Choosing a Handgun

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, How To

Tip: A few decades ago the FBI did a study and found that a handgun that weighs over 35 ounces becomes a drag on the pants after a few hours. Perhaps concealed carry handgun permit holders should consider 26 ounces as a reasonable top end.

Attacker with a knife an man drawing his concealed pistol

No matter which handgun you choose practice is absolutely necessary.

We must be formidable individuals in order to deter crime. Many decades ago, Casare Baccaria forwarded the notion that punishment should be so severe it outweighs any possible gain from crime. While the criminal justice system has been bent and broken, in personal defense this is certainly one answer. When you choose a handgun, the overriding concern is reliability. How this is determined is by reputation and legitimate testing. As many of you realize, there are newsstand magazines that have never met a gun they did not like. There are others that may state that the gun gave a few problems but eventually it may prove to be a good choice.

There are proven handguns that have endured tremendous military and police testing. SIG went through a 700,000 round trail and will soon arm every soldier, sailor, airman and police officer in France. SIG also survived a test involving 19 handguns and 228,000 rounds of ammunition to become the standard issue of the Ohio State Patrol.

A similar path was followed by Texas in adopting its SIG model. Glock was adopted by the FBI after a rigorous course, and the Springfield FBI Bureau Model 1911 was adopted as their FBI SWAT pistol. CZ has passed similar European testing and the Beretta has passed U.S. Army trails. They are certainly a good place to start.

Galco Hornet holster with a snub nose .38 revolver being drawn

The Galco Hornet crossdraw and the snub nose .38 are a good combination.

You must make a realistic assessment of the training program you are willing to undertake. Training will consume more time, energy, and funds than the initial handgun purchase. If you are not willing to invest the time and effort to master a self-loader, the revolver is a reasonable choice. After all, we would not keep a Harley Davidson in the garage that we had not ridden… just in case we might need to get somewhere in a hurry in the future, would we? If you are willing to go to the range once a month and fire 50 rounds, and engage in dry fire exercise often, then the self-loader has appeal.

The self-loader is flat and easily concealed. For home defense, size doesn’t matter as much. Choosing an action type has been covered in these pages before. However, if you are willing to master the double-action first-shot pistol or the cocked-and-locked 1911, you must put forth the time and effort.

I think one of the best choices for the average defense shooter is a SIG with the DAK trigger. This double-action-only trigger allows the shooter to feel confident in the safety of the handgun, but at the same time, it offers good hit probability for those who practice. For personal defense engagement ranges this handgun—my version is the SIG P239—is plenty accurate. My SIG P239 is chamber for .40 caliber S&W. For some reason, perhaps spring technology; this .40 doesn’t kick as much as some in the weight class. It is usually loaded with the SIG Elite hollow point. I carry it in a Galco Stow and Go. This is simple workmanlike gear and every effective.

Galco King Tuck

The King Tuck from Galco is a good choice for most handguns.

There is nothing wrong with the snub nose .38 Special for those who practice. The Smith and Wesson 442 is carried as a backup by many of my most experienced friends. Mine rides with me at all times and sometimes as the only handgun. I have two; one is a backup for the backup—just in case. The humpback design makes for comfortable shooting and the action is very smooth. Use light loads, such as the Winchester 158-grain RNL for practice. Mine is loaded with Winchester Silvertip at the moment.

The Glock is a popular handgun that I consider a baseline. It is affordable and worth the extra effort to obtain over a cheaper gun. On the other hand, if a pistol costs more than the Glock, then it should have advantages that justify the extra expense. So, the Glock is in the position of being a capable handgun in the hands of a shooter who is in the process of becoming a good shot, while a truly good shot, will also find the Glock suits his needs. There are more accurate handguns, and there are handguns I like better. If I were to have to run into a shop, pick up and load a pistol, and expect it to save it my life—it would be a Glock.

Choose a handgun based on your own experience and likely training time. Don’t choose a handgun to be like the other guy—even if you admire the gun or the person. Don’t carry the handgun expected of you. Make a choice that fits you as an individual. The more you are willing to practice, the more you may drift toward a superior handgun. And the more you practice, the more formidable you will be with any handgun.

Which handgun or handguns do you carry for self-defense? Share your answers in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

Tags: , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (22)

  • Terence

    |

    My caliber of choice is the 45 acp. I have found the HK45C to most suitable for me. I practice with it twice per month. Loaded with 230 grain hydra shocks. Honestly it is heavier than what most people would be willing to carry, but after carrying it for a year, I am used to it. Nothing else feels right in my hand other than my 45C. It eats any ammo I feed it flawlessly. I have put nearly 4000 rounds through it from various manufacturers. I trust it with my life.

