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poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Welcome to the newbie thread v2.0. You can see the original newbie thread here: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3221380
This post was originally made by I like turtles, then handed off to me for some additions and editing. It contains healthy doses of my opinions and values.

First off:
Trolling, this thread, and keeping it accessible:
Newbies: You have a responsibility to read responses to your question, answer any follow up questions directed at you, and think about any new questions you have. Also, please do not come in here seeking validation for your preconceived notions.

Not-newbies: We occasionally get trolls pretending to be newbies. Assume the best about posters unless it's super blatant. And please, keep your mouth shut if you're not qualified to answer the question. If you find yourself quoting other people's advice, when you don't have any first-hand experience yourself, maybe that's a sign that the newbie thread doesn't need your input.

How this thread is structured

This index post contains general information that all gun owners need to know. It includes safety information, how to lawfully purchase a gun, cultural info, etc.
At the bottom, there will be a series of links to information related to specific types of guns. Read the generally applicable stuff first, then click through to the specific kind of gun you're interested in.

The four rules of firearms safety
This is the most important in this thread. That's why it's here at the top. Many years ago, an influential gun guy named Jeff Cooper codified the Four Rules of firearms safety. Pretty much everyone who has had an accident with a firearm did so by breaking one or more of these rules:
  1. All guns are always loaded. I don't care that your friend says it isn't, even if he just checked it. Check it whenever you pick it up, even if you just put it down. "I didn't think it was loaded" is no excuse after you negligently shoot someone.
  2. Never allow the gun to point at anything you are not willing to destroy. Keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times, whether you're on the range, at home, loading, or unloading. "Safe direction" means "if a bullet shot out of the gun right now, it wouldn't hurt anyone or anything." Make sure to read the section on over penetration.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you have made the decision to shoot.
  4. Be sure of your target and what's beyond it. Know what it is, what is in line with it and what is behind it. Again, see the section on over penetration further down.

In addition to the Four Rules, here are some additional safety items stolen from the NRA's gun safety rules*:
  • Know how to use the gun safely. Know how to safely load & unload the gun, operate any safeties, etc. This will help you follow the above Four Rules correctly.
  • Be sure the gun is in good, safe operating condition. Did you just buy a new Glock at the store? You're fine. Did you just buy an ancient revolver at a gun show? Maybe have a qualified gunsmith look it over before shooting it.
  • Always ensure that ammunition is the correct type for the gun. We'll get into cartridge naming conventions later. For now, if you're not sure what type of ammunition goes in your gun, ask a qualified expert like a gunsmith. The guy working the gun counter at the local big box sporting goods store may or may not be a qualified expert. And as a rule, stick to factory new ammunition. Factory remanufactured ammo should give you pause. Ammo reloaded by an individual, who isn't you, is a straight no-go.
  • Wear eye and ear protection. Many hunters don't wear ear pro while hunting. Many hunters are also deaf as a post, but it's up to you. At a range, always wear eye and ear protection. See the PPE section below.
  • Never handle firearms when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is a no-brainer.
  • Store guns so they are inaccessible to unauthorized persons. Unauthorized persons include, but are not limited to, small children, thieves, and your dumb rear end friends.

*Yes, the NRA's political activities are...controversial, but they also do valuable work in promoting firearms safety, competition, and conservation. Me citing the NRA's safety rules shouldn't be taken as an endorsement of the NRA-ILA's political activities.

Which brings me to "the gun culture."

Note about "gun culture"
There can be a lot of toxicity in US gun culture. Undertones, or even downright explicit examples, of racism, xenophobia, sexism, Nazi iconography, all of the Not Cool Things. TFR does not tolerate that poo poo. TFR is probably a little more on the right on average than the rest of SA, but we're downright commie pinko leftists on average compared to a lot of other gun forums and gun shops. Just remember that despite the subject matter, this is still SA.

Great, let's get to the gun content.

What are guns?
Broadly, a gun is a tool which propels a projectile of some variety towards a target down a barrel by imparting a large amount of energy to it. This might be by burning gunpowder, air pressure, electromagnets, etc.
There are specific legal definitions about what is and is not a firearm in the United States. That may be a little complicated this early in.

What kinds of guns are there?
Broadly speaking, TFR focuses on three types of firearms that use gunpowder to propel their projectiles. There's also the pellet palace subforum which talks about guns using compressed gas to propel the projectile.
Handguns - We can distinguish between "standard" handguns like a Glock, a 1911, a Smith and Wesson revolver, and a single action army revolver (cowboy guns!), and what are legally considered pistols in the US but don't fit into the traditional picture of what a handgun is - things like a CZ Scorpion pistol. In the US, a pistol may not have a foregrip, and may not be designed to fire from the shoulder. Generally speaking, handguns are far more difficult to shoot accurately than a rifle or shotgun.
Rifles - These are firearms with barrels 16" or longer, and an overall length of 26" or more. They have rifled barrels, grooves formed into the barrel that spin the projectile at a particular rate. They are designed to be fired from the shoulder. Classic examples include an AR-15 and a 10/22.
Shotguns - These are firearms with barrels 18" or longer, and an overall length of 26" or more. Generally these smooth bore, meaning there is no rifling in the barrel. The "shot" in "shotgun" refers to the projectiles commonly fired from these guns - more than one metal sphere that fly in a pattern. These are commonly used for bird hunting, and shooting clays. It is also possible to fire slugs. Those are just what they sound like, one large solid projectile. Classic examples include pump action shotguns like the Remington 870, double barrel coach guns, semi auto shotguns like the Benelli M4.

But but but there are so many other things you aren't covering - what about semi automatic revolvers like the Mateba 6 Unica or the Webley Fosbery revolver, or NFA items, or, or, or
Settle down, yes, you know a lot about guns. We're all very proud of you. Yes, there is a wide world of firearms and odd little niches. That is out of scope for significant in depth discussion in the first post of a newbie thread.

What kind of gun should I buy?

A better question is, what do you want a gun for?
Hunting?
loving around at the range because they're neat?
Competition?
Self protection?


