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Trillhouse
Dec 31, 2000



Ceros_X posted:

Also worth noting that while muzzle breaks are good at keeping muzzles down and steady you can also feel it in your chest when you shoot and people around on the range can definitely tell when you're firing.

Combo devices don't really do any one thing well from my experience and the A2 flash hiders that are ubiquitous are actually pretty good at being a flash hider. If you're going to get a suppressor (and not directly thread it on to the barrel) then you'll need a compatible mount - most of these are available in a muzzle break or flash hider configuration.

Muzzle breaks/comps kick up a lot of dust if you're shooting from prone too. I agree that the plain 'ol A2 is the best option unless you need a silencer compatible device or a serious competition shooter.

They're just kind of obnoxious and my local range actual segregates them to one side of the range lol.

Do those compensators that people put on their gucci Glocks actually do anything? I know they make a huge difference in Open class USPSA, but those guys are shooting super hot ammo. Could an average shooter with a comped 9mm Glock actually take advantage of the difference.

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poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Trillhouse posted:

Do those compensators that people put on their gucci Glocks actually do anything? I know they make a huge difference in Open class USPSA, but those guys are shooting super hot ammo. Could an average shooter with a comped 9mm Glock actually take advantage of the difference.

Regardless, they put more weight at the end of the barrel which should *in theory* keep the muzzle down. I keep meaning to ask some of the Roland Special gang if they notice any recoil difference between 124gr +P ammo and standard-pressure 147. Theoretically the former should make more gas and run the comp better.

IIRC even Steel Challenge Open division guns, where there's no requirement for Major pf, will still have comps. Whether they do anything on a pistol shooting light steel loads or not, I don't know.

MantisClaw
Jun 3, 2011


poopgiggle posted:

Regardless, they put more weight at the end of the barrel which should *in theory* keep the muzzle down. I keep meaning to ask some of the Roland Special gang if they notice any recoil difference between 124gr +P ammo and standard-pressure 147. Theoretically the former should make more gas and run the comp better.

This what's been reported to me by my friends that own them. There is some noticeable effect even with 115gr practice ammo but you see more performance with hotter loads.

eonwe
Aug 11, 2008



Lipstick Apathy

Thanks for the tips folks. I signed up for a 1 on 1 gun safety course from someone that seems to be pretty well reviewed. When we do the range portion he is going to let me try a variety of pistols and see if I have a preference.

Jack B Nimble
Dec 25, 2007




Soiled Meat

Literally was going to make a dumb joke about how a cute elephant can't shoot a gun until it finishes its milkshake and now someone gave you something else, sucks.

I was also going to congratulate you on getting some time with a trainer, that's very responsible and cool of you.

Internet Wizard
Aug 9, 2009

BANDAIDS DON'T FIX BULLET HOLES



eonwe posted:

Thanks for the tips folks. I signed up for a 1 on 1 gun safety course from someone that seems to be pretty well reviewed. When we do the range portion he is going to let me try a variety of pistols and see if I have a preference.

Just keep in mind the advice in the OP about how your initial impression of what feels right/good is probably going to be wrong. A good trainer should help you navigate that a bit and get a better understanding of what "right" should actually feel like. Holding a handgun properly is weird.

eonwe
Aug 11, 2008



Lipstick Apathy

Jack B Nimble posted:

Literally was going to make a dumb joke about how a cute elephant can't shoot a gun until it finishes its milkshake and now someone gave you something else, sucks.

I was also going to congratulate you on getting some time with a trainer, that's very responsible and cool of you.

Oh, elephant is back. I was buying a gangtag to get it uploaded to SA's servers, so then I could set it in the text section

Internet Wizard posted:

Just keep in mind the advice in the OP about how your initial impression of what feels right/good is probably going to be wrong. A good trainer should help you navigate that a bit and get a better understanding of what "right" should actually feel like. Holding a handgun properly is weird.

for sure, that makes sense.

Trillhouse
Dec 31, 2000



eonwe posted:

Thanks for the tips folks. I signed up for a 1 on 1 gun safety course from someone that seems to be pretty well reviewed. When we do the range portion he is going to let me try a variety of pistols and see if I have a preference.

Sick. That sounds like a perfect situation. Have fun!

Thermopyle
Jul 1, 2003

...the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. —Bertrand Russell



How do I find and pick good beginner pistol training/classes/instructors? How do I evaluate such a thing before choosing one?

MantisClaw
Jun 3, 2011


eonwe posted:

Thanks for the tips folks. I signed up for a 1 on 1 gun safety course from someone that seems to be pretty well reviewed. When we do the range portion he is going to let me try a variety of pistols and see if I have a preference.

Good job. Be sure to ask questions especially if you don't understand.

Captain Log
Oct 2, 2006

Captain Log posted:

"I AINT DYING! Choo choo motherfucker!"




Thermopyle posted:

How do I find and pick good beginner pistol training/classes/instructors? How do I evaluate such a thing before choosing one?

Mantis did an excellent write up, I think. But I cannot remember where....

MantisClaw
Jun 3, 2011


I got you.

Thermopyle posted:

How do I find and pick good beginner pistol training/classes/instructors? How do I evaluate such a thing before choosing one?

