Do, you have a freshly laminated CCW, CHL—or whatever your state calls it—and trying to decide on your first concealed carry handgun. Even better, perhaps you are looking to buy your first handgun before taking the class for your permit. “Which gun should I buy?” is a common question. I hear it often, which is a good thing. It means more people are carrying, and more importantly they are not just “getting a gun,” they are thoughtfully making informed decisions.
My dilemma is not with question, but making a recommendation. What I carry is not right for many. What you carry will not be right for many. Therefore, making a recommendation for the best model is not only difficult, it may be irresponsible and do the prospective new concealed carrier a disservice.
In addition to specific models, those new to concealed carry have questions about brands, calibers, and action type. Here again, I would hesitate to be specific and instead offer the pros and cons as I see them and help them by relating the benefits and drawbacks to the person in question. I want the prospective buyer to be informed, but just as someone else can’t choose what car fits you best or which furniture would be to your liking, each person needs to take charge of the decision to pick the right handgun, as daunting as that may seem.
Make an Informed Decision
Doing a little homework is never a wasted effort. After all, your decision could literally one day mean the difference between life and death. While the probability of having to use your handgun to defend your life or the life of a loved one is low, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Know Your Budget
You are likely going to spend a minimum of $200. From there, the sky’s the limit, with most opting for something in the $350-$600 range for a first concealed carry handgun. In terms of caliber, .380 and 9mm are most popular in semi-autos and .38 special or .357 magnum in revolvers. The reason the .357 magnum is typically included is only because you can shoot .38 special loads from it and later shoot something more powerful if desired.
Another reason to stick with these calibers is availability. Most any place that sells ammunition will have plenty of choices for these popular calibers in stock. A wider selection also allows you to tailor your choice to a heavy, aggressive self-defense round, or less expensive ball ammunition for practice. You could even drop to a low-recoil frangible offering such as those offered by Allegiance ammunition.
Don’t Trust the Experts—Even Me!
Okay, maybe I am the exception, but only because I will not try to steer you to something specific. Be aware of the sales person or friend who knows the exact model you need. Your best defense is knowledge and experience. Both of those can be obtained with the research you are doing now and time at a local range that rents firearms. Nothing beats firsthand knowledge gained through experience.
Shop, Shop, Shop
Cheaper Than Dirt! has thousands of guns to choose from and some of the best prices you’ll find anywhere, but don’t afraid to handle a few firearms at a local gun show or dealer. If you have a friend or two with a suggestion, ask them to go to the range with you so you can try out their handgun(s). If you are looking for something in the spring, consider the NRA Show. The latest models will all be in one place, and you can get a feel for them all. Don’t just ask which gun, but why they chose that particular model, caliber, etc.
Get the gun you really want and works for you. If it costs more than your proposed budget, wait and save up for it. It is better to wait for an extra paycheck or two, or sacrifice a night out and get the right gun. Odds are you’ll be carrying it for a very long time. When you need to deploy it for self-defense, the last thing you want creeping through the back of mind is, “I wish I would have spent a few dollars more for the…”
You also need to look at carry options. Will you be carrying your firearm in a holster on your person? Where? Or will you opt for an easy access purse designed for concealed carry, bra holster, or covert diversion pack. What holster options are available for your proposed handgun?
The decision to carry a handgun for self-defense if not the end, it is the beginning. You’ll need to practice regularly to build proficiency and maintain skills. Follow on training is also highly recommended. The NRA has a series of courses as do a host of private training academies. When going through a private instructor, check their credentials closely. There are many private instructors who are simply a waste of money.
And just as important to additional training is getting some insurance though organizations such as U.S. Law Shield. For a few dollars a month, you can cover you entire legal bill should you be forced to defend yourself. Check out the program details to determine whether it is right for you.
Do you have a tip for the new concealed carry person or a personal experience you can share that will help them on their journey toward buying their first concealed carry firearm? Share it in the comment section.
Growing up in Pennsylvanias game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Daves writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersens Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersens Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!
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