy of practice ammo. (This is simplified by your positive experience with the .357 Rem Mag.)
  • Revolver or auto-loader. (I am open to both revolvers and semi-autos...)
  • Your budget is <$500. (This eliminates a quality 1911 requiring ~$1K.)
  • You are not opposed to buying a used firearm. This is a valuable asset that will allow you to buy, within your budget, a used Smith and Wesson (Corvette) for the same money as a new Taurus (Malibu).

Your concerns:
  • The .357 Rem Mag report causing hearing loss in a personal defense situation. This is simple, would you rather be dead with good hearing or alive with the possibility of diminished hearing? That's a no-brainer to this old man!
  • Auto-loader safety with one in the pipe. Will you carry a revolver with one cylinder empty? The SA 1911 auto-loader was designed to be carried in condition one. Cocked, locked and ready to rock! This is something you MUST become comfortable with. If you are afraid of your carry piece, you should NOT be carrying!
  • The complexity of the auto-loader vs the revolver in cleaning/maintenance functions. This is a myth! They are equal in requirements. Another myth is the lack of maintenance required on "some" auto-loaders over others. If you don't want to clean your (the royal you) gun, don't shoot it!
  • Another falsehood is the assumption that a particular gun is superior due to military/law enforcement use. NEVER confuse quality with quantity, think low-bid!

Two suggestions based on your requirements: (I own both and they are vintage firearms with a storied past.)

Wheel Gun

The S&W model 19 Combat Magnum or equivalent, a .357 Rem Mag that allows you to practice with the less expensive .38 Special target loads.

My 1970 S&W M19-3 I purchased for <$400.





This is my favorite range gun. Wicked accurate, fun (and cheap) to shoot.






Auto-loader

My 1989 Belgium/Portugal 9mm model of the Browning Hi-Power (P-35) I purchased for <$500.



I am a big advocate of the Colt 1911. I have shot the .45 ACP well for quite a long time. I looked down on the 9mm for years as a PD carry caliber until I checked the BHP off my bucket list. It was love at first hammer drop and when my shot placement efficacy jumped by a magnitude with this steel framed 9mm, I had a paradigm shift in my caliber thinking.



This gun has become my EDC and one I trust my life with!

I bought both these guns using intellect as opposed to emotion. That effort has paid big dividends!
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Old 09-07-2011, 03:10 PM   #3
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A quality .357 Magnum revolver is the basis for a well rounded gun collection. A 3-4" stainless double action Smith and Wesson K or L frame is hard to beat.

Models 65, 66, 681, 686

Any of these are available for reasonable cost on the used market. There is little that can be done to mess them up.

For a semi-auto pistol, don't discount the 9mm. They are cheap to feed, easy to shoot well, accurate, reliable, high capacity and good stoppers. Shot placement is the key to stopping an adversary. A well placed shot from a 9mm will be as effective as the same shot from a .40 or .45. It is just easier to place the 9mm in that spot over and over. I carry a large caliber handgun, but would not feel undergunned with a good 9mm and good ammo.

Glock, Springfield, Smith and Wesson, Beretta, Sig, HK, FN, and others make quality 9mm's. Most can be found in the used market for decent prices. Police trade ins in 9mm are very good bargains. I have never seen a worn out 9mm from any of these manufacturers.

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Old 09-07-2011, 07:48 PM   #4
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Quote:
I would like this handgun to be something I can still shoot regularly for fun at the range and to hone my skills at using so reasonable ammunition cost and availability is somewhat important.
That spells 9mm.

Quote:
I absolutely want stopping power that will work on bad guys hyped up on drugs.
And that spells 12 gauge autoloader with extended magazine, loaded with buckshot. Seriously, all major handgun calibers are anemic when compared with rifle rounds and shotguns. The one-shot-and-the-bad-guy-flips-over-backward pistols are strictly for the movies. Shot placement is key, and if at first you don't succeed...keep shooting!