Reposting the conversation that last time this came up in the general thread:

poopgiggle posted:

Here's the instructor bio page for a quality, regional-level shooting school that I've trained at in the past: http://tdsa.us/instructors.php They don't have much of a national profile but are well-respected in the area.

Here's the stuff on there that would tell me, as a prospective student, that they are a quality institution:

- Competition shooting background for most instructors. Indicates that they can at least shoot well.
- List of outside training taken from other instructors. Indicates that they're focused on continually improving their own skills.
- Several Tom Givens instructor development course graduates on staff. Indicates that, at the very least, someone taught them how to teach, and that someone was Tom loving Givens.

tl;dr do they have verified shooting abilities? do they have verified teaching abilities? legit instructors will have both and will proudly give you their credentials.

e: the Powers school's instructor credentials aren't very impressive. You can basically get NRA Handgun Instructor creds in a box of Cracker Jacks. At least they've been to Thunder Ranch, which is a well-respected school.

Proper Kerni ng posted:

You can often get a broader picture of how a school/trainer is regarded by former students (and how they present themselves to prospective students) by searching for their name along with "facebook"/"tumblr"/"twitter"/"youtube", et cetera; a lot of places that have good reviews show their rear end on social media as fudds or chuds, and some places that get negative reviews address them in a way that makes it clear someone was slagging on them for reasons unrelated to the quality of their training.

MantisClaw posted:

I checked out the triple threat website and I'm not impressed. The photos and video they're using for promotional material all show outdated techniques and practices. The only thing they offer other then what appears to be state required generic CCW stuff is an 'Active shooter class' which is a pretty big jump. Most places will want to start a new customer in a core fundamental class to vett them before letting them jump into a course they may not be ready for. I've seen way to many people who thought they were awesome crash and burn because they never knew what shooting under pressure was like.

As a general rule I avoid people who use the term 'Tactical' in their course description. It's usually an indication that they're trying to pull the 'operator' marketing lever to fill classes and it attracts people who are trying to LARP the cool guys. Another indicator is a meaningless resume padding. I don't need to know that you qualified Expert 20 years ago, or every mandatory department training you attended. Like poopgiggle said look for them attending national level schools or instructors. NRA certs are meaningless unless that's specifically required by law like my state.

I break training down into three categories:
Skill Development: The class is focused entirely on the shooting. The goal here is to become as proficient as possible so you can achieve 'unconscious competence'. If you've never been to an instructor before, you should probably start here.
Problem Solving: This is a class where you spend more time thinking then shooting. Injured shooter, vehicle CQB, shoot house, and even some competitive shooter classes all can develop your ability to think with a gun in your hand.
Validation: This is where everything comes together. Force on Force, scenario training, shooting a match, anything where you're tested against other people at speed. This is where you get to see where everything falls apart and what you need to work on.

Order of priority for me when looking to travel for a class:

1. Is what they teach relevant to my skill level and lifestyle. If I CCW, I should probably be taking more handgun then carbine classes. Even if I don't plan to shoot long range on a regular basis, I may still choose to take one as it will give me greater understanding on how to run a carbine.

2. Can they explain what they teach. Anyone can parrot information but it takes understanding the material to be able to break it down and explain it to someone who doesn't get it on the first try. 'Shut up and do it' methodology only really applies in organizations with rigid hierarchy. Granted there may not be time on the line to go over things in more detail but most good instructors will take the time during lunch or breaks or afterward to sit down and try to help you understand whatever you're having trouble with.

3. Experience with other styles then their own. Do they attend other classes? Have they tested various methods to see what works the best? Have those tests been validated through metrics (targets, shot timers, real world situations)? This is where it may be advantageous to take a course from someone who is not a naturally talented shooter. Someone who has had to sweat blood and tears to get to where will have tried multiple paths to get to where they are. Someone with natural talent and practice may only know THEIR way but don't know the coaching cue you need now simply because they've never been there.

4. Can they shoot. Do they demo. Note that demos don't have to be at full speed, but there should be at least one person on their staff who can show you what right looks like. That being said, if they do shoot demos, look at the instructor not the target.

5. Background. Generic LEO and .mil experience means nothing to me. Same with combat deployments. Likewise XX years of competitive shooting. If they want to provide that information it should be relevant. Sniper, SWAT experience, HSLD operator types , A Class and above standing in USPSA or equivalent. That being said make sure their background is appropriate to the class; A pure USPSA shooter probably shouldn't be teaching room clearing for example.

Listen to the community. Find out who travels outside your area for training and listen to what they say. If they seek out the same stuff you're interested in, give those instructors a shot. You can learn something from every class even if it's what not to do. In the end everyone is teaching the same thing. How to get there is where everyone differs.

Thermopyle
Jul 1, 2003

...the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. —Bertrand Russell



Awesome, thanks.

ParadeRainer
Jul 2, 2019


Hello thread, I'm in California and going to make my first gun purchase. I have settled on something in 9mm so my wife will be able to handle it more easily. It's mostly for self-defense but also just to take shooting because it is incredibly fun. I'm not super newbie when it comes to guns but I've never owned or bought one either. Looking at the thread it seems like a G19 is recommended as a first purchase but I have shot my brother-in-laws and am not a huge fan. My dad has a Springfield XD that I did like a bit more than the Glock. That being said I do realize I'm an idiot when it comes to these things so I was hoping for some recommendations. Trying to keep it around 6-700$ but could be convinced to go a little higher if its worth it.

