Whenever I write about firearms, there are lots of technical questions. And because I’m no expert, I often turn to you, the readers, to help answer them. A member of our community volunteered to write a series to help folks who are choosing their first handgun. There are a lot of things to think about when making that decision, so for the next month, Monday will be Gun-Day here at The Organic Prepper blog.
Please offer a warm thank you to Steve Candidus for the first post in this excellent guest series. ~ Daisy
Some Things to Think About When Choosing Your First Handgun
by Steve Candidus
This article is specifically for anyone that might be considering acquiring their first handgun but is unfamiliar with the myriad types and offerings. This should be a good basic guide to get you started. You can always further your knowledge over time and in future articles posted here on The Organic Prepper.
First of all, a handgun is very much a personal weapon. What is best for one person might not be best for another. Although you might choose the same handgun that someone else has you should do so for the same reasons that they did rather than just because they did.
A quick handgun glossary
Some of the things that you will need to consider when choosing a firearm are:
- Intended Use: The first thing you need to consider is the purpose that you intend the handgun. Do you want one for day-to-day or occasional concealed carry or do you intend it strictly for home defense?
- Revolvers Versus Semi-Automatics: Do you want a revolver or a semi-automatic? A revolver, sometimes called a wheel gun, has a cylinder typically holding five or six rounds. They are not called bullets, that is what comes out of the end of the barrel. The complete bullet, powder, and brass or aluminum case is called a cartridge or round. A semi-automatic is flatter in profile and typically holds more ammunition. It fires a bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and extracts and ejects the spent cartridge case from the firing chamber, re-cocks the firing mechanism, and loads a new cartridge into the firing chamber.
- Polymer Versus Metal Guns: This is the material that most of the gun is made of. Polymer, sometimes referred to as plastic, is a very strong and very light material that is used in constructing the frame (the guns skeleton) and its outside covering.Metal guns have an all-metal frame. Some use an aluminum alloy to reduce weight, but all will usually be heavier than polymer guns. The barrel and the slide (the top part that moves backward when fired on semi-autos) on all semi-automatics is metal. Revolvers are usually metal and heavier than autos.
- Caliber: Caliber means the diameter of the bullet that exits the barrel.
- Recoil: Recoil refers to how much backward force the gun will give when you fire it. As with the caliber selection where the more powerful the caliber the greater the recoil, the lighter the gun the greater the recoil will be.
- Holsters: A holster is what you would most likely keep a gun that you intend to carry in. There is a wide variety of types including side holsters – some worn outside of the pants, and others inside the pants. Additionally, there is something called a small-of-back holster (SOB), and even shoulder holsters. What you choose depends on both purpose and even your own personal build.
- Strong Hand and Weak Hand: The hand you hold a gun with is called your strong hand and as you might expect your other hand is called your weak hand.
- Training: Training is very important. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you will be able to figure out how to use the gun when the need arises. If such a situation, you will need to be able to react quickly and instinctively. Plan to spend some time at a gun range to familiarize yourself with your weapon.
I will be discussing each of these categories in future posts, but this is at least an introduction to the language that you will likely encounter when you begin your exploration into the world of handguns.
How will you use your handgun?
The first thing you need to consider is the purpose you intend the handgun. Do you want one for day-to-day or occasional concealed carry? Do you intend it strictly for home defense?
For home defense, you need not consider some of the limitations that come into play for concealing and carrying it daily.
Something that is easy to use and that you will be able to wield even in the dark is good. For that purpose big and bulky is okay and night sights are useful. Night sites are ones that will glow so that you can still see them. They are available on a few guns as manufactured, but are usually something that you can have added by a gunsmith after
you have purchased the gun.
For home defense, either a revolver or an automatic is fine – it’s that personal preference thing.
Another consideration for home defense is the surrounding area. A miss or even a glancing hit that exits an arm or leg can continue on its trajectory and harm someone in another room or even in a neighbor’s house. There is an ammunition called a safety slug that is best for use here. It is powerful enough to stop an assailant, but most often
will not penetrate walls and go where you don’t want it to. Glazer Safety Slugs are the most common. Please consider them for home defense.
For concealed carry, you will want something small enough to conceal and light enough that you are willing to carry it. Automatics are generally smaller, less bulky, and in most cases will hold more ammunition.
Some gun-use philosophy
In either case, remember that your purpose is not to kill, but to stop an assailant. Forget all of that bravado nonsense about shooting even after your attacker has fallen. If his attack has stopped, your shooting should too.
Many people inexperienced with guns think that carrying a gun only makes a person reckless and looking for a fight. The truth is just the opposite. With most people, carrying a gun makes them more responsible, less aggressive, and less likely to escalate an otherwise dangerous, but avoidable confrontation.
There should be no backdoor that you won’t run to, no window you won’t climb out of, no fight you won’t run away from to avoid escalating a confrontation when you are carrying a gun. You have a bolt of lightning in your hands. You want to do everything possible to avoid having to use it.
Remember that if you kill a person you cannot undo that. If you do when it wasn’t absolutely necessary, you will have to live with it for the rest of your life. Stopping them is the goal.
When it comes to home defense though the rules change. You are now defending both yourself and your family. For home defense, the rule is that no one gets past you to do harm to your loved ones. You are the last line of defense between them and the bad guy.
In all cases remember that you don’t shoot to kill. You shoot for you and possibly your whole family to live.
Be on the lookout next Monday when we talk in more detail about the specific types of guns. ~ Daisy
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