Choose the Right Pistol
When it comes to choosing a pistol, there are a number of factors you need to take into account. Will it be used for home defense or for concealed carry? Are you interested in using the pistol for hunting or would you like to use it to compete in sport shooting events? If you plan to use your pistol to compete in a specialty sport or competition, you’d do best to check into the specific regulations of that competition and also to see what the top shooters are using and then make your decisions based on that. If, however, you’d just like a handgun to defend yourself, whether at home or when you’re out and about, there are a few factors you should consider before purchasing that first pistol.
1. Determine your price range. Pistols vary widely in price, as you can pick up a decent quality small caliber pistol for under $200 or spend thousands of dollars for a specialty model or a collector’s version. Beware of any too-cheaply priced “bargains” though. Anything offered to you at under $100 may well be stolen or at least be a cheaply made “Saturday Night Special” prone to jamming and misfiring and ultimately of more danger to you and your family than to any potential intruder.
2. Decide whether you’d prefer to purchase a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol. Revolvers, which feature rotating cylinders holding (usually) six rounds, are often recommended to beginning shooters as they can be easier to use, more accurate without the need for tweaking, and are more reliable as they contain fewer moving parts. They are preferred as home defense weapons as they can be stored loaded for extended periods of time, something that may weaken the springs on an automatic. Where automatics have it all over revolvers, however, is when it comes to concealed carry, as they are easier to conceal, usually hold greater numbers of rounds in their magazines (ten is typical), and can be reloaded much more quickly.
3. Choose whether you’d prefer a single action (SA) or a double action (DA) model. This applies to both revolvers and semi-automatics. If you are unfamiliar with firearms, the terms “single action” and “double action” can be a bit confusing, as they refer to the actions performed by the pistol and not the user. If you use a single action pistol, you, the user, will actually have to perform two separate actions, one to cock the hammer and another one to release it as you pull the trigger. A double action pistol will perform both actions with a single trigger pull, but may require a great deal of force for that pull. Most double action models can also be operated in single action mode, except for newer models which are double action only (DAO). The best thing to do before purchasing any pistol is to arrange to fire a few test rounds; this can often be done if you purchase from a firearms dealer that is attached to an indoor or outdoor firing range. Many such operations maintain a stock of rental pistols so you can experiment with more than one type of handgun.
4. Figure out the size of the pistol you’d like to purchase. A longer barrel may allow for greater accuracy and performance, but will be more difficult to conceal. If you are looking for a pistol to carry with you, take into account the method in which you’d like to carry it, such as a shoulder holster, a belt holster, an ankle holster? There are even a variety of purses, fanny packs, backpacks and briefcases that double as holsters. Be sure to choose a gun that you will be able to carry (or store) in whatever method you prefer.
5. Select an appropriate caliber. Larger calibers have greater stopping power, but may lead to greater amounts of recoil, thus making the pistol more difficult to fire, especially for someone unused to weapons. Again, it is best to spend a little time on a firing range experimenting with different types of weapons before determining which one works best for you. Even if you find you decide, for reasons of ease of use or budget, that a .22 is your best bet, you can certainly do enough damage with one of these to anyone who is close enough to do you harm.