MantisClaw
Jun 3, 2011


I'd advise against the XD if you're looking for a self defense handgun. They have tendency not to hold up well when subjected to high rounds counts in a compressed time period.

Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics keeps records of what guns show up to his classes and their issues and the XD doesn't have a great reputation. If you are dead set on Not-A-Glock, and granted, the California roster might limit what you have available to you, there are other options out there such as the Sig P320, HK VP9, S&W M&P 2.0, and Walther PPQ to name a few that are in the same price range while being higher quality.

If you can afford to do so, I'd recommend getting some formal training from a reputable instructor. Most instructors will have loaner guns and gear and having a solid skill foundation will help you make more informed purchasing decisions.

Tyler Whitney
Jan 21, 2020

Why don't you make it sing?


I don't think any S&W guns are on roster other than the Shield as they refused to send them in to certify them.

flightless greeb
Jan 28, 2016



Just FYI and rather unfortunately the SIG P320, HK VP9, Walther PPQ and S&W M&P are all off roster in CA meaning the only way to purchase them is used, through a private party for typically about double retail value.

Glocks (Gen 3 only) are on roster. Some models of XD are also on roster, although I believe only the older variants which have the worst reliability reputation.

Not as advice but as a fellow Californian I faced this same obstacle years ago. I ended up settling for an HK USP as I first started learning on DA/SA triggers rather than striker fired guns. If I had to make the choice here again, I'd probably buy a Glock despite my general dislike of them.

Captain Log
Oct 2, 2006

Captain Log posted:

"I AINT DYING! Choo choo motherfucker!"




If you buy a Glock and don't like it, you still have a Glock. The same cannot be said of a lot of starter guns.

Taurus. I'm talking about Taurus. gently caress Taurus.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-02-28/how-defective-guns-became-the-only-product-that-can-t-be-recalled

ParadeRainer
Jul 2, 2019


Yeah there are lots of guns I've seen recommended here and elsewhere that aren't on the list for California (cool, cool, cool). What about a Sig Sauer SP2022, or a CZ P-O1? Just in general, compared to the G19. I know Sig Sauer has a really good reputation, and I hear great things about CZ as well. Thank you all for the help too, this is more overwhelming than I thought, with the amount of things out there and the amount of things not for me in California.

flightless greeb
Jan 28, 2016



Both of those guns are DA/SA which takes more practice and training to become proficient with than striker fired guns like a Glock. If you're down to do the work or you're not initially super serious about defensive use then I won't discourage you, that's the route I went after all. I didn't start keeping a gun loaded in my house until I'd finished a competition season and felt intimately familiar with the reliability, controls and trigger of my USP

As for the particular guns, the SIG you mentioned is their budget option from a decade ago before they invented the P320 and has very little to recommend it besides price. The CZ on the other hand is a good gun, although for strict home defense and range use I'd personally prefer the full size SP01 to the compact P01. If you're planning to carry it or have smaller hands then things might be different.

MantisClaw
Jun 3, 2011


flightless greeb posted:

Both of those guns are DA/SA which takes more practice and training to become proficient with than striker fired guns like a Glock. If you're down to do the work or you're not initially super serious about defensive use then I won't discourage you, that's the route I went after all. I didn't start keeping a gun loaded in my house until I'd finished a competition season and felt intimately familiar with the reliability, controls and trigger of my USP

As for the particular guns, the SIG you mentioned is their budget option from a decade ago before they invented the P320 and has very little to recommend it besides price. The CZ on the other hand is a good gun, although for strict home defense and range use I'd personally prefer the full size SP01 to the compact P01. If you're planning to carry it or have smaller hands then things might be different.

Another thing to consider is that supporting equipment for a SP2022 will be much harder to source then the CZ. Holsters, mags, all that stuff adds up over time.

Cyrano4747
Sep 25, 2006



As a tip any time you’re looking at a newbie gun look and see what the holster selection is like. Compare that to something stupidly common like a glock.

It doesn’t tell the whole story but it’s a good litmus test.

ParadeRainer
Jul 2, 2019


Ok after reading through the read some more, and looking at other sources it looks like a G17 or G19 is kind of my best bet as a first handgun purchase. Relatively cheap, easy to find ammo and accessories for, but also very reliable and will last forever. Thank you for your responses, I'm sure I will be back with more questions in the near future.

flightless greeb
Jan 28, 2016



Feel free to hit up the CA gun thread also if you have any questions about our labyrinthine laws or want advice about gun stores and ranges also. What part of the state are you in?

ParadeRainer
Jul 2, 2019


Oh cool, I will do that. I'm in Southern California, more specifically Riverside County.

poeticoddity
Jan 14, 2007
"How nice - to feel nothing and still get full credit for being alive." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five

ParadeRainer posted:

Ok after reading through the read some more, and looking at other sources it looks like a G17 or G19 is kind of my best bet as a first handgun purchase. Relatively cheap, easy to find ammo and accessories for, but also very reliable and will last forever. Thank you for your responses, I'm sure I will be back with more questions in the near future.

