There are few things more disappointing in life than spending hundreds of dollars on a new concealed carry gun, plus hundreds more on ammo, sights, holsters, etc, just to find out that you don’t really like the gun. In this post, we will examine some of the key components to making a successful gun purchase. Hopefully, these simple guidelines will help you avoid buying “safe queens” and under-appreciated gifts that may never see the light of day.
#1: Don’t pick a gun for someone else.
The ergonomics of a firearm are very personal. What might feel just right in your hands, may be bulky and awkward to someone else. Never assume that you have the final say in what the “best” gun is for others. It can be difficult for hardcore gun guys and self-proclaimed experts to let go of the reigns. But if we don’t, we run the risk of blowing a big pile of cash on something that will never get carried; or worse, a resentful spouse that despises their gift and now loathes you. If you are trying to arm your loved ones, take them to the gun shop and have them handle some hardware. Better yet, encourage them to rent some guns to actually try them out.
#2: Chose something that fits your hands.
Guns that are too big or too small are uncomfortable to shoot and difficult to be accurate with. Chose a gun that feels natural in your hands. Make sure that all of the controls can be easily reached and manipulated [ex: decocker, mag release, etc.]. If possible, test fire the gun to make sure you can maintain a solid grip during recoil. Be mindful of the texture, and any protrusions that might cause discomfort during long range sessions. You want a gun that feels like an extension of your hand and points naturally without too much effort.
#3: Chose the largest caliber you can carry daily and shoot well with.
This is where a lot of new concealed carry permit holders run afoul. It can be easy to go either too big or too small. That 40 oz., government model 1911 might be pretty to look at and a beauty to shoot, but it will feel like a ball-and-chain after a couple of hours in your pants. On the other end of the spectrum, that microscopic .25 ACP that just magically disappears under your cocktail dress might be impossible to hold, aim and shoot accurately with. Beyond that, it might require a head shot to quickly stop an attack. Chose something that has balance between concealability, shootability and stopping power. Lean too far in any one direction and you risk decimating the other two critical areas.
#4: Consider Action Types and Safety Mechanisms
Are you interested in semi-auto’s or revolvers; in single action, double action or both? Think about your own skill level. Are you comfortable with reloading a revolver using moon clips or speed-loaders? Do you have the dexterity to manipulate the controls of a 1911? Whatever you chose, make sure you practice a lot, until the action and controls are manipulated without any thought. Consider safety features such as firing pin blocks, and whether or not you want a manual safety switch. Be wary of lawyer-proofing features such as internal locks and magazine disconnects. Those can introduce more compromises than they are worth. Ideally, the weapon you chose should be easily field stripped for cleaning without any tools.
#5: Eyeball the Sights
Take a good hard look at the sights. Are they easy to identify quickly? Will you be able to see them at night? If not, are they easily replaceable with night sights? Be wary of overly rudimentary sights as they can be difficult to align, and virtually impossible to see at night. If possible, buy a gun with factory night sights installed [tritium]. If not, make sure your weapon has aftermarket night sights available, as this is a very important upgrade.
#6: Chose something you can afford, and something you can afford to lose.
In the event that you are involved in a self-defense shooting, your carry piece could be seized by the police as evidence. It could be stored in a damp basement evidence locker in a plastic bag for weeks, months or even years. Don’t pack around grandpa’s WWII German Mauser that he stripped from a dead Nazi officer in 1944 just because it still works. The practical approach to concealed carry hardware is much like buying a commuter car. You don’t buy a 1966 Shelby Cobra just to hammer it in urban traffic every day. There are plenty of great guns in the sub-$600 range that will serve you very well.
#7: Don’t be a cheapskate.
In contrast to rule #6, don’t go too cheap either. Avoid ultra-low price guns that may compromise on materials and workmanship. Your life may depend on your CCW piece. Buy guns from reputable manufacturers that have a proven track record of reliability and durability. Do your research before buying to understand the weapon’s real-world performance record. Assume that you will spend at least as much on ammo and accessories as you do on the gun itself. And, make sure the caliber you chose is not so obscure and expensive to attain that you can’t afford to practice with it.
#8: Make sure it is reliable.
After you have purchased your new gun, make sure you run a couple of hundred rounds through it to ensure its functionality. Also, test every magazine you own in combination with your defensive ammo to ensure that they all work using the ammo brand you will be carrying. Magazine and ammo-related failures are possible, they they can be easily remedied without sending the gun back to the factory for repairs. Ideally, your concealed carry sidearm functionality should be 100% reliable with every magazine, and with all types of ammo. Finicky guns cannot be trusted, and above all else [including firepower, accuracy, etc.] the gun must work when needed. If you and/or your gunsmith cannot attain 100% reliability, you may want to consider trading it in for something that runs better.
Concealed carry guns are like brakes on a car. Having them work 99% of the time is just not acceptable.