Whether you’re seeking a new carry gun, a ranch toy, or the perfect home defender, renting several handgun at your local range can give you a great taste of what’s out there. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on a pistol that turns out to