As a quick binary: If you might ever carry it, the G19's easier to carry. If you know it'll never be carried, the G17 has a longer grip, longer sight radius, and more mass (which means less felt recoil).
Outside of CA, G19 mags hold 15 rounds while G17 mags hold 17, but you're restricted to 10 in either case, IIRC.
G17 mags will fit in a G19, but G19 mags won't fit in a G17 because they're not long enough.

There's also a Glock thread, if you find yourself wanting to ask Glock-specific questions.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




The last couple minutes of this video have an interesting description of why handfeelies are a bad metric for choosing pistols: https://youtu.be/mvODnCPs6fM

Captain Log
Oct 2, 2006

Captain Log posted:

"I AINT DYING! Choo choo motherfucker!"




I have a “hand feel” question.

Where does ability to manipulate controls, or the “fit” of the gun, fall into everything?

I normally thought it was wise for a gun to fit a persons hand, but I could be full of poo poo.

poeticoddity
Jan 14, 2007
"How nice - to feel nothing and still get full credit for being alive." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five

Captain Log posted:

I have a “hand feel” question.

Where does ability to manipulate controls, or the “fit” of the gun, fall into everything?

I normally thought it was wise for a gun to fit a persons hand, but I could be full of poo poo.

I've shot a match grade air pistol where my hand physically would not fit the grips properly, and that would have been brutal if it'd been something with any recoil because a narrow rib that was supposed to sit along the bottom of your hand was dug into my palm.
A friend of mine is too short to rack the pump on a shotgun while keeping it shouldered.
It took a lot of practice and finding a new strategy before my mother could rack the slide on a Glock because she doesn't have the grip strength for the normal approach.

There's some obvious anthropometric limits that should inform choices in firearms, but the "gun A feels more comfortable in my hand prior to shooting than gun B" should be lower down the priority list than a lot of new shooters typically put it.
A gun could be ludicrously comfortable in your hand, but if you're not gripping or pointing it correctly, you're going to shoot poorly and potentially reinforce some terrible habits.
I've gotten slide-bite because I was trying to hold an undersized gun comfortably instead of correctly. Lesson learned.

californiasushi
Jun 6, 2004


poopgiggle posted:

The last couple minutes of this video have an interesting description of why handfeelies are a bad metric for choosing pistols: https://youtu.be/mvODnCPs6fM

i also agree with him that that those slim 9's are harder to shoot. i actually moved away from the sig p365xl + shield rms to a glock 26 + rmr because the double stack grip is easier for me to manage recoil with since i can get more left hand grip pressure on it. hard to tell just by holding them though

ThinkFear
Sep 14, 2007



Trillhouse posted:

Muzzle breaks/comps kick up a lot of dust if you're shooting from prone too. I agree that the plain 'ol A2 is the best option unless you need a silencer compatible device or a serious competition shooter.

They're just kind of obnoxious and my local range actual segregates them to one side of the range lol.

Do those compensators that people put on their gucci Glocks actually do anything? I know they make a huge difference in Open class USPSA, but those guys are shooting super hot ammo. Could an average shooter with a comped 9mm Glock actually take advantage of the difference.

Some work better than others, but you are going to know it's there, yeah. 10-8 did a good video comparing Glock comps if you're interested:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-nVK1s3AxE

NickBlasta
May 16, 2003

Clearly their proficiency at shooting is supernatural, not practical, in origin.


Captain Log posted:

I have a “hand feel” question.

Where does ability to manipulate controls, or the “fit” of the gun, fall into everything?

I normally thought it was wise for a gun to fit a persons hand, but I could be full of poo poo.

How you determine "fit" is the problem, usually it means "this gun feels good to me", or "this feels weird" which are useless. They're double useless if you already regularly shoot handguns. Whatever you're used to is comfortable, if you use a gun that feels weird it will soon feel normal.

Unless you're a child, zerglingminor, or physically disabled (left handed) you should be able to main any mass market handgun.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Guide to choosing a defensive handgun

One of the most intimidating things you'll have to do as a new gun owner is pick a handgun. Everyone on the Internet has their own opinion on what the best gun is (usually the one they have), the guy behind the gun counter is probably less interested in what's best for you than he is in his bottom line, and YouTube/Instagram shillspersonalities can't be expected to disclose any conflicts of interest due to sponsorship, etc. So how do you pick a handgun?

NOTE: One source of reviews I can wholeheartedly recommend is Patrick E. Kelley's Box to Match review series. He's a verifiably good and experienced shooter who buys pistols with his own money and then puts them through both accuracy and speed-shooting testing.


One thing: I was going to put a glossary here defining things like "hammer fired" and "manual safety" but I decided not to. You're a grownup, and you can google those terms yourself. Their definitions are uncontroversial so there's little danger of being steered wrong if you google "define DA/SA."

The first question you need to ask yourself is what am I getting a pistol for?

As they say, mission drives the gear train. What is this pistol going to do? If it's a pure home defense pistol, then a full-size duty pistol chambered in 9mm is probably what you want (and be sure it has a rail for a weapon-mounted light). If it's going to be a dedicated concealed-carry pistol, then you may wish to look into something from "compact" on down. As you read this guide, keep your use case in mind.

