Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Hand Gun Selection Criteria

The perfect handgun would be light, compact, fit your hand well, be very accurate, quite, hold lots of high powered rounds with a lot of knock down power, but not have much kick/recoil.  Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect gun for all occasions.  However, it is possible to select an excellent gun for a given purpose. When selecting a personal handgun, here are some key things to consider. 
A. Intended use - this helps determine the size.
  1. Personal concealed carry - in your pocket, in a purse or on your person.   This calls for a small, light-weight, thin gun with a smooth shape so it can be easily extracted.  Note small guns may not fit larger hands well and the short barrel makes more noise and is less accurate.
  2. Open carry, home or car defense.  For this, you can select a larger weapon that fits your hand well, has more rounds and less recoil than a lighter weapon.  Large guns may not fit smaller hands well, but there are intermediate size guns that are a good compromise.  They are also heavier and a bit cumbersome to carry at times.  For a home protection gun, a safety might be an important consideration, especially if there are children in the home however law enforcement personnel often prefer not to have one as it can delay being able to use your weapon.
  3. Professional Use - Law enforcement needs a Glock 22 or a Smith & Wesson M&P40 Pistol, both 40 caliber, with a small automatic as a backup concealed gun. The backup might be a Glock 27 or an S&W Shield, both of which use the same ammo.
  4. Target practice and recreational shooting only.  For this, you need a 22 Long Rifle (LR) pistol which is the most common and lowest cost ammunition.  The stainless steel Ruger Mark III is a good choice for this. There are also some revolvers with interchangeable cylinders so you can shoot 22 LR and 22 Magnum; a good example is the Ruger Single Six #0626. This provides for a low cost 22 LR target pistol and a higher powered 22 Winchester Magnum pistol with some suitability for personal defense making it a dual purpose gun. It is also a lot of fun to shoot a gun like the ones that won the old west.
B. Frequency of use - This determines whether an Automatic or Revolver might be best.
  1. Semi-frequent - If the gun will be shot, cleaned and oil several times per year, an Automatic is an excellent choice. It holds more rounds of ammo and is faster to reload.  Automatics are the top choice of law enforcement for their primary gun although some hot, humid, tropical countries still carry stainless steel Revolvers.
  2. In-frequent -  The gun is likely to be initially shot a few times, but then probably put away and not shot, cleaned nor oiled for years.  A stainless steel Revolver can be stuffed in a purse, sock drawer or car glove compartment and left for years and it will not rust or jam up and will still shoot reliably. In this case, the ammo is more likely to fail unless you have chrome or nickle plated bullets like the Hornady Critical Defense and Critical Duty or Winchester Silver Tips.  Brass and steel casings will oxidize and are a little more likely to cause a problem in Automatics than Revolvers.

A revolver can shoot the first load of ammo faster than an Automatic in skilled hands, but the Automatic is faster for the average shooter.  The Revolver is slightly slower to reload, even with speed loaders but is slightly more reliable although many would disagree.  

C. Size and strength of shooter - This helps determine the caliber.
  1. Small build & hands, weak arms suggests a 22 Magnum, 25 caliber, 32 caliber or 380 pistol.  The 380 is popular for women shooters. These sizes do not kick much but also do not have much knock-down power, so it is likely to require several shots to stop an attacker. There are some revolvers with interchangeable cylinders so you can shoot 22 LR and 22 Magnum; a good example is the Ruger Single Six #0626.
  2. Medium build & hands, average arm strength, allows the shooter to carry a more powerful gun.  Consider a 38 special, 380 or 9mm, which is the most common caliber globally. These have about a 60% probability of a one shot stop, so two shots per attacker should be planned.
  3. Large hands, strong arms.  The largest and most powerful calibers become an option here.  Consider a 357 Magnum, 40 caliber, which is the most common police caliber in the US, or the 45 caliber that was the most popular for many years and is still common.  These three have a 70% to 90% probability of a one-shot stop.  Note that a 357 Magnum will also shoot 38 special ammo for lower cost target practice. You might consider larger calibers if you select the larger, heavier gun, or consider a smaller caliber if you are selecting a smaller gun and don't like a gun that kicks.
The most common handguns used by law enforcement where the agency buys the gun is the Smith & Wesson 40 cal M&P and where the officer buys the gun, the most popular choice is a Glock, often a Glock 17 (9 mm) or a Glock 22 (40 cal). These two brands probably represent about 80% of the law enforcement weapons. These would be my first choices for an open carry, home or car defense gun, providing it will be shot, cleaned and oil several times per year.  If it is likely to be locked in my car glove compartment for years, I would select the S&W 686+ stainless steel Revolver

Let's look at a good choice for a concealed carry gun for a person who is not a regular shooter.  Below is a stainless steel Smith & Wesson 38 special Revolver, also known as a snub nose Revolver.  Many police officers carry this as a hidden backup gun. A Smith & Wesson Shield would be a good Automatic choice. A small gun is better than no gun at all and a gun that is too big to carry comfortably is likely to be left at home and worthless.  So it is better to err on the small comfortable side.

Cheaper than Dirt, a good source for ammo, guns and supplies, published a list of popular concealed Automatic weapons that can be found at: The 12 Best Concealed Carry Guns. These guns range from $230 to $994 with several in the lower price range.  There is also a list of runner up guns that are good candidates including Kahr Arms which I respect.  One concern I have with this list is that it contains a few gun brands that I've had problems with; problems like frequent feed jams (Automatics) and cracked frames.  I'm a big fan of stainless steel guns so they don't rust up when stored for years without being cleaned and oiled.  I also highly recommend that you go to the shooting range to rent and shoot the gun of choice to be sure you like it, BEFORE buying it. This will help avoid buyer regret later on. 

If you get an Automatic handgun, I recommend having at least 4 magazines; two that are kept loaded and two spares that are "resting" the magazine spring.  Then each time you go shooting, rotate your active magazines with your spares so the springs do not get worn out. If you choose a Revolver, I suggest four speed loaders but you can keep them all fully loaded at all times since there is no spring to wear out.

In summary, the selection of a personal carry handgun should consider a range of properties and select the best combination for you.  The graphic below explains the relationship fairly well.

I would be anxious to hear any suggestions or considerations that have been missed, so please post any comments or questions you may have.

For more information see:
The right amount of Ammo 
Terrorist Attack - Best Preparations 
Gun Free Zone Facts