Hunting - Generally speaking, birds are hunted with shotguns and mammals are hunted with rifles. However, what you're hunting and where will affect what the best choice is. For example: quail, turkey, and duck are all birds that you hunt with shotguns, but the specific shotgun that's ideal for each will be different. Your local laws might affect this too; for example, when I was growing up in IL, it was illegal to hunt deer with a rifle. It's best to ask in the hunting thread to get specific recommendations: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3474554

loving around at the range - This one has the most latitude. As long as the gun is safe to operate, and you have a range that allows you to shoot it, this can be anything that strikes your fancy. A rifle or pistol chambered in .22 long rifle is a great range gently caress-around gun because the ammunition is inexpensive and it doesn't kick much. Classic examples of these are the Ruger 10/22 (rifle) and Ruger MK IV (pistol). .22s can also be shot pretty much anywhere; most pistol-only ranges will allow rifles chambered in .22 long rifle.

Competition - There are so many different types of firearms competition that it's tough to write a catch-all guide for it. The only general advice I can give is to talk with people who ACTUALLY COMPETE in the sport you're looking to participate in, and ask them what equipment they use. A friend of mine once spent like $1000 having a custom shop build up a fancy Glock to shoot in matches, only to find out that it was all wrong for the equipment rules of the sport. As with many things, the guy at the gun counter of your local sporting goods store is probably not a good source of information here. You can ask competition questions here, or in the dedicated competition thread: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3285367

Self protection - First off, before you start trying to pick a gun for self defense, you need to understand the law governing use of lethal force in your state. Any use of (including brandishing) a firearm, or anything that looks like a firearm, is lethal force. I highly recommend the book The Law of Self Defense by Andrew Branca. You also need to understand that, if you shoot at someone, it is entirely possible that you've conducted yourself 100% morally and lawfully and yet you will still go to prison, and/or go bankrupt from legal fees. It is also possible to cross the line and conduct yourself unlawfully and/or immorally, which will be a tragedy even if you don't face legal or financial consequences. Therefore, it should be understood that shooting (or even pointing) a gun at a person is your last resort. I strongly encourage you to invest in some quality OC spray, as well as some quality training related to verbal deescalation skills and empty-handed self defense skills. Having options other than lethal force is an Unquestionably Good Thing.

As far as the actual guns, it comes down to your use case and your budget. Generally speaking, handguns are worse than rifles and shotguns in every conceivable way except that a handgun is portable, and can be operated one-handed. An obvious example is for protection outside the home: carrying a rifle or shotgun around, even if legal in your area, is both physically and socially awkward. However, even in your home, a handgun might be optimal. Do you have a small child that you'd need to run and grab? Do you not have a safe (and discreet) place to store a loaded rifle or shotgun near your bed? A handgun might be for you in those instances. However, if practicable, a shotgun or rifle is generally better. I won't get too far into rifles vs shotguns for defense in this post, other than: all else being equal, an AR-15 is superior to a shotgun for home defense, but a defensive-grade AR-15 is significantly more expensive than a defensive-grade shotgun. Can you afford $800+ for a quality AR-15? Get that. Otherwise, consider a shotgun. And no matter what home defense gun you get, PUT A LIGHT ON IT. You need to be sure of your target, which means you need to be able to SEE your target.

Now, for some other general gun topics.


My petite partner would like a gun. They're little and cute, so the gun I get them should be little and cute too, right?
Please don't. Mass has a significant impact on felt recoil. An 11.4oz scandium framed .357 magnum revolver is going to hurt like hell to shoot more than a few rounds or cylinders out of. That'll make it suck to train with, and unfun to shoot. Get them something that you'd actually want to shoot more than a couple rounds through. Or, you know, involve them in the process. Just an idea.


Over penetration
Huhuhuhuh he said penetration.
Guns make metal go fast. Fast moving metal tends to go through things. Including walls, into your neighbor's fridge. Or your neighbor. In a self defense scenario, your goal is to dump as much energy into your target as possible while avoiding sending rounds into the parakeet three doors down because they went through your target, or you missed. There are far, far too many factors to say definitively "use this, or terrible things will happen". Shooting somewhere that isn't a controlled setting meant for shooting is inherently dangerous because there are now one or more chunks of high velocity metal doing unpredictable things. If you pull the trigger, you are responsible for that round.
Research such as box o' truth https://www.theboxotruth.com http://how-i-did-it.org/drywall/index.html and http://how-i-did-it.org/drywall2/ indicate that .223/5.56, while a rifle caliber, is a decent choice for a self defense situation as its high velocity and low mass mean it tends to fragment or dump enough energy going through walls that risks to your surroundings are reduced. This is why TFR recommends AR15s for home defense guns. Will this stand up in court because you shot your roommate in the leg from your room into his room because there was a spider? gently caress no. "The internet said it was a good choice" will not save you.


What are the mechanics of buying a gun in the US?
There are often state level laws that come into play.
In the most permissive states in the US, it works like this:
Is the seller a private party that is a resident of the same state you are in, and that is where the transaction is taking place?
Give them money. They give you the gun. Optionally bullshit about the weather or something. Go home, that's it.
Is the seller in another state?
Give them the money. They will ship it to a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder in your area. That FFL will work with you to fill out the appropriate forms. You'll pay the FFL for their time and effort, and you'll take your gun home. There are probably multiple FFLs in your area. It is worth some research to figure out who has that perfect mix of accessible hours, not batshit crazy personality, and affordable transfer fees. Also make sure if they are willing to accept guns from private parties directly, or if they prefer to only work with other FFLs.
It's a gun shop in your state?
They're an FFL. Give them the money. They'll do the form things and send you home. There's usually not a transfer fee for these transactions since you're buying the gun from them.
You're in CA, NY, MA, DC, Chicago
lol, sorry, good luck. You can get into the hobby, but know that your political leadership would really rather prefer that you didn't, and will make it as arbitrarily difficult, convoluted and expensive as they can without getting everything torn down by a successful lawsuit. People here can help.