Which caliber do I pick?: Choose one of the major service pistol calibers if possible. Those include 9mm Luger, .40S&W, .45ACP, and .357Sig. Some people would include 10mm in there but I think that's a meme caliber for collectors. 9mm Luger should be the default. Quality defensive ammunition in 9mm Luger reliably meets the standards promulgated by the FBI and International Wound Ballistics Association (IWBA). 9mm cartridges are smaller in diameter than the other major duty calibers so more of them fit into a gun of the same size. Recoil is lower, as is ammunition cost. Choosing one of the other calibers isn't a huge disadvantage; the extra recoil of 40 S&W or 45ACP isn't a big deal if your technique is good. The biggest issue is extra ammo cost. If you decide to pick up a police-surplus 40 S&W Glock for cheap, just remember that the extra ammo cost for 40S&W might make it more expensive in the long run.

Calibers smaller than 9mm like .380ACP, .32ACP, or even rimfire calibers like .22 Magnum, are the domain of deep concealment guns (defined below).

There are also larger pistols chambered in these smaller calibers, such as the S&W Shield 380 EZ, Beretta 85F, etc. People with compromised hand strength (from arthritis or similar) might benefit from a pistol like this.


Let's talk about the different categories of handguns and what they're for. There isn't really a standardized industry terminology (hence why I won't tell you to just Google it like I will for terms like "striker fired.")

There are pistols that won't fit neatly into these categories, of course; these are just meant to classify pistols broadly based on use case.

Duty Pistols: These are "full size" handguns intended for open carry by military or law enforcement, or home defense for non-sworn civilians. Generally speaking, they are easiest to shoot well, but their size might make them impractical for concealed carry. Examples include the Glock 17, full-size M&P 2.0, Beretta 92, etc.

Compact Pistols: By this, I mean pistols that are smaller than full-size duty pistols but still large enough to get your full hand on the gun. The most
well-known compact pistol is the Glock 19. This terminology isn't universal; for example, the M&P 1.0 Compact is closer to what I'd call a sub-compact. But in this article when I say "Compact" I mean "roughly comparable in size to a Glock 19." Pistols in this size range will usually perform well in both a home defense and concealed carry role, though they will be a little harder to shoot accurately than the duty pistols (because the shorter barrel length means a shorter sight radius) while being harder to conceal than the various smaller pistols. For a first pistol, I personally wouldn't go any smaller than this category. Smaller guns are harder to aim, and they recoil harder. It will be easier to build good fundamentals on a bigger pistol.

Subcompact Pistols: These are double-stack handguns that are much smaller than duty pistols, and generally too small for an average adult to hold with all their fingers wrapped around the grip. The Glock 26 is the most well-known example. IME they aren't much easier to conceal than compacts, while being a little harder to shoot well.

Subcompact Single-Stack Pistols: These are roughly the same in barrel & grip length and subcompact, but they are thinner to make concealment
easier. They use single-stack rather than double-stack magazines because single-stack magazines are thinner. However, they are still chambered in duty pistol calibers (9mm, 40S&W, .45ACP) like their larger brethren. Examples include the M&P Shield, Glock 43, and Ruger LC9. Some pistols straddle the line between "subcompact single-stack" and "subcompact," namely the Sig P365, because their size is comparable to subcompact single-stacks but with the capacity of regular subcompacts. What differentiates these from deep concealment guns (IMO) is their chambering in a full-power duty round and their ability to accept sights similar to duty-style pistols. While some people use these in roles traditionally reserved for deep concealment guns (like pocket carry), I personally see these as too big for that. For me, they're for times when I can wear a gun on my waistline but a bigger gun might be impractical (for me, it's when I'm wearing BJJ gi pants on the way to the gym).

Deep concealment guns: These are smaller pistols that are designed for concealment over all other considerations. They are almost always chambered in
something smaller than 9mm (.380 ACP or smaller), almost always have very poor sights, and usually have triggers that are difficult to shoot well. All of these things are sacrifices in the name of concealment, and it may be worth it depending on your use case. These guns will fit in pockets (with a pocket holster), will ride in holsters clipped to gym shorts or pajama pants, and other non-standard carry locations. Notable examples include snubnose revolvers (S&W J-frames, Ruger LCR), and small automatics chambered in .380 or smaller (Ruger LCP, Beretta Tomcat, etc).

Pistol features

There are some features that you may wish to have on a pistol depending on your use case:

