Some Considerations when Selecting a Carry Gun


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We live in the golden age of guns. There have never been so many models from so many makers as we enjoy today. Indeed, there are so many that I have trouble keeping up with all of the offerings. With so many options to choose between I am sure that making the wisest choice in a carry gun is a daunting proposition for the average buyer.

To help those who are new to the game, I have put together a list of considerations. If you put these in descending order according to your needs and desires with the most important listed first, it becomes relatively easy to make the gun selection that is best for you.

1. Reliability. To me this is of paramount importance. Any gun that I carry for defensive purposes must go bang every time. I can't live with a gun that jams now and then or that sometimes doesn't go into battery or eject. Unfortunately, you won't know all you need to know about a gun's reliability until you have fired several hundred rounds through it. You can read the reports of others as well as articles in the gun magazines that will help a little.

2. Power. You have to decide for yourself what you are willing to settle for. I have had two friends and one acquaintance each killed by a single shot from a .25 auto. Even so, I wouldn't even think about carrying one. Even a +P .38 spec. is a little too anemic for my taste.

3. Controllability. While power is desirable, so is controllability. If you can't get a quick, accurate second or third shot, you might be well advised to settle for less power.

4. Shootability. This includes how well the gun fits your hand, how well it points for you, how easy it is for you to manipulate. If the gun doesn't feel at home in your hand, you aren't going to be happy with it. If the grip is too large or too small, if the slide is too difficult to retract, if the trigger pull is too onerous, you won't be happy.

5. Size. The larger a gun is, the more difficult it is to conceal and the fewer carry options are available. And it is more liable to be uncomfortable to carry. On the other hand, larger guns are usually easier to shoot well and produce less perceived recoil. Size matters. You just need to determine how much it matters. Personally, I want the smallest gun that I can shoot well.

6. Weight. Some large guns are fairly light. Some small ones are pretty heavy. How much weight are you willing to carry around every day? Generally speaking, the lighter the gun, the greater the perceived recoil with a given caliber. For me, 30 ounces fully loaded is my max. Less is better.

7. Ammo Capacity. How little are you willing to settle for? How much do you need to feel comfortable? I'm marginally comfortable with five rounds. I'm more comfortable with seven or eight. I don't feel a need for a hi-cap gun. (Of course, I have several.)

8. Action type. There is truly something for everybody. You can choose between single action, double action, and double action only (a misnomer, I know). Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Know what they are and select according to your priorities.

9. Revolver or semi auto. Again each has its advantages and disadvantages.

10. Price. The only smart thing to do if you are on a strict budget is to determine what you can spend and get the gun in your price range that best fulfills your listed criteria. Fortunately, there are some pretty fine guns available at budget prices. Just don't sacrifice reliability for a few dollars.

Now all you have to do is arrange your priorities and go buy your gun and don't forget to practice.

Good list. I would add one item.....

If it doesn't "feel right" in your hands, keep looking. Just like you do for shoes. If it doesn't "feel right" you won't want to shoot it as much, therefore you won't become proficient with it. If you're not proficient with it, you may as well carry a ball bat. You can "learn" to shoot almost anything, but most of the time, you can't force a "good fit".

I agree. No .1 is no. 1. If the gun fails to work first time every time everthing else is worthless. And the last is price. I don't pay more just to pay more but if I have to scrimp somewhere it will be on something other than what I may have to use to protect myself or a loved one. I am afraid there are to many people that would recoil at paying 700 or 800 dollars for a hand gun but woud not bat an eye at going in debt to the tune of a couple thousand dollars for a plasma T.V.
Very nice list!

I would add to 4 (Shootability) to ensure that not only does it feel and handle well for you, but to try shooting it in the range first (obviously not the one you're buying as no dealer would allow that -- but to test a gun of same make/model) to ensure that the feel is still to your liking with live rounds.
I like the part about shootablility. I Can shoot darn near anything however there are certain guns that just feel right and shoot better under stress. I like that in a carry gun. Good advice.

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