Don't buy guns for other people
Your cousin Fast Jimmy just got out of jail and wants a gun to protect himself, but can't buy one because of that pesky "felony record"? If you do him a solid and buy the gun for him, that is called a straw purchase. It's also a federal felony. There is a question on the 4473 about if you are the actual purchaser of the firearm. This needs to be true. The only exception to this is when the firearm is intended to be a bonafide gift to another person. Still don't gift it to Fast Jimmy though, as he is a prohibited possessor! If your wife buys you a gun for your birthday, you're probably good. If Jimmy gives you a gift of $500, and you give him a gift of a Glock 19... That's not going to stand up. Especially with that prohibited possessor thing.
Even if Jimmy is a squeaky clean minister who would have no problem legally purchasing a gun on his own, you purchasing it for him is still a federal felony. That's right, two people who can legally purchase guns on their own MAY NOT transfer a gun for the other person.
I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Don't get your legal advice from Something Awful Dot Com Forums
In general, try to avoid pissing off the ATF. Your dog will live longer, and you'll avoid felonies and prison time.

PPE, or how I stopped worrying and learned to love health and safety
Guns are loud. Like, really loud. They're also little explosions in your hand that send crap flying. Mostly in one direction, maybe two - but sometimes, and unpredictably, stuff will go in a new and exciting direction. Or you'll catch shrapnel/ricochets. Wear eye protection. Wear hearing protection. Consider doubling up on hearing protection (muffs over plugs). Use your hearing protection properly.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPNPZJingZA
Consider gloves. Consider sun exposure if you're outside. Passing out at the range because it's 110 and you've been out there for 4 hours with no cover or water isn't a good day.

Guns are dirty and can introduce unpleasant chemicals and heavy metals into your life. Wash your goddamn hands after shooting before you eat a burger or pick your nose. Lead removing soaps and wipes (D-Lead brand or similar) are available, too, and should be strongly considered.

On safety and security
I'm going to do my take on boxes with locks on them for storing guns. I see questions about this from time to time, and I've purchased a new one recently and wanted to share what I've learned.
First things first:
Literally anything is better than nothing, if properly attached to something immovable.
Literally anything can be broken into, with enough time and tools.
There is no perfect security.
Addressed in the first point, but bolt your box down.

Mass market "safes" have a lot of very impressive sounding and very impressive looking security features. They have fancy looking vault door handles in the middle of your door, they have a door that is 10" thick, they are fire rated to survive 48 hours on the sun, they have upwards of 24 3" locking bolts to ensure that the neighborhood miscreants can't steal your Rough Rider BB gun.

Except, that door handle just makes sure you have more mechanical linkages inside the door that can be attacked. That door, while 10" thick overall, is light gauge steel wrapped around a piece of drywall, the rest of it is just covering the mechanism and provides no security factor. The "fire ratings" are tests designed by the manufacturers and performed themselves, or they give the test parameters to a third party who run the test and "independently certify" the safe. Those impressive locking bolts are held on with 1/4 bolts through light gauge steel linkages. There are also often significant gaps around the door, making it easy to get pry bars and crowbars in there. That light gauge steel doesn't hold up very long.

What are the important factors when choosing a safe/box/rsc/whatever?
How thick is the steel? The thicker, the better, and the heavier.
How heavy is the safe overall? If you look at it when it comes off the truck and realize you have 80%+ chance of being seriously injured or dying by trying to move it by yourself, you're on the right track.
How heavy is the door? It doesn't matter how thick the door is, it matters how thick the outer layer of metal on the door is. Does it take noticeable effort to start the door moving, and stopping it, due to the weight? Great!
Are the linkages made of decent, thick steel?
External hinges are not a weakness on a properly designed security container. It should be possible to literally cut them off completely and the door would not come off, because it is secured in place with internal bolts. Internal hinges take up room in the safe, and prevent the installation of fire protection at those spots.
Can you find independent verification of the fire hardiness, and/or does it come with some actual fire protection beyond drywall and concrete board?
Can you bolt it down where you want to install it? If you can, do it in a place where trying to maneuver tools, vehicle access, etc, is extremely difficult.
What are the tolerances on the door and frame? If you can't fit a business card between the door and the jamb when it's closed, there's no way for a pry bar to get purchase.

The downside of all of that? And to real UL rated safes, which operate on much the same principal as the discussion above, just more so?

Let's talk about a firearms security continuum of "how safe" a storage method is. This is my opinion, and I've skipped some things and/or am wrong about some things including ordering.
  • Leaving a gun at a supermarket and hoping it will be there when you get back
  • Keeping your gun in your car, in one of those stupid loving car magnet/holster things.
  • Keeping your gun in your car, under the seat
  • Keeping your gun in your car in a lock box secured to the frame of the car/seatbelt rails, etc
  • Keeping your gun on your nightstand
  • Keeping your gun in a lock box secured to your nightstand
  • Keeping your gun locked in a pelican case secured to something immovable
  • Keeping your gun in a stack-on box (they're basically your high school locker)
  • Keeping your gun in a cheap mass market safe
  • Keeping your gun in an expensive mass market safe
  • Keeping your gun in a cheap boutique maker safe
  • Keeping your gun in an expensive boutique maker safe
  • UL rated safe (aka a "real" safe)
  • Bank vault
  • Bank vault under a volcano
  • Add a team of gently caress off huge ravens to eat the bad guy's eyes
  • Under the ocean? gently caress, you're still reading this, the list is over

What are your risks? Do you live in a lovely neighborhood and you've been broken in to three times previously?
Do you have kids? Do you have friends or family members who may not be entirely trustworthy (drug problems, etc)? Do you want to stop the meth head that kicked in your back door and will be there for three minutes before he runs? Do you have a security system? A dog? Do you want to keep a professional burglar out? For how long?

How do you choose? Well, a decent approach might be to think about the things you want to store in the box, think about the value of those things, and figure 10-15% of that should go to the security of your safe/container/whatever. If you've got a Mosin and a 10/22 with no significant security threats? A stack-on might be fine for your purposes. You've got a few transferable machine guns and a smorgasbord of other expensive stuff totaling $100k+? Maybe look at the $10-$15k range.
Another angle on it is that spending that money on your security should hurt a bit, but not put you in any actual financial trouble. I'm not going to say that everyone needs to have $15k safes or it isn't worth it.
Spend as much money as you like, though. If you want to keep your Hi Point in the deposit safe from the bank down the road that went out of business and you got it for $50 at the auction, go for it.

Also, get safe interior lighting, they have kits/etc on Amazon. Really nice the be able to see into the far recesses of your safe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RlwGkO0hxE#t=147s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltK-bDbADa8#t=112s

Keep an accurate and updated inventory off site of any valuables. Also any items that aren't specifically something with sentimental value and minimal monetary value. Great grandma's silver christening spoon (that's a thing right?) may be worth $5 in silver, but is clearly much more important than that figure implies. Keep a record of that too, of course.