  • Accessory rail: essential for mounting a light, which you need to do if your pistol is going to be used for home defense. Remember the gun safety rules from the OP? The only way to "be sure of your target" in the dark is to illuminate it. And while you're at it, make sure the light you buy is as bright as possible; a very bright light allows you to illuminate someone/something without pointing your gun at it. Note that some pistols have aftermarket rails available (like the Surefire MR11 for the Beretta 92) but the good rails are $100+ so you're probably better off shelling out for an upgraded model with an integrated rail.
  • Laser: generally these are only recommended for deep concealment pistols with difficult-to-use sights. Aftermarket lasers are available for most popular models, but some are also available from the factory with a laser. I'd consider a laser a "nice to have" rather than a necessity.
  • Manual safety: mandatory on SAO guns, but some folks like these on striker pistols (if a Striker Control Devices isn't available for it) because it provides an extra level of safety while reholstering. The downside is that you need to practice more so that you unconsciously deactivate the safety every time you draw. I competed with my 1911 for years but, after a long layoff, I'm not consistent with deactivating the safety.
  • Optic mount: also known as "optic ready," like the Glock MOS. These pistols have an adapter system that allows you to mount a slide-mounted optic, such as a Trijicon RMR, using an adapter plate instead of having a gunsmith machine the slide to accept an optic. In general, slide-mounted optics make it easier to shoot quickly & precisely at distances of 10 yards and greater. I've also found them to be valuable training aids, since they make errors in your trigger control very obvious. Now that some of the less expensive optics (like the Holosun HS507c) are receiving good reviews from dudes like Steve Fisher, it's cheaper and easier to get into them than ever before. If you have the budget, definitely consider getting an optic, but I'd consider it to be a "nice to have" on a civilian defensive pistol. That said, slide-mounted optics certainly appear to be the wave of the future, so I fully expect to have to eat my words when they're ubiquitous in a decade.
  • Removable sights: I talk about sights a bit later, but some pistols don't have the ability to easily change sights, e.g. many models of the Beretta 92. This is the exception rather than the rule for duty pistols but is pretty common on deep concealment guns. In general, dovetailed slots for sights are preferred but in the deep concealment class this will usually come at a significant premium.
  • Trigger system: I mean DA/SA, SAO, DAO, striker-fired (which is basically just a bad SAO trigger in practice), etc. I honestly don't think it matters which one you pick.

Your individual use case should allow you to narrow your decision down to a pistol that fits into one of the above size categories, and has required/desired features. Once you've done that, you can try to compare different handguns that meet those criteria. I'm going to base this on Mike Seeklander's REAP standard. REAP stands for Reliability, Ergonomics, Accuracy, and Power, and they're listed in order of importance. I'm going to add some notes at the end about economics because it ends up being somewhat important. These standards are for comparing pistols of similar size and purpose.

Reliability: The gun needs to go bang, every time. Your handgun could be custom fit to your hand and shoot .5" groups at 50 yards but neither of those
things matter if it jams every other magazine. Fortunately, most all modern service semi-automatics (Glock, S&W M&P, Sig P320, etc) should meet any realistic reliability standard. Check my post on reliable defensive shooting information sources for people who are generally counted on to give neutral reviews on handguns and who will honestly report reliability issues.

One aspect of reliability is required maintenance. Older designs (looking at you, 1911s) generally need parts replacements more often than modern designs to stay reliable, but they all need regular care to function well. The handgun you choose will have a maintenance schedule just like your car; keep track of how many rounds you fire and perform spring/part replacements at the recommended intervals. If, in the words of Ken Hackathorn, you're going to "treat your pistol like your lawnmower" and just use it without maintining it, get a design with longer maintenance intervals rather than shorter ones. Generally speaking, smaller pistols will require more frequent maintenance than larger pistols.


A word about revolvers: One of the most persistent pieces of gunshop Bro Science "wisdom" is that revolvers are infallibly reliable. This is absolutely
not
the case. Anyone who hasn't had a revolver gently caress up on them and break hasn't shot revolvers a lot. I've personally had a bullet jump a crimp and lock up my J-frame; fixing that involved hammering the bullet back into place, while trying to avoid pointing a loaded gun at myself. It sucked. I've had bad rounds jam semi-autos too, but never badly enough that it required tools to fix. Ejector rods are known to unscrew and lock poo poo up also. Carbon fouling will build up on the cylinder and, if you don't clean it off, will drag against the forcing cone. After many rounds, the timing of the clockwork doodads inside the revolver will go out of time and require a gunsmith's attention to re-time it. This isn't to say that revolvers are unreliable! I'm just saying that buying a revolver doesn't get you out of maintaining your gun.

Ergonomics: Ergonomics is defined as the ability to reach the controls so that you can properly operate the pistol. It's as simple as that. Ergonomics is emphatically NOT what "feels best in your hand." I would personally define the minimum ergonomic standard as the following:

  • With a full firing grip, can you pull the trigger straight to the rear? If you can't, the grip is too big around (or possibly too slim) and you either need to look at a different pistol or change the grip circumference somehow (either with different grip panels, different backstraps, or some kind of grip modification service from a gunsmith).


    On the left is what you want. On the right is a problem. (stolen from

    this article
    )

  • With a full firing grip, can you deactivate the safety (if applicable) with your firing hand without breaking a full firing grip? If you plan to carry with a pistol that has a safety, and you're going to carry with the safety on (mandatory on single-action pistols like 1911s, optional on DA/SA guns like the Beretta 92), it's a no-go if you can't quickly deactivate the safety.

