Latest Reader Question (Jan. 23, 2018)

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Here is the latest reader question, along with my reply:

Brandon asks: I know firearms aren’t exactly the domain of this site, but I value the opinion of you and your readers. I shot a gun for the first time recently, and now I have to learn the intricacies of this industry to buy my first firearm. I fired a .45 APC Glock, and though it was fun and exhilarating, I progressively got worse and worse with my aim as time went on. The trigger seemed to get harder to pull and my grip on the gun was getting worse and worse. I tried a 9mm Glock as well and the recoil didn’t seem much different to me. Next time I’m going to try a gun without a trigger guard. Anyway, I was wondering, which brand(s) is the “Toyota” of this industry, and which is the “GM”?Also, 9mm, 40, or 45? Just your preference and experience.

My reply: I’m hoping others will jump in because I’m far from an expert on guns. But, I am a gun owner and will give you my opinions, for what they’re worth.

First, there is a learning a curve – very much as there is with cars. Starting with a .45 (regardless of brand) or even a 9 mm is arguably “too much” for a new shooter. As you’ve discovered, the .45 especially can be difficult to shoot accurately, consistently, because of the recoil. The gun tends to pitch up after each shot.

I’d recommend learning to shoot- becoming proficient at shooting – with a smaller caliber pistol such as the excellent .22 Ruger (I have one). It is kind of like learning to ride on a 250 CC bike except you will not outgrow the Ruger. It is a fun gun to shoot – and .22 ammo is cheap – so you’ll be inclined to shoot more often.

Once you’re ready for a larger gun, you will want to test drive several. Again just like a car. There are small and large frame guns of all calibers, single and double stack, revolvers, different triggers, etc. Visit a good gun shop – one that has a large selection and a knowledgeable staff – and tell them your deal, ask them for advice. They will – they should – let you handle a variety of different guns, to get a sense of how they feel in your hand, their weight and so on.

This will help you narrow things down.

As far as brand recommendations:

I personally love my SigSauer .45 pistol. It is exceptionally accurate and – to me – a work of art. But it’s a big, heavy gun – with powerful recoil. This is ok for me because I’m a pretty big guy and I lift weights so my hand/grip strength is good. Sig also makes the same basic gun in 9 mm and other calibers. These are, however, top-of-the-line guns and priced accordingly.

I also have some very reliable, well-built smaller guns that are not works of art but are great deals and also easy to manage. One of these is a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver; a snubbie (short barrel/small frame). This is a rock-solid reliable gun that is very safe to carry (almost no chance of accidentally firing it) and also inexpensive – about $320 brand new. It makes an excellent “carry” gun as it easily fits in a pocket or other concealed place. Mine has a “hammerless” profile for just this purpose, so the hammer does not get caught on clothing, etc. This gun also has good stopping power – cops used to carry .38 specials very much like this one.

Another gun I’ve had for years and like a lot is my Bersa Thunder .380 – basically, a copy of the famous Walther PPK. It  is also a good (reliable) gun that can be used to carry purposes, though the .380 (9 mm “short”) doesn’t have a lot of punch. But definitely better than nothing.

Now it’s time for others to chime in!

. .  .

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Not to be considered advocating mindless saaaaaafty, I also prefer a mechanical safety on any semi-auto. I sometimes wonder how anyone thought (thinks) having the only safety built into the trigger is all that good an idea. I wonder how many police shootings begin because one had his finger on the Glock’s safety/trigger combo and twitched. Once a single bang is heard, everyone wants in on the act so some poor bastard takes 21 rounds.

    Having had my own 1911 pointed directly at my naval by a novice after a first shot also has led me to recommend revolvers, perhaps even single action revolvers, for folks who will not put in a lot of practice. A single twitch on her part would have led to this response never being posted. She never should have the thing pointed there in the first place, but beginners make mistakes, and the single action would have made it less likely to end in my demise.

    Also remember that a missing magazine is not a guarantee that there won’t be a bang. I got a sweet Hi-Standard Supermatic Tournament real cheap after the owner pulled the magazine, pointed the muzzle down, and pulled the trigger. The bullet entered the top of his foot and exited between his toes. His wife made the transaction after dropping him off at the emergency room. I do not advocate a magazine disconnect on a defensive pistol, but do not object to one on target or recreational weapons.

    I also endorse the Ruger Mks as good starting points. They have that mechanical safety I prefer, low recoil, low noise, and reasonable price to buy and shoot. I have even speculated that the .380ACP is a suitable, low recoil, alternative for a carry gun. Not everyone is as cowardly as I am, but if I see one of those pointed at me, see a flash, hear a bang, I am making tracks just as fast as if it were a .45.

    • My father had a 1917 model S&W .45 revolver. You had to shoot .45 ACP with speed load clips to keep the shell from wedging in the cylinder. My older brother lifted it a week after my father died, and denies that it ever existed. To bad for him, the stupid fucker left the 6 speed load clips in the gun safe, doh! When confronted he just gets hostile, likely he has already damaged it trying to fire the .45 ACP without any clips.
      He also made our High-Standard Double-Nine .22 revolver disappear. I hope he chokes on both or shoots himself with it. I could shoot a crow from a tree at 50 yards with that Double-Nine, as accurate as Ruger .22, which we also had.