Anyone storing paper documents or paper money in a safe, store them as close to the floor as you can. I've seen some interesting pictures of safes where the pistols on the upper shelf have been really cooked, to the point of melting polymer guns, but the rifles below are just sorta singed looking. You could conceivably put a smaller fire safe inside the big safe for the truly important stuff. Or you could store the really important, irreplaceable, etc, stuff in a safe deposit box at your local bank. Your stuff isn't perfectly safe there either. There are robberies, fires, etc etc that could all hit a bank.

I ended up going with a Sturdy Safe, and I'm pretty happy with it. I upgraded the sides and jambs so the overall thickness is 7/16" steel, and the door is 3/8" steel. I went for the fire liner too, which is a significant amount of ceramic fire wool (like kaowool, the sorts of stuff they use to line forges, kilns, etc).
I also looked at Drake Safes out of NC but liked the features from sturdy a bit more.

There are a lot of gimmicks out there, but when it comes down to it, making a safe is a fairly straightforward proposition. Make a box big enough to hold the stuff you want to hold. Bolt it down. Make the steel as thick as you can afford, in as many places as you can afford it. Good continuous strong welds. Have a good lock. If you want fire protection, put in some stuff that's actually rated at burning house fire type temperatures, like firebrick, or kaowool, etc.
Just because it's straightforward doesn't mean it is easy or cheap, though. All of those things cost money, the labor to assemble big heavy metal boxes is higher than sheet steel getting cut and rolled around drywall.

I don't really want to buy a gun, but would like to try one out
Cool - there are often rental ranges near you. Call around. Go try poo poo out. What looks interesting?
Alternatively, someone you may know could be one of those filthy gun havers you've heard so much about. If you trust them and they're not assholes, ask to go shooting. Chances are they'd be excited to take you.


On "how a gun feels" and whether that should be a concern for new shooters:

BrianM87 posted:

Poopgiggle and Internet Wizard have pretty much said everything I could have. Like them and several others, I started out by buying what I thought was neat. My first modern (Manufactured after WW2) handgun was a Hi-Power, followed at some point by an XD, CZ Phantom, and Glock 19. I have probably 30-40 different handguns at this point but the only ones I shoot consistently are that first Glock 19 and my Gen 5 17. I don't even own the XD or CZ anymore. While owning different guns has given me an appreciation and understanding of how the different actions function, if I could go back in time I would have started with the Glock 19 and just stayed with that for the first several years of shooting handguns. I didn't just arrive at this position either. This came from years of competition, firearms schools, attending and running training classes, and just continuously trying to improve and understand what works and what doesn't. I'm not an expert, I will never claim to be, I just happen to have been given the opportunity to try a lot of different guns in a lot of different situations and environments.

Some of the things that really influenced my first handgun purchases were gun stores saying things like "Glock grip angle is bad/wrong/uncomfortable," "try what feels right," and being harped at that Browning designs were the only true handguns to consider. At this point, any time someone asks me for advice for a first-time buyer I immediately tell them to get a Gen 5 19 with the Ameriglo Agent sights. How it feels to them is irrelevant if they can physically reach the controls and manipulate the firearm as it should be. Some people will argue that if it feels wrong then they wont practice. From teaching police academy recruits, veteran officers, friends, and the general public, I have absolutely not seen this to be true. Someone either has the mindset to practice and improve or they don't. Captain Log, if I recall when you started using a bicycle again it practically brought you to tears from the pain. But you persisted and now you bike what, 1.5 hours a day? So that certainly didn't feel comfortable and yet you did it anyways because you wanted to improve. You had the willingness and motivation to do so. If someone isn't going to practice because the gun feels uncomfortable then there are a million other things that would have stopped them from practicing anyways.

How a handgun feels is objectively not important.


Links to topic specific posts below

A newbie's guide to choosing a defensive pistol EDITED 6/17/20: also check out this great video by LuckyGunner, which is an update to their "handgun recommendations for new shooters" post.

Also valuable information: This blog post from Lucky Gunner was the stand-in until I wrote my thing, along with their "Shooting 101" series. That first post isn't especially complementary to "pocket" pistols, so read this later article on them for a more nuanced view.

Actually, Lucky Gunner is a pretty good source of information on a range of defensive shooting topics. They do a good job of a) getting information from recognized experts, and b) presenting it in an accessible way. They also put the info up in both video and text form.

An intro to blackpowder shooting

A highly opinionated list of quality defensive shooting info sources

MantisClaw wrote this great effortpost on how to grip a pistol. Gripping the thing right is key to shooting fast and accurate.

How do you know if a shooting school is good? Read this. Might help.

If you are a knowledgeable person on a specific firearms topic, please feel free to write an effortpost about it and I will link to it here.

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 01:49 on Oct 13, 2020

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poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Cyrano4747 posted:

Awesome, thanks for this.


taqueso posted:

Thank you pg!


BeAuMaN posted:

Oh that is a nice new OP. Thanks poopgiggle!

I want to be clear that I like turtles did at least 75% of the work so I want to be sure they get at least 75% of the credit.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




CoffeeBooze posted:

For the hunting section you might want to consider including a link to the hunting thread. Hunting rules and regulations define so much of how the hobby works and they vary a ton from state to state. A brief post on the topic is probably just going to get confusing. Anyone thats interested can find pretty good help in that thread from general info to details about their local laws and customs.

good point.

done.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Added to the OP, thank you!

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Center Axis Relock is stupid and, to my knowledge, no one credible teaches it anymore.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Good information sources for defensive shooting

This started off as a post called "Defensive Pistol Shooting 101," but I realized that I was just linking videos that well-known instructors had put on YouTube. I thought it would be a better use of everyone's time to link good information sources.

A plea to get training and practice

Please get professional instruction. Please. This isn't like The Matrix where you download technique from blogs and youtube and "I know Kung Fu." There is no substitute for having an experienced professional demonstrate good technique to you and then give you live feedback. There is also no substitute for practice.

The information here is intended to be a supplement to those things, not a replacement for them.

