“In a world of uncertainty, we provide the certainty.” Our mission statement at Mayhem Solutions Group.
Providing certainty to the general population may mean a variety of things, such as firearms training and the proper handling of firearms. Our certified instructors will provide you with the knowledge needed to properly handle the weapon, as well as tear down and reconstruction of your personal firearm. Becoming comfortable with the weapon you carry each day is of most importance. Things to consider when choosing your first handgun:
Determining Your Needs
Why do you want a handgun? The answer to this question will determine many of your new gun’s characteristics. If concealed carry is your goal, you’ll want a gun that is short, small and light, while one for home defense may be larger and heavier. Understand that no one gun can do everything well. While there are a few double-duty handguns suitable for both home defense or concealed carry, it’s best for new owners to determine their handgun’s single most critical function and let that guide the selection.
Choosing Between a Semi-Automatic or a Revolver
Two types of handguns are widely relied upon for self-defense: semi-automatics and revolvers.
By far the most prevalent are semi-automatics, also called self-loaders, which use the gas pressure generated when a cartridge is fired to cycle the gun’s loading mechanism. First, the slide moves rearward, which in turn, ejects the empty case and cocks the firing mechanism. When a spring returns the slide forward, it feeds a fresh cartridge into the gun’s chamber from a detachable magazine, which may hold anywhere from six to 20 rounds. There are various types of semi-automatics, but all share the same advantages over the revolver: more rapid reload-ability, greater cartridge capacity and, for citizens with carry permits, a thinner, more concealable profile. Compared to a revolver, however, the semi-autos may be a bit more complex to operate. The beginner will need more practice to gain and maintain proficiency. Also, the semi-automatic is potentially less reliable than the revolver, and shooters with limited hand strength may find slide retraction and magazine loading difficult. Finally, while the semi-auto functions best with ammunition of a certain power level, the revolver digests everything from light target loads to heavy defensive loads.
Selecting the Proper Caliber
Next is the selection of the caliber of your defensive handgun—that is, the exact cartridge it is designed to fire. This choice is critical, as it determines both the level of recoil you’ll have to manage and the effectiveness of the handgun/cartridge combination in a defensive situation. Caliber choice also influences gun size; a 9 mm Para pistol, for example, can be made smaller and lighter than one for the physically larger .45 ACP.
In general, as bullet diameter, weight and velocity go up, so do cartridge power, recoil and effectiveness in a defensive situation. Thus, 9 mm Para is not as powerful as the .40 S&W, which in turn is bested slightly by the .45 ACP. Also, each cartridge is offered in a variety of loads featuring different bullet weights and types at different velocities. The beginning handgun will usually shoot faster and more accurately with one of the lower-recoil cartridges suitable for self-defense—such as the .380 Auto or 9 mm Para in semi-automatics or .38 Special in revolvers—than with more powerful choices such as the .357 Magnum or .45 ACP. Remember, shot placement is more important than sheer cartridge power.
Once you have established a preference for a particular gun type in a specific caliber, your best bet is to test-fire that model. Various makes and models of guns of the exact same type—say, medium-frame 9 mm semi-automatics—will differ widely in how they operate, feel, handle and shoot. It’s important to experience all that firsthand.
Test-Firing Potential Candidates
The first thing to consider during your test-fire session is safety. Applying lessons learned from personal contacts or from a basic pistol course, is the gun easy to operate safely? Are safety or decocking levers positioned within finger reach, and are they easy to manipulate? Integral safety locks, available on some guns, may be worth considering as they may foil inquisitive children, but they can be a hindrance if the gun is needed to meet an immediate threat.
Reliability is the most important characteristic of a self-defense arm. Test any gun under consideration with at least 50 rounds of defensive ammunition. Semi-autos should be scrutinized for their ability to feed, fire and eject with a wide variety of loads. Also, the magazines should load securely, then drop freely when released.
The Final Decision
Finally, if the gun is to be carried, does it conceal well in a pocket, purse, fanny pack or holster? When you practice drawing it—unloaded, of course—does it catch on your clothing? Does its weight cause your clothes to bulge or droop? When the decision boils down to multiple viable alternatives, make the final choice by considering other factors: finishes, options, reputation of the manufacturer and the specific model. Price is another important factor; one can expect to pay from $350 to $750 or more for a new, high-quality handgun. But it’s false economy to let a concern for saving a few dollars heavily influence the choice of what will be a lifetime—and possibly life-saving—investment.
References: NRA First Time Buyers Guide