    • ARYLIOA, when you say mechanical safety, you are referring to the tab that holds the slider in place?

      That Ruger Mk seems rather large. I’m looking for sort of an all-in-one solution. Something to have on my person, in my car, and next to my bed. The Ruger (SR?)22 which has been recommended here seems nicely sized. Of course, it has an external hammer, while the MK has an internal one. I’m curious about opinions on those too, and people’s preferences.

      Over the coming weeks, I am going to rent and shoot my short list: the Ruger Sr22, the Springfield XDs 9mm, (or the XDE 9mm if I can find that), the S&W MP Shield 2.0 9mm, and the Sig P320 NITRON CARRY or Compact.

      • The external safety actually locks the firing mechanism in some manner, varying with the design of the gun. A few revolvers carry one, but it is more common on semi-automatics. Generally it can be flicked off with the thumb of the firing hand. Trigger-finger activated “safeties” do not perform in the same manner. They prevent discharge if the gun is dropped, but not much more. But not if a 4-year old picks it up, or the trigger snags on a button as you are holstering it. Do a search for “Glock Leg”.

        External hammers are a mixed bag. For a defensive weapon, one I am going to carry, I prefer one. It is rare, but occasionally a cartridge will not fire. Often, it is due to a problem with the primer not receiving sufficient blow to make it ignite. With an external hammer, it is a quick operation, one handed, to try again. Often, that will fire the round. Without an external hammer, the only choice is to use both hands to cycle the action and bring a new cartridge into the chamber. Some striker-fired pistols will allow a second try because they have “double-action” trigger mechanisms, some will not. On many large caliber weapons working the slice takes some amount of effort, and always takes time that might be critical.

        The XD-S has neither the external safety nor the exposed hammer that I prefer in a carry gun. The MP Shield does have an external safety. Look at pictures. It is the small tab/lever in the upper rear corner on the left hand side of the pistol. The SR22 has both, and except for the minimal caliber if you want it as a carry gun, I would recommend it highly, especially for a novice shooter. Like I said in my earlier post though, anyone with any brains will flee a .22 as quickly as he will flee a .45. But once in a while there is the guy who just needs a big hole in him to stop him. But it is still my choice out of the list since once experience with handling a firearm is gained, moving up will come naturally.

        Eight’s suggestion of ear muffs is also high on my list. My ears ring constantly ever since my group of idiots shot our Ruger Super Blackhawks back in the ’60s without ear protection. That’s 50+ years of a nuisance that could have been avoided.

        • ARYLIOA, thanks for the food for thought. A lot to digest. Sorry about your hearing. That is a valuable lesson. I mean, I can’t understand people when they talk anyway, but I don’t want to make it any worse.

          “since once experience with handling a firearm is gained, moving up will come naturally.”
          I put a lot of emphasis on this first choice, because I don’t want to become addicted to buying guns. Certain friends of mine are. They own dozens. I have those addictive tendencies with other things already. Though I suppose I could sell when I feel like moving up, I know I won’t. 🙂 I get attached to my objects.

  2. Before I tried to get used to anything I’d buy a quality set of earmuffs. Probably, your shots getting worse are an unconscious reaction to the overbearing sound. Just speak to me sometime and you’ll be running to buy a set as I turn my good ear to you and say “Excuse me, could you repeat that?”.

    • 8, I got these fancy noise-canceling headphones just for this purpose. Gunshots are still unbelievably loud though. The movies really don’t give you a good idea at all. So the sound is definitely a factor, but I think most of my problem was the pain of the trigger guard and my sweaty palms gripping the gun harder and harder in an effort to get a good hit/control recoil.

  3. Eric thank for your answer. Thank you Ernie and Anon for your input as well. After doing more research, the opinions in this industry are as bad as the auto industry. One person says a brand is great and reliable, the other says that same brand is garbage. Looking at the websites of these manufacturers, they all say the same things to sell themselves. They’re all reliable, accurate, built with quality in mind, and used by police and military forces worldwide. I wonder which brand is the least crony. Some brands are apparently anti-second amendment since they don’t oppose certain bills in certain states.

    It’s all overwhelming.

    But I guess just like cars, it’s really all about sitting in it and driving it/holding it and shooting it. Ah well, so begins the long journey of finding my first and then financing another expensive endeavor 🙂

    • Hi Brandon,

      Ruger, Bersa and S&W all make good guns in the sense that they are safe to shoot, built well and priced (generally) competitively. You won’t go wrong buying any of them, in terms of those things. The trip-up is buying a gun that is uncomfortable or awkward for you to handle/shoot. That’s why you should handle – and, ideally, shoot – a variety of guns to see what works best for you.

      The Ruger .22 is a really safe bet.

  4. Good advice, start small and good quality like a Ruger 22. Be careful with the double actions. Rookies can pull the trigger and shoot without thinking (I know, that breaks all the rules but I still think single action is better to teach on.) I taught myself western quick draw with a Ruger single six 22, but I’ve been shooting pistols since I was about 6.

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