Quote:
The Glock 23 looks interesting and is one I have been considering - simplicity certainly makes me comfortable with doing maintenance on it, but I've heard some criticism over their lack of a traditional safety and the fact they're a plastic gun though I place a large amount of trust in them due to law enforcement use. I've sort of been considering a 1911 .45 ACP style semi-auto as well, but I'd want a DA since the SA requires you to have the gun cocked at all times with a round chambered (Which leads me to believe I'd possibly want a Para). I'm not too well knowledgeable on the 1911's so I'm not sure who offers what in that regard. What would most of you think on a standard sized 1911 for EDC? I'm also curious to the "Glock clones" if you will that are made by some of the other companies that may perhaps offer different features that would improve upon some of the Glocks negative traits while maintaining their positive traits.
Glocks are fine guns, as are the Springfield XD and Smith & Wesson M&P (Glock "clone") series. They're extremely reliable, accurate (especially within defense parameters) and they fall in your price range.

When it comes to carrying with one in the chamber, I'll borrow a line from Rooster Cogburn in True Grit: "If it ain't cocked and loaded, it don't shoot." The primary safety for any firearm is between your ears. The primary physical safety for a carry handgun is a good holster, with a good gun belt. That keeps your gun secure, in place, and the trigger covered. If you ever need to draw your gun, the last thing you want is to have to manipulate something small and complicated. The safeties on a 1911 and Browning Hi-Power are doable — the direction you move the lever to disengage the safety works with the action of bringing the muzzle level. The only other safety I (personally) am willing to put up with is a grip safety. Even then, you need to practice "dry" drawing a lot to make sure you get your grip right every time. If you obey the "four rules" and keep your finger off the trigger until you're on target, you won't need a safety at all.

You've already gotten some excellent advice. I'm sure there will be more forthcoming. Meanwhile, why don't you stop by the Introductions section and tell us a little about yourself?

Looking forward to hearing what you decide is the best gun for you and to reading your first range report — don't forget to take your camera with you!
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Old 09-07-2011, 08:38 PM   #5
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Canebrake really knows his stuff... and pretty much nailed it. the only concern with that particular Smith is that it might not be too easy to conceal, but you can't go wrong with either choice. Personally I prefer revolvers, but I really like the M&P line of autos, my mom and stepdad have one each and I love it.

One big piece of advice that always gets spouted off and is very true, is that you should handle and shoot as many as you possibly can and get the one that your most comfortable with. And also like Canebrake said, you have to be comfortable with your carry piece. If your afraid of it, ditch it and get something different, or practice with it until it becomes an extension of your arm.

Whatever you get, practice, practice, practice. Even a .22 or an air rifle can wear out a new shooter at the range, so your not practicing only for accuracy but also for conditioning.

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Old 09-07-2011, 08:52 PM   #6
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LOL! he said Glocks negative traits When you think of Glock, its nothing actually negative; it comes down to personal preference

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Old 09-07-2011, 11:46 PM   #7
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Wow, thanks for the responses everyone - quite helpful. I still have some questions and concerns though. Regarding a .357 Magnum - my first and foremost hobby is home audio stuff, I collect vintage stereo equipment and speakers so I'm much more obsessed with audio and music than most people are. I have my lessons on hearing loss from my father who sold stereo stuff and played it loud and now has ringing in his ears which he tells me rather regularly drives him crazy. I exercise a great deal of caution when listening to my music and in regards to noises in public places - and it seemed to me that the .357 Magnum was perhaps excessively loud compared to some different sized rounds. I would prefer to maintain my hearing and know that in a situation I'd need to use it, there would be no time to hold my ears or put earplugs in. I'm still quite sensitive to loud sounds so I haven't been dulled to them as I know some people have who are exposed to high volume sounds regularly. To me, knowing the gun is so loud when fired without ear protection would probably contribute to the aforementioned fear of the gun you're carrying which would render it much less useful to me - but I will attempt to get my hands on a .357 Mag at the local range and try shooting it with no protection once to see how loud it really is.

It was my impression that a .40 S&W or .45 ACP would while having less stopping power than the .357 Mag still be quite sufficient at stopping the other guy and not being so deafeningly loud when shot with no ear protection - though I know .22s are about the only gun you can really shoot without ear protection relatively safely (All guns can cause hearing loss, I know that). My other concern with carrying a revolver is a more real world consideration - since there are no (to my knowledge) internal hammered .357 Magnums they will have that large hammer exposed in my holster. I have yet to buy a holster yet but I am thinking of one that goes on the inner side of my pants so the gun is between the inside of my pants and my side so I could throw my shirt over it. Weather here is hot in the summer so this seems like the only good all year round or at least spring/summer holster I could use. I looked at a local gun store, 2" barrels seem too small and the 4"s that I saw looked a little too big and were rather hefty - or at least more so than some of the other pistols I had been looking at. I'm thinking if I did go this route, perhaps a 3" barrel would be ideal?

I was previously of the "Hey I'll get a CCL, then wear it on my belt and it'll be right there for everyone to see" but I've rethought the purpose and as much as that might seem like a macho or cool thing to do (My sights previously would've been set on a 44 Magnum - heh, Dirty Harry and whatnot ) - I don't think it's really smart and I'd prefer to go with a more compact solution that still maintains the power, or to manage to conceal a larger weapon as opposed to carrying it in plain sight. I know that a visible gun will cause fear in some people and will alert any criminals planning something that you have one - which where I previously thought this would deter them, may make them plan something that involves taking care of you before they do their deed (Such as robbing the store or whatever it may be). Better for no one to know you have it unless you need to get it out and use it I figure.

I love the looks and feel of a revolver, but am starting to come around to semi-autos more than I previously had in the past. I can't recall specifics but I believe I saw a Para 1911 calibered in .45 ACP at this gun store for $564 and this was a new gun - so I would like to ask are the 1911 style pistols considered inferior if you are not buying the near $1,000 mark on them? I've heard the cocked and locked thing, so my question is then - how is it expected that one carry a different pistol, like say a Glock? Would one have a round chambered in it as well as that you just pull it out and pull the trigger? I have honestly always assumed that you carried the pistol with you with no round chambered and if you needed to use it that you pulled it out and chambered a round then fired - but I can see in an emergency not having time for this. Again, I'm just curious what in the real world people do regarding this as I don't know anyone locally who does carry concealed to ask. If people carry with a round chambered as a general practice what is it that a 1911 does different that causes concern for people over other semi-autos?

Oh, just remembered - I believe the model of the Para that was at the gun store was a Para GI Express. I want to say it was something like $560 give or take. Now I know there are a million brands, and of course know the trusted brands tend to bring the respect (and prices). Of some of the large but not as well established companies, who should I consider if I did go that route? Again I'm not opposed to used, but it's hard to resist if you're looking at a $550 used gun and there's a $550 new one that has never been used with the potential that both would do what you want and both being fun. On the cheaper vs. more expensive 1911 models, what do you gain from buying say a $1,000 1911 as opposed to a $600 or $800 one? I mean to be frank, I could spend $600 - but that's definitely going over my initial planned amount (Which started at $400 and has worked its way up to $500). I'm the kind of person who tends to buy something like a gun and keep it my entire life unless I just hate the thing or if I end up with so many others (not likely, but I'll allow for the possibility) that I end up not using it regularly. I agree, I would love to own both a .357 Magnum and a .45 ACP - but the costs are simply too prohibitive and to be fair I don't have any real need for more than one good concealed carry handgun, at least not at this point in my life. I mean hey, to be idealistic some day I'd love to own some actual WWII era weapons - P08 Luger, PPSh, StG44, MP40, BAR 1918, M1 Garand, etc. but we're on a whole 'nother level when talking about those, and I'm but a kid in the candy store with big eyes looking at those with empty pockets!

Just wanted to add one thing I have as a merely preferential thing, but I really like the looks of the stainless steel/nickel guns over the blue/black - and I do like metal over the polymer/plastic but don't hate the polymer/plastic stuff. Going on that merely because I like my gun to be visible to a bad guy if I have it out - and otherwise it will be hidden and unnoticeable (Though I realize if carrying in such a way that your gun is possibly visible the black/blue are probably easier to blend in with your clothes unless you're wearing really light colors).

Addendum: I'm still somewhat leery of a 9mm and its stopping power - I've heard lots of mixed opinion about it in that regard. However looking around I see I can get a Beretta 92FS 9mm for $525-$550 which seems reasonable. The model 92FS sounds familiar to me for some reason - is this pistol used by a US military branch? Seems like where I'd know it from but can't be certain.

A few others I hadn't seen in the gun store but am seeing for reasonable prices online so yay/nays on these would be appreciated: FN Herstal .40 S&W @ $550, Ruger SR40 .40 S&W @ $400. Also my brother has an HK USP 9mm for $550.

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Old 09-08-2011, 08:36 PM   #8
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I think you are worrying too much about the hearing loss associated with the .357 magnum. To save your hearing, hearing protection is a must on the range. It isn't actually normal for civilians to have to use a firearm in self defense, it's a case of "better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it". If a CCW holder has to use a firearm once in a lifetime, then they are unlucky, more than once in a lifetime, they are doubly unlucky. If you get into an extended firefight every other day, move somewhere else. What I'm saying is this, use earpro on the range, and if by some chance you have to use a weapon in self defense, it probably actually wont hurt your hearing, unless the muzzle is right next to your ear and you blow an eardrum. As a civilian, the only time I've drawn my gun (other than range practice) was to shoot a rabid raccoon. My ears rang for about an hour.

My hearing is already gone to hell because I was a SAW gunner in the infantry, but I still use hearing pro on the range.

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Old 09-09-2011, 07:14 AM   #9
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I did some more research, from what I'm hearing it sounds like the .357 Magnum (And of course the .44 Magnum) are both rounds that are so excessively loud that fired in a hallway or other place they may be used they will cause severe hearing loss. There's just no way I'd feel comfortable using a gun like that knowing that would happen if I did use it, so carrying it would be useless. Therefore I am totally ruling out .357 Magnum from my decision (And thereby pretty much eliminating revolvers from my decision of a carry handgun as I don't feel satisfied with the stopping power of a .38 Special). This isn't to say I wouldn't still like to have one of these, but it would be a range gun only for me and I'll worry about obtaining one later after I get my carry gun.

So I am now pretty much on the .40 S&W and .45 ACP (And while I prefer these two I won't totally rule out a 9mm). I am much more a fan of the looks of guns in the 1911 style as opposed to the look of guns styled like the Glock and such. I personally would feel much more comfortable with one of these calibers considering the more reasonable hearing damage should I need to fire the in SD to where I wouldn't fear to use them. Again I'm really kind of digging on the 1911 style - are there any respectably well made ones around the $400-$600 range? Also is there anything I need to know about 1911's besides the cocked and locked thing (Which I think I can come around to)? Is there any hope of getting a used Colt or Kimber 1911 or are their prices going to still be far too high for me to consider?

Again, I don't know squat about guns despite what my research may seem to belie. I know the really good guns that are generally approved of on build quality (Like a Colt or Kimber 1911) but am rather clueless about the brands not as well known - such as the GI Express by Para which are right around $500. Do these cheaper 1911's have flaws I should be aware of (Like FTF and FTE's or other issues)?

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Old 09-09-2011, 08:31 AM   #10
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One of the virtues of being a private citizen is:

We do not have bean counters telling us which handgun to purchase. We are allowed to purchase what works for us and not some agencie's budget.
There is a lot of information here. Read it, digest it, and heed it. The years of experience from these gentlemen is something I would not take lightly.

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