A word about education vs infotainment:
The list of youtube channels, blogs, etc below are heavily weighted towards folks with verified shooting/teaching credentials. I don't really give much consideration to entertainment value. For example, I find GarandThumb to be entertaining but I haven't found his channel to give me any information that's improved my shooting.

  • Mike Seeklander: Mike is a USPSA Grand Master, professional shooter, and well-known instructor. His videos are short, to the point, and clearly convey good information. They are also completely un-entertaining, so they get comparatively little attention from the Internet at large. If you want quick videos about how to grip a pistol or how to pull a trigger, Mike's your guy. His "Your X Training Program" book series is also very good if you want a ready-made training program to get gooder at pistol shooting.
  • Lucky Gunner Lounge. Here's Part 1 of their "How to shoot a semi-automatic pistol" series. Chris Baker has a solid base of shooting technique, but his real gift is making quality shooting content that is also accessible. One of their best-known contributions is their handgun ballistic testing data, which is about as good as YouTube-tier ballistic testing gets.
  • Scott Jedlinski, aka Modern Samurai Project. Master-class USPSA shooter, known for techniques for shooting pistols with slide-mounted optics and appendix carry. I personally found his AIWB draw videos helpful. His poo poo is also short, to the point, and relatively devoid of fluff.
  • Ernest Langdon: another pro shooter and noted Beretta fan. IIRC he was the first USPSA Production national champion; he's also won IDPA nats a time or two. Good instruction on the hows and whys of DA/SA triggers generally.
  • Claude Werner, the Tactical Professor. I am well aware that the folks I'm listing here cater towards people who are willing to devote a lot of time, effort, and money to developing a high level of shooting skill and acquiring high-end gear. Not everyone has the resources or inclination to do that. Claude Werner's niche is finding guns and gear that are workable, and affordable, to average people, and releasing skill-building material for people with access to common indoor range facilities.
  • ShootingTheBull410 is a ballistic testing channel. You, as a new shooter, will spend ENTIRELY too much time worrying about which defensive ammo to use. You will spend too much time looking at gel test data, comparing expansion diameter, penetration depth, etc. Compounding this problem is that there are a bunch of yahoos on the Internet who either make up their own bullshit testing protocols (like Paul Harrell) or who have single-round sample sizes and unknown gel calibration (tnoutdoors9). ShootingTheBull410 at least calibrates his gelatin and has a sample size of 5 or so. He's about as good as the "backyard ballistic testers" get.
  • Primary and Secondary: if there's a polar opposite of Claude Werner, it's Primary and Secondary (though Claude has been a guest on at least one modcast). P&S is aimed squarely at people who have no problem buying a $180 Keepers Concealment holster to conceal a Roland Special with $1800 sunk into it. The Modcasts are several hours long and contain a lot of good information on guns, ammo, and shooting technique (if you can find it). Some guy on the P&S Discord has a site that tries to organize the information but most of the episodes aren't on there.
  • Aaron Cowan is known as an authority on weapon-mounted lights and pistol-mounted optics. IMO, if you're watching his videos, stick to those topics. He (again, IMO) kinda strays outside his lane a little bit when talking about other stuff.

Honorable mention: Ben Stoeger, known for winning USPSA Production Nats a bunch of times and being a dick on the Internet (though he's toned the second part down since getting a sponsorship). He's only an honorable mention here because his stuff is probably mostly above your head if you're brand new, but his dryfire drills books are valuable to anyone.

A word about what makes for a quality source of information

You'll notice that my preferred info sources tend towards action shooting competition. The reason for that is that action pistol competitors have known, verifiable skill at the kind of marksmanship that defensive shooting requires. Many gun youtubers are known to speed up their footage to make themselves look faster (T-Rex Arms), use a fixed delay on their shot timer to give them an artificially fast reaction time (Baret Fawbush), or shoot several takes until they get a really good run, or just not use shot timers at all (again, Paul Harrell). Winning USPSA nationals, or winning a FAST Coin (look it up) requires the ability to perform shooting tasks in an on-demand, repeatable fashion, which is what we want.

I don't have much time for channels that do mostly gun reviews. That's because, as long as you stick to a quality brand, it's harder to find a pistol that doesn't work nowadays than one that does. To paraphrase Caleb Giddings, if you threw a Glock, S&W M&P 2.0, Walther PPQ, CZ P10, Beretta APX, SIG P320 (post-drop-fix), and HK VP9 into a bag, and told me that whichever one I picked out of the bag was the pistol I'd have to use forever, I would be OK with whichever one came out. I make an exception for Aaron Cowan, because slide-mounted red dots and weapon-mounted lights are still under active development and some really are better than others.

You said mean things about an Internet personality that I like!

It was probably Paul Harrell. I loving hate Paul Harrell's videos. They appeal to low-information, low-effort gun owners who don't know any better. His competition record is a bunch of restricted service competitions from decades ago. His ballistic testing methodology uses non-repeatable test media and flies in the face of accepted industry practices. His FBI Miami Shootout video does get good reviews, and I'm sure he has some good information in his videos, but he puts out enough bullshit that it casts doubt over everything else he puts out. I fully expect to get hate mail for this paragraph.

Lucas Botkin (T-Rex Arms): he finally entered a 3-gun match, not even a super competitive one, and zeroed it. Came in like 200th place. Do not look to him as a source of shooting technique.

E: I changed "I loving hate Paul Harrell" to "I loving hate Paul Harrell's videos." I have never met Paul Harrel, and never talked to him online. I'm sure he's a nice enough guy IRL. The real issue I have is that his videos are a poor source of information. I edited this post to reflect that.

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 16:25 on Apr 13, 2020

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




CoffeeBooze posted:

For whatever reason defensive carbine/pistol shooting has never interested me that much. But, for whatever reason this latest talk about pistol fu has actually tickled a part of my brain I didnt even know I had. Once things blow over with COVID19 I think Id like to seek out some instruction on the topic just to check it out. For beginners who are more interested in the topic as a hobby/shooting sport type of deal would a 22 handgun be a good start? Or do I really need to look for something thats more practical for actual self defense? Ive been thinking about picking up a Ruger Buckmark for a while now anyways and these seems like a good excuse.

You can shoot a 22 pistol in Steel Challenge just fine. Don't even need a holster, just a bunch of magazines. It's a great way to get into action shooting.