    Reply

    • Spencer

      |

      I agree with you on the 45 ACP. Handicapped with age , 77 years old now, I simply can’t shoot one accurately anymore. Years ago I had one with me for 20 years. Still have a Springfield RO, but it’s depressing when I see my group size. Age and injures have taken it’s toll on me, especially my right shoulder. But I still believe the 45 ACP is best for many of us.

      Reply

  • eric

    |

    I carry a walther pk380 very light weight and very reliable.

    Reply

  • DarthVaderMentor

    |

    “A few decades ago the FBI did a study and found that a handgun that weighs over 35 ounces becomes a drag on the pants after a few hours.”

    Was that a handgun weighing a total of 35 ounces with a full ammunition load in or 35 ounces unloaded? Big difference.

    Reply

  • Randy Donk

    |

    I have 3 I carry, depending on circumstances. my primary for regular use is a 20 oz (unloaded) Charter Bulldog in 44 special, if I need to wear clothing that makes regular carry impractical, I carry an American Derringer chambered in .44 mag, with .44 special loads in a wallet holster. and if I am going to be in a dangerous area, where an altercation is not only possible, but likely, I carry my Officers size 1911 in 45 auto with several extra mags, and I just deal with the weight. because if I ever had to draw down, there is nothing I would rather have than a 1911

    Reply

  • Jeff

    |

    If I’m going to carry. I’ve found my FN5.7 to be light weight and the extra rounds don’t hurt the argument.

    Reply

  • Scott Hicks

    |

    The byline on this article is Dave Dolbee’s, but the bio at the bottom is that of Bob Campbell. So, who wrote it?

    Reply

    • Dave Dolbee

      |

      Sorry, my name defaults when I upload it. I’ll get it changed to Bob. ~Dave Dolbee

      Reply

  • George Dean

    |

    I still prefer my New Agent .45 with Crimson Trace laser grips, carried in a Hidden Hybrid holster.

    Reply

  • Doug

    |

    I started out with a Beretta PX4 Compact .40 but after some time and competition I shot a friends CZ. I was so impressed with it’s accuracy and controllability, now I carry and compete with a CZ P-01 and I keep it at bedside when I take it off. The transition from Beretta to CZ was easy with the decocker models and I’m so glad I did.

    Reply

    • Spencer

      |

      The CZ’s, or at least most of the newer ones have lowered the bore of the barrel by 1/8″ in relationship to the frame by modifying the way the frame & slide are fit together. The recoil is the same but the upward angle of the recoil is less allowing faster recovery from shot to shot. the recoil approaches recoiling straight back. Feeding has also been flawless with everything I’ve put thru it so far. I love that feature.
      I think there might be another manufacturer who also has a similar design. but can’t recall the name.

      Reply

  • Spencer

    |

    Everyone should choose a CC pistol based on their individual needs. I always take longer than most anyone making a choice about anything that important. As always I usually end up making a compromise(s) of some sort.
    I wanted something with enough weight which helped w/recoil. Since I’m much older now, I decided on the CZ-07 in 9mm. Mostly because I’m not nearly as strong as I was in my 50s. The 15 round magazine adds weight along with the extra capacity over a single stack magazine. I added a Crimson Trace been laser on the Picatinny rail. Point & shoot has become more natural now. Sight alignment is difficult w/trifocals. The laser avoids that problem. It also allows me to practice my pointing skills. I have small hands & with the 3 inserts that came with it, the smallest one fit my needs perfectly.
    I spent many hours online reading customer reviews, plus watching YouTube videos which allowed me to feel like I was going to make the perfect purchase for my needs. The only downside is minimal since the added weight is only 6.5 ounces for 15 rounds of 124 grain bullets.
    I purchased it for $440.00 which included shipping & 3 magazines. Didn’t even have to pay taxes since it was purchased out of state.
    My other CC pistol was a Model 39-2 S&W which also had a de-cocker mechanism.

    Reply

  • Vom Brunhaus

    |

    My suggestion would be the EAA Windicator in 2 inch and 30 ounces . Small in size but strong enuff to handle 357 Magnum loads as well as the 38 Special. I have one and like it alot and its fairly accurate !

    Reply

Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

%d bloggers like this: