Handgun Selection Thoughts.
by John Benner
WHY THE HANDGUN?
The handgun is by far the defensive firearm class taught most often here at TDI. Whether it is the best weapon for a gunfight depends on many circumstances. Over 50% of law enforcement gun fights occur at 5 feet or less and I suspect a similar or greater number for civilian encounters as well. I acknowledge that if I had to go to a gunfight I would prefer a rifle or a shotgun. However, since I have not been “invited” to a gun fight (which I prefer to avoid), carrying the long gun everywhere everyday is difficult. At 5 feet or less I would prefer the handgun. In some tactical situations, such as clearing stairwells or in very tight places, even though I have a long gun, I very well may sling the long gun and go to the handgun.
CHOICE OF HANDGUN
What handgun you choose is all about personal choice. At TDI, we do not care what handgun you bring to a class. In fact, if you do not already own a handgun, don’t buy one before coming to our class. We have handguns to loan you at no cost. If you do choose to buy a gun for class, or are considering a purchase for self defense, there are many good manufacturers from which to choose. At TDI part of our job is to assist the student in making a good choice of a defensive handgun for them. There are certain characteristics that we believe are important.
CONSIDERATIONS IN CHOOSING A HANDGUN
1-RELIABILITY tops the list.
While any mechanical device can and occasionally will fail, keeping failures to a minimum is critical. You don’t need the latest and greatest handgun on the cover of this month’s firearm magazine. First, the magazine cover gun changes every month. Second, there is no guarantee that the “latest and greatest” is the most reliable. If you can wait for class before choosing a handgun please do so, if you can’t, contact one of our instructors and ask them what they shoot. All carry reliable handguns.
2-Hand to gun FIT.
This is really important to the individual that has smaller hands and or less strength. Those with large strong hands can make most things work with enough practice. Over the years we have seen law enforcement make horrible mistakes with firearms, from the FBI to local law enforcement and everyone in between. In one LE class we taught, a 4’8” female officer (with hands to match) came to training with her department “required” handgun, a Glock 21. Now the Glock 21 is a fine handgun, but not for her. The grip is like a 2×4 and she could not draw the gun with one hand and fire it because she could not reach the trigger. There are many examples similar to this that we can cite, including the FBI 10mm debacle that cost us all millions of dollars. You must have a gun that fits your hand. You must be able to draw and shoot it with one hand and the grip must be small enough to allow you to get proper hand/arm alignment.
What a debate! We have been promoting the 9mm for a very long time. With good bullets I believe there is virtually no difference in defensive performance. TDI was asked to shoot 17 pigs for a trauma lab by an organization who shall remain nameless here. We shot them with a large variety of calibers from 22 LR to 50 BMG. This certainly included the 9mm, 40 cal and 45 ACP. With these handgun calibers there was no difference in the wound channels. Had we not marked the caliber used on the animal you would not have been able to tell the difference in the ammunition used until the actual bullet was recovered. The one common thread in this study was that from 22 to 50, ALL of the calibers killed the pigs.
At TDI, we don’t care what caliber you like or use. I stock all of the above for students who can’t find or transport ammunition or run out during training. If you like your 40 or 45, can shoot it quickly and accurately, I cannot argue with that. If you have more confidence in the larger caliber, if it just makes you feel better, that is just fine with us. TDI always encourages people to do what they think is best for them as long as it actually works.
When we see grown men and women flinching from shooting a 40 caliber and not a 9mm, we suggest the 9mm. At least for now, later if you fall for the “ it must start with a 4” debate, that is your choice to make. We do caution against well meaning males buying the females in their lives a 40 or 45 caliber handgun because that is what the man prefers. Everyone must be able to handle their handgun. If the man in the family “must” have a 40, be open to the concept that the woman in the family will certainly do better with a 9mm. We see this error all the time.
I hate to see a new shooter coming to class with the “starts with a 4” variation of some small handgun that when it is fired scares the daylights out of them and helps cause the inevitable flinch. There are absolute professional firearms people out there that have a LOT of real life experience that believe in the “4” and if I was shooting only hardball ammunition I may feel the same way, but I am not. No recognized studies that have been done by anyone show one caliber so superior to another that it would make me say WOW, I’ll take that.
4-Style of ACTION .
We are fans and proponents of the striker fired semi-auto pistols. We see people having more success quicker with those style actions than any other. I like the simple is good theory. Glock and Smith & Wesson top the lineup at the moment.
The single action pistol, 1911 style handgun, generally has the best trigger to manage but many people cannot effectively manipulate the safety. The 1911 is designed to shoot 45 ACP and is the most reliable in that caliber. 45 ACP is expensive and in smaller guns recoils considerably. Not to mention we see more 1911 failures in various ways than any other pistol.
The double/single action guns have that long trigger stroke up front and a second one to manage which is different sometimes to an extreme. I actually like these handguns and shot them for years. Generally the gripping surface on most of these type of handguns is too large for most hands. These are probably the most difficult to feel warm and fuzzy with. That being said if you can master the double/single action you can shoot anything.
Your bullet placement and your adversary’s dedication to the task is what is going to make the difference in what it takes to stop your threat. That may take 1 round or 15, it is his/her decision. You can influence that decision with good bullet placement. Good bullet placement starts with a reliable handgun, which fits your hand, of a reasonable defensive caliber, with a simple gun to operate quickly and repeated under stress.
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