E: 22s will let you get very sloppy with recoil control though. If you want to learn to shoot a defensive pistol fast, eventually you will need to buy a defensive pistol.

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 13:02 on Apr 14, 2020

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Smegma Princess X posted:

Looks like I can get this locally for around $700 and my state has no restrictions for anything non-federal. Is there any reason why I should consider buying online?

usually people buy online because prices are cheaper than what you can find locally.

but it still has to go through a licensed dealer*, who will charge you a fee to receive the gun and do the background check, so add that fee + shipping + online cost of the gun and compare it to the cost of the gun locally.


*technically you can buy a gun from a private individual (not a gun store) in your state and have them mail it straight to your house but that is an edge case. I've also never heard of anyone actually doing that

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Thermopyle posted:

I've read a million pro/anti rants about lasers on the internets. I was leaning towards getting one and making my own decision because there doesn't seem to be a clear consensus.

The consensus is pretty clear. Lasers are good for the following:

1. Small handguns (S&W J-frames and Ruger LCPs) with small, useless sights.
2. Police who may have to shoot around a ballistic shield, since that makes using the sights hard.

Otherwise you're better off with irons or a slide-mounted optic.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Adequate Panther posted:

I'm looking at getting a cheapish (<$500) full size 9mm mainly just for fun. I'm looking at a few different ones and want a second/third/fifth opinion.

My list based on my lovely internet research is, in no particular order:

Sig Sauer 2022
Remington RP9
Canik TP9
Hi Point C9, this is topping my list right now This is a joke!
Ruger American 9mm Pro 8607

I'm not exactly new to using firearms, just new to buying them. If there's a better option that I'm missing please let me know.

Any particular reason you chose those guns?

Assuming "just for fun" means "going to the range 5x a year to shoot 100 rounds each time," which I feel is the average workload for most people's guns, any of those will do fine. From that list, I'd pick the Sig 2022. Like the Beretta PX4, it's a good gun that was released at the wrong time and sold poorly.

However,


Craptacular posted:

One thing to consider is that while a specific gun might not be a *bad* gun, you have to ask if it's bringing something to the table that some other gun isn't. I don't think that's the case for any of the guns you listed. It'll be extremely easy to relatively easy to find extra magazines, spare parts, and holsters for the guns in my list, whereas for other guns it might not.

This is very important and it bears being quoted for truth. If at any point you decide that shooting 500 rounds a year slow-fire at the indoor range isn't enough, and you want to carry your pistol around or shoot it in USPSA matches, you will find that your Great For The Money pistol isn't actually so good for the money.

This happened to me. My first pistol was a Sig P6. I was happy with my P6 until I started trying to buy holsters and magazines, especially the magazines. By the time I sold it I was easily a couple hundred bucks deeper into it than if I'd just bought a Glock 19.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




rump buttman posted:

Iím thinking, if I can shoot my wifeís pistol, it would make sense for a noob like me to take the money I would spend on my own pistol, and spend it on ammo and a defensive pistol training course with her g19. After that I could worry about what gat I would want with a smidge of taught experience.

That's a pretty good idea.

quote:

How do you go about finding a holster with zero experience Are there a few g19 holsters that are goon approved and not budget breaking? Iím thinking outside the pants on the hip.

Depends on whether you want an OWB carry holster, an open carry holster w/ active retention (don't open carry though), or a range/competition holster.

Safariland OWB holsters are reliably pretty good, and many of them are pretty good values. The Safariland 5198 is roughly $30 and it's a good range/competition holster. The Safariland 7377 is a good retention holster but it's a little bulky to conceal; they seem to run about $40.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Craptacular posted:

Safariland's great, but the Raven Perun is a good choice for OWB too. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078XN9DSN

I didn't mention any Kydex concealment OWB holsters due to lack of personal experience. This one looks like a winner though!

E: Looking at Raven's website, it strikes me as funny that the hucksters who ripped off Raven's old Kydex sandwich holsters from 2010 (*COUGH* BRAVO CONCEALMENT *COUGH*) are still making that style, but Raven themselves no longer are.

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 04:06 on Apr 27, 2020

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Yeah I was going to write a "how to choose a defensive pistol" post but it basically boils down to "buy a Glock 19 unless you have a compelling reason not to" along with a long list of reasons that newbies think are compelling but actually aren't.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




jwang posted:

Best possible option is to go to a gun range that rents out common models of pistols, shoot a few boxes of ammo, and see which one feels best.

This was going to be one of the specific pieces of BAD advice I was going to call out in my how to choose a pistol post. I've given that same advice in the past and I regret it.

As a new shooter, you do not know how to hold a pistol. You don't know what "good" should feel like. "What feels best" is a totally meaningless heuristic, especially for new shooters.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




FauxhawkSatan posted:

The sig P320 is a better gun for a first time gun buyer imo. It has a better trigger, is more accurate, and just as reliable. Only downside is mag cost and aftermarket compatibility which isn't a big deal for a first timer.

I don't want to get into "this gun vs that gun" discussion because I don't think it's useful. I will again paraphrase Caleb Giddings and say that if you put a Glock 19, M&P 2.0, Sig P320, CZ P10, Beretta APX, HK VP9 and Walther PPQ in a bag, made me reach in and pick one, and then told me that I'd have to use that gun forever, I wouldn't be totally heartbroken with any of those. I think that comparing any of those guns just based on their individual merits, without considering economic factors, is splitting hairs.

That said, the "mag cost and aftermarket" is the reason Glocks are the go-to. First timers become serious shooters, and the extra costs can show up in unexpected ways. Did you break*, or forget, your holster at a class? The instructor, or another student, is far more likely to have a spare Glock holster than anything else. Want snazzy new carry sights (you should)? If you have a Glock, the gun range's attached store probably has them on the shelf and can install them for you in a few minutes; with other guns you'll probably have to order them yourself.

I don't want this to be interpreted as "GETAGLOCK LOL." What matters is that new shooters understand that buying a non-Glock pistol will result in fewer choices and higher costs in the long run, and that they should make sure their reasons for buying a non-Glock pistol are good enough to justify the extra time, cost, and effort.

*Believe it or not, holsters break. Especially lovely holsters that new gun owners tend to buy.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Loan Dusty Road posted:

What bad thing will come from this?

I feel like my post above covers this but I'm going to expand on it a little.

In my case, I bought a M&P 1.0 because MY HANDFEELS and the Magpul Art of the Dynamic Handgun DVDs. I was convinced that Glocks just weren't right for me because it felt like holding a 2x4. I ended up with a bunch of M&Ps, with like $80 of Apex parts in each one, plus sights and etc.

Then, after actually learning how to shoot properly, it turns out that I actually shoot Glocks *better* than M&Ps. They still feel like I'm holding a 2x4, but getting accurate hits at speed is easier. But getting out of one "ecosystem" and into another is expensive; selling all those guns at a loss, selling holsters (at a bigger loss), etc and replacing them ends up costing several hundred to a thousand dollars.

Again, I'm not trying to be a Glock shill (I'm actually on the DA/SA team these days) but picking a non-Glock pistol DOES have quantifiable downsides. If newbies are going to choose to live with those disadvantages, they should do it for good reasons and not some nebulous gun forums bullshit like handfeel.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




tarlibone posted:

This is why y'all should start with revolvers. The magazines are built-in (for free!) and they just plain feel good in your hand they really are fun.

Seriously. My only regret about my first gun being a revolver is that I didn't buy one for each hand.

Frequent P&S Modcast guest, and noted grumpy old man, Darryl Bolke has said that revolvers work better for people who treat their guns like fire extinguishers (i.e. they buy it and then leave it in a drawer until needed). The basis of that opinion is that the manual of arms is simpler and they can reliably be expected to function after sitting in a drawer for 20 years.

Now, I don't want people to treat their pistols like a fire extinguisher, so I'm reluctant to tell new gun buyers, "hey, if you're just gonna buy a gun as a security blanket and never practice, go ahead and get a revolver."

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Somebody Awful posted:

Maybe don't, especially in the newbie thread.

I don't get it.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Loan Dusty Road posted:

So the bad thing is you may want a different gun later.

That's technically true but it's also an oversimplification that doesn't capture the reasons why I wanted a different gun later, why I made the mistake in the first place, etc.

Nuance is important.

quote:

but there's nothing wrong at that point with just buying what you like.

the whole point is that newbies have little basis for intelligently liking pistols.

quote:

It's OK to get things in life because you like them without min/maxing a decision, including a first pistol.

True, but that doesn't mean we don't give them the information required to make the best possible decision.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Somebody Awful posted:

If you're giving advice to novice shooters, citing someone who put his ego ahead of good judgment and made a fool of himself in public seems counter-productive.

a) Caleb is a demonstrably good shooter who also has figured out that pissing off idiots makes him youtube money. The second doesn't invalidate the first.
b) Paul Harrel's content is trash aimed at low-information gun owners and I can't really fault anyone who points that out.


Loan Dusty Road posted:

You kinda sorta maybe skipped this part.

If a newbie has a reason to not pick a Glock as a first pistol, and they weigh it against the disadvantages of not getting a Glock, and they choose not to get a Glock, then that's a-ok.

I have said at least twice today that I am not trying to say everyone should get a Glock as their first pistol. Just don't use dumb standards (like handfeel) to pick defensive pistols.

quote:

So what if you made no "mistakes" and bought the glock first and ended up shooting an M&P better?

Selling Glocks and Glock poo poo is much easier and involves losing less money.

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 20:14 on May 6, 2020

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Nitrousoxide posted:

What's wrong with Paul Harrel? I've probably watched several hours of stuff from him recently when getting a feel of what gun would be a good first gun.

I mean a Glock wasn't even in his running for stuff he'd recommend, but he did steer me towards an autoloader pistol for my first gun

poopgiggle posted:

You said mean things about an Internet personality that I like!

It was probably Paul Harrell. I loving hate Paul Harrell's videos. They appeal to low-information, low-effort gun owners who don't know any better. His competition record is a bunch of restricted service competitions from decades ago. His ballistic testing methodology uses non-repeatable test media and flies in the face of accepted industry practices. His FBI Miami Shootout video does get good reviews, and I'm sure he has some good information in his videos, but he puts out enough bullshit that it casts doubt over everything else he puts out. I fully expect to get hate mail for this paragraph.

Lucas Botkin (T-Rex Arms): he finally entered a 3-gun match, not even a super competitive one, and zeroed it. Came in like 200th place. Do not look to him as a source of shooting technique.

E: I changed "I loving hate Paul Harrell" to "I loving hate Paul Harrell's videos." I have never met Paul Harrel, and never talked to him online. I'm sure he's a nice enough guy IRL. The real issue I have is that his videos are a poor source of information. I edited this post to reflect that.

In addition to the above, all the Paul Harrel content I've managed to make it through (which isn't much because I get mad after a couple minutes) is stuff you'd read in early 90s gun magazines.

The full post that I quoted just there has some better defensive shooting info sources, btw.

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 20:19 on May 6, 2020

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




I'm gonna let the Paul Harrell poo poo drop, because I've said what I'm going to say, but

Somebody Awful posted:

This Lucas Botkin of T-Rex Arms, who earned a place in the OPs of the Racism, authoritarianism etc. thread for being "a homophobe that belongs to a fundamentalist Christian organization that sees women as breeding stock to guard against Satan and nothing more"?



the reason to not listen to him re: shooting is that he has never (to my knowledge) demonstrated, in a controlled setting, solid shooting skill.

the reason you shouldn't give him or his company money is because you will be funding his dad's weirdo racist cult. I left that out, and maybe I shouldn't have.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




One of the pluses of ALL THE LUMENS that hasn't been brought up yet is the ability to light a room enough to identify stuff without pointing your muzzle directly at it.

Because you don't want to point your gun at something you haven't decided to shoot, and if you haven't positively ID'd something yet you hopefully haven't already decided to shoot it.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Nitrousoxide posted:

Are single/double-action auto loaders safer to use than striker fired pistols? I've been looking at some of the former and they seem to have a harder initial trigger pull and safeties that would seem to make them less risky to holster than a striker pistol.

One extra safety feature of DA/SA or DAO hammer-fired guns is that you can put your thumb on the hammer while reholstering. If something gets in your trigger guard, despite all of your diligent & safe reholstering practices, your thumb will stop the hammer from moving.