  • Does the gun hurt/injure you when you fire it? Ideally, obviously, the gun will not injure you when you fire it. For example, larger-handed shooters often report the web of their hand getting nicked by the slide when firing certain pistols (a phenomenon known as "slide bite). If something like this happens to you, either figure out a way to remedy it (for example: Gripforce adapters for older Glocks, or installing a larger backstrap on newer Glocks) or choose a different pistol.
  • With a full firing grip, can you activate the slide release without breaking your grip? Reloading the pistol by hitting the slide release is objectively faster than racking the slide, so being able to reload that way is preferable. However, reloading in a gunfight is so astronomically rare for non-sworn civilians that it's not the end of the world if your reloads take an extra quarter second.
  • Can you work the magazine release without breaking your grip too much? Not breaking it at all is ideal but slight shifting is acceptable. If you find yourself fumbling with the gun when trying to reach the magazine release, look into a different pistol, reduce the grip circumference, or try to find an extended magazine release. NOTE: the old euro-style heel magazine releases (like on the Beretta 92S) are generally not preferred.
  • If you're left-handed, can you work the controls? Does the pistol have ambidextrous controls? You can work around a lack of ambi controls; the guy who taught me how to shoot is left-handed and he hits the magazine release on a Glock with the middle finger of his firing hand for example. However, not having to use workarounds is better IMO.

I used the term "full firing grip" a lot. If you don't know what a full firing grip is, it is a very good idea for you to take shooting lessons so that you know what that is before you spend a lot of time and money on renting pistols.


A quick word about handfeel: I define "handfeel" as some nonspecific "comfortable" feeling that you get when you hold a pistol. A lot of new shooters (myself included, back in the day) buy pistols based on this metric. It has been my experience, and the experience of others, that handfeel is meaningless and shouldn't be considered when buying a pistol. To paraphrase former national champion shooter Chris Tilley, shooting is an unnatural act, and if you do what feels natural to you at first you will end up creating a lot of bad habits.

As the late Todd Louis Green would say, feelings lie.

If you can reach the controls as outlined above, and the gun doesn't hurt/injure you when you fire it, that is all the "handfeel" you need.


Accuracy: This is defined as "mechanical accuracy," meaning the pistol's mechanical ability to repeatably place bullets into the same spot when it is aimed at the same spot by an expert marksman. This can be difficult to judge because as a new shooter you aren't an expert marksman, and TBH most people who review guns aren't expert marksmen either. I would say that a minimum standard of accuracy for a defensive pistol is the ability to print 4" groups at 25 yards with good ammo. Most, if not all, quality pistols will happily do this. Pat Kelley (whose reviews I linked above) shoots groups with pistols he reviews at the end of each video; he can be relied upon to shoot an accurate pistol accurately.

Why is accuracy less important than reliability and ergonomics? Because defensive shootings generally happen at close range where pinpoint accuracy isn't important. All else being equal, more accurate is better than less accurate but you shouldn't sacrifice reliability for it.

When many shooters talk about accuracy, what they really mean is shootability, i.e. how easy it is for a shooter to shoot a pistol accurately. This is more a function of ergonomics than inherent mechanical accuracy. Generally speaking, duty-sized handguns will be the most shootable, with shootability falling off as size decreases.

The most noticeable factors for shootability are the sights and trigger. Unless you're shelling out for an upgraded model that comes with upgraded sights from the factory, like my carry gun for example, you should expect to replace the sights. I would consider availability of quality aftermarket sights from Novak, Heinie, Dawson Precision, Trijicon, Ameriglo, etc. to be a prerequisite for a defensive pistol. More on this under Economics.

The trigger is another factor that affects shootability. Generally speaking, a trigger with a lighter pull weight will be easier to shoot well than one with a heavier pull weight. Some people find that a crisper trigger is better but I personally have more success with a "rolling break" or a double-action trigger. Either way, if you're comparing two pistols that are otherwise equally suited to your situation, a stock trigger you like more may be a good reason to choose one over the other. However, factor in the availability and cost of aftermarket triggers; for example, a Glock 3.5 connector is $12 and can be installed by any competent gunsmith.

Power: This is the least important, especially for a non-sworn civilian user. Per Claude Werner, the goal of a civilian handgun is to allow you to "break contact" and get away from the threat; subduing/apprehending a criminal isn't your job, and shouldn't be your goal. A low-powered "mouse gun" cartridge like .32 ACP can reasonably be expected to allow for a break in contact. If your situation is such that you can only carry a small deep concealment pistol, and a small .380 recoils more than you want to practice with, a .32 is an acceptable solution.

That said, in the "sub-compact single stack" size tier and larger, anyone without a chronic injury or a condition like arthritis should be able to handle a 9mm Luger cartridge with proper technique.

Economics: I define this as total cost of ownership over the time you will spend owning and shooting the pistol. This includes monetary cost, but also time & effort spent finding replacement parts, holsters, etc.

Here's an exaggerated example: let's say I'm looking at the Steyr M9A1. I found a good deal on one locally, it meets all the above reliability, ergonomic, accuracy, and power standards. What economic factors should I consider?

My personal favorite sights are bright front with a rear that is as plain black as possible. For competition guns I like a fiber-optic front with a plan black rear. For carry sights I like either a high-viz front with a plain rear or a high-viz front with a single rear dot. A few minutes on Google found me two kinds of sights for the Steyr M9A1: both are 3-dot tritium sights made by Trijicon. I found some forum threads that say XD sights will work with a little filing, but if you're modifying pistol sights to get them to fit you're either a) not in the target audience of this post, or b) paying a gunsmith. Not being able to find sights I like, or hack together something based on forum threads, is going to detract from my experience owning the pistol.

Next is a holster, which you will definitely need if you're carrying, and will probably need if you take a defensive shooting class. None of my favorite holster makers (Dark Star Gear, JM Custom Kydex, Keepers Concealment) make holsters for Steyr pistols. The only holsters I could find were either the usual poo poo-tier hybrid holster makers (Aliengear, White Hat, etc) and Vedder. Vedder holsters aren't the worst but it's kind of a bummer to only have one decent brand available.

If I want spare magazines, I'm out of luck. The only magazines I can find in stock for the Steyr right now are 10-rounders (standard capacity is 15) and they cost $40. For reference, Glock 19 magazines cost $25 (less for the Magpul aftermarket ones) and are available everywhere. Most shooting classes will require at least 3 magazines, so I'm definitely buying at least one extra for my new pistol.

Like I said, this is a comically exaggerated example but I picked it to clearly illustrate the difficulties and costs of choosing less-common pistols. Most stuff that you see on the shelf at your local gun store will not have aftermarket support that's THIS bad. But if you're thinking of going off the beaten path of Glock/M&P/P320, be sure to search around and make sure that parts & equipment for your pistol are readily available & at reasonable prices.

The king of total cost of ownership is Glock, hands down. Almost anything else will have fewer options for sights and holsters, more expensive parts and magazines, etc. When choosing a non-Glock defensive pistol, compare its ecosystem to Glock's to understand how much extra money & work you'll have to put in. If your pistol of choice is e.g. a S&W M&P then it will be minimal extra expense and effort. If it's something more esoteric like a Grand Power then you might have to worry a bit about aftermarket.


And finally,

A word about the Springfield XD

I cannot in good conscience recommend the Springfield XD. They have a worse track record re: reliability (the most important quality in a defensive firearm) than comparable pistols, and don't have any positive qualities that their competitors don't also have.

These three links are to accounts from instructors who have seen an above-normal level of failures from XDs in their classes:

John Correia from Active Self Protection on the XD
An archive of a Facebook discussion in which at least one instructor shares his anecdotal experience w/ XD failures in his classes
Greg Ellifritz on why he dislikes XDs

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 21:03 on May 9, 2021

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Looking for feedback on the above post before I link it in the OP.

I tried to make it as brand-agnostic as possible, with the exception of trashing the XD because it is trash.

Trillhouse
Dec 31, 2000



poopgiggle posted:

Looking for feedback on the above post before I link it in the OP.

I tried to make it as brand-agnostic as possible, with the exception of trashing the XD because it is trash.

It looks really good to me and there are some resources I hadn't seen before. I appreciate all the work you did.

I don't know if it fits the topic of the post, hell it could probably be a topic in itself, but maybe a section on lights/lasers/red dots? I know a lot of new people are attracted to crimson trace lasers and pretty much every brand is releasing optic-ready pistols now. Might be a good thing to touch on.

Babysitter Super Sleuth
Apr 26, 2012

THERE'S FASCISM IN MY GIANT ROBOT ANIMES


Is it cool if I crossquote that post to the lefty gunthread in C-SPAM? Lotta people in the last few days have expressed interest in buying a handgun, might be a good resource.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Trillhouse posted:

I don't know if it fits the topic of the post, hell it could probably be a topic in itself, but maybe a section on lights/lasers/red dots? I know a lot of new people are attracted to crimson trace lasers and pretty much every brand is releasing optic-ready pistols now. Might be a good thing to touch on.

I've never owned a laser product for a handgun, and while I own a dotted gun (with a couple thousand rounds + a 2-day class on it) I wouldn't say I'm a dot expert.

If someone else wants to do a writeup on dots I'll link/quote it but I wouldn't feel right writing something myself.

Babysitter Super Sleuth posted:

Is it cool if I crossquote that post to the lefty gunthread in C-SPAM? Lotta people in the last few days have expressed interest in buying a handgun, might be a good resource.

yeah go for it.

poeticoddity
Jan 14, 2007
"How nice - to feel nothing and still get full credit for being alive." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five

Babysitter Super Sleuth posted:

Is it cool if I crossquote that post to the lefty gunthread in C-SPAM? Lotta people in the last few days have expressed interest in buying a handgun, might be a good resource.

TFR is usually pretty enthusiastic to help people who are looking to get their first gun as long as there's not red flags in their stated motivations or post history and they're not trolling.

Something that really makes initial "I want to buy my first gun. Help please," contacts smoother is people sharing roughly where they are. Since state and municipal laws vary hugely (let alone international ones) sometimes knowing that info up front can save someone headache down the road. A little bit of geographic specificity can wildly change who chimes in to answer your questions, and that's usually gets answers that are better and faster.

BrianM87
Oct 30, 2006
I keep missing. Are you sure the bullets work?

poopgiggle posted:

Looking for feedback on the above post before I link it in the OP.

I tried to make it as brand-agnostic as possible, with the exception of trashing the XD because it is trash.

I would suggest maybe throwing in that if they are buying a pistol that they intend to use for home defense, buy one that has an accessory rail for mounting a light.

Edit: Nevermind, sat with the window open way too long before posting.

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poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




BrianM87 posted:

I would suggest maybe throwing in that if they are buying a pistol that they intend to use for home defense, buy one that has an accessory rail for mounting a light.

This is a good point. I'll try to think of where it would fit in the post.

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