There are products like the Striker Control Device for Glocks that provide similar functionality, if you want that safety blanket. Guys like Gabe White and Scott Jedlinski use them without any reported issues, and they shoot enough that they'd probably find an issue if there was one to be found.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Somebody Awful posted:

Aluminum frame + steel slide combos have been around for a good while now. 1911s, SIGs, post-WWII P38s, and some of the classic S&W autoloaders, just to name a few.

Letís not forget the Sig P-series and the Beretta 92.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




tarlibone posted:

This has some good info. Since you're talking about defense in general, it probably is a good idea to include something about either mounting a light (and considering guns that come equipped with rails from the factory, like the M&P and probably a lot of others), or just in general, keeping a bright flashlight near the home defense gun. If it's a handgun, you can still use the flashlight, even if it's not mounted. It's not ideal, but it beats shooting in the dark.

(Also, y'all must live in horror movies or thrillers or something, because every light in every room of my house is controlled by a switch that's located near every doorway. You can't walk into a room in my house and not be right by a light switch. Turn on the drat lights, folks!)

My only complaint is that you don't say anything about revolvers. Like, at all, except to point out how they're not immune to reliability concerns. I'm a revolver fanboy, so of course I notice that, but since some folks may find themselves with a revolver one way or another, it might not hurt to mention them as an option for something other than deep concealment options.

I'm not gonna lie, I didn't mention revolvers (outside of snubnoses as deep concealment guns) because I don't think they're a practical option as defensive tools anymore.

I am 100% a revolver fan but only in the hobby context.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Anonymous Robot posted:

Alienware holsters are considered trash tier? Why is that? Iíve never used anything else, but Iíve been wearing a cloaktuck 3.0 for three years now and have had no issues whatsoever with retention, comfort, or concealment. Maybe it matter less when you carry a concealment-oriented weapon as I do.

John Correia on hybrid holsters
Discussion on hybrids from P&S holster episode
Greg Ellifritz on bad IWB holsters, including a discussion of hybrids
Old forum thread where TLG and SouthNarc both express disdain for hybrid holsters

That's just what I could throw together in a few minutes.

For a while, there'd be a "my brand new AlienGear holster doesn't even cover the trigger guard! what gives?" post in /r/ccw every couple days which doesn't make me feel great about the brand. Even if they fixed their poo poo, hybrid holsters are fundamentally flawed as the above resources illustrate.

I am glad you haven't experienced safety issues, and I hope you never do, but your sample size of 1 isn't especially meaningful. Instructors who see many students over the years consistently report issues with hybrids, to the point that I don't think they're a good option.

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 18:40 on Jun 3, 2020

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Revision 2 of "choosing a handgun." I added a little something about rails and other features.

I punted on SAO v DA/SA v striker-fired v whatever because I don't think it matters.

poopgiggle posted:

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 the higher-end Chinesium 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 two 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
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




rump buttman posted:

drat, I hadnít even considered that. Thatís probably going to be what I to do. The little bit of hassle and little less machining to make sure itís all on the up and up seems like a fair trade off for my dumbass.

I assume 1911s (and flocks) are the most common pistol frames to do this kind of project on, are any other pistol models as paint by numbers?

I wouldn't call a 1911 build "paint by numbers."

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Triggerhappypilot posted:

Is there a guide to what's considered "cheap ammo" (read: unreliable)? Obviously there are the big differences between Aluminum/Steel/Brass cases and whether it's milsurp that has been sitting in a warehouse in Croatia for 50 years or new manufactured, but beyond that, how do I tell what's the good stuff?

Good for what purpose?

Good defensive ammo will be reliable & accurate in your gun, have good terminal ballistics properties, and ideally have manageable recoil and low flash.

For practice ammo, most people just want it to be reliable. Other constraints (accuracy, jacket material, case material, etc) depend on where you're practicing and what you're practicing for.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Peeches posted:

The outdoor range I want to join doesn't provide target stands, therefore I need to buy or make my own. Any recommendations? I'm not opposed to making my own, just curious if anyone has done this.

The other issue is I only have a small car ( ford focus) to transport, so they can't be too long.

I hacked together something similar to this: https://www.stevejenkins.com/blog/2013/08/diy-home-made-pvc-target-holders/

If you don't glue/screw some parts, you can disassemble it for transport. Make sure to bring either sandbags or stakes for windy days.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




A good place to start with pistols is LuckyGunner's Shooting 101 Series linked in the OP.

poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




Anonymous Robot posted:

What do yíall use for dry fire practice? Iíve been putting a regular range target on my wall and drawing from holster into dry fire, but Iím curious to hear what other people do.

Iím especially curious what people with striker fired pistols do. I have always used a DA revolver, so dry fire training is no problem, but I have a DA/SA pistol now, and I donít see how one can dry fire train that without creating bad trigger habits. I donít know how you would work a striker-fired pistol without racking the slide every time you squeeze the trigger! Is that Mantis gadget the only game in town?

Literally this:

Trillhouse posted:

I use cardboard 1/3 scale USPSA targets. You can buy them pre-made, but they're pretty easy to make with old amazon boxes you have lying around. Sometimes I print a target or just make a custom one, lately I've been practicing the FAST type drill in the stickied July Match thread.

...

There's this thing too, but man it's loving expensive and you have to recharge it a lot: https://coolfiretrainer.com/

Sometimes when I practice reloads, I dryfire over an office chair with a blanket on it that catches dropped mags so I don't have to bend over every reload or drop a mag on my toes.

...except I made my 1/3 scale targets back when I had access to a laser cutter. And I own a Coolfire Trainer but the CO2 tank didn't make the move so I haven't been using it.

In one of Stoeger's videos he said he does DA for the first shot and then just works the mushy dead trigger for followup shots in the same string. I will sometimes also click the DA trigger, rack the slide with my other hand, and then practice prepping the trigger for the SA shot. You can (and should) do this for successive SA shots, or do it on striker pistols too.

poopgiggle fucked around with this message at 01:17 on Jul 26, 2020

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poopgiggle
Feb 7, 2006

it isn't easy being a cross dominate shooter.




speaking of deescalation, MUCing, less-lethal tools, and other ways to avoid shooting people, LuckyGunner just dropped a new video about OC spray that is v good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oK1d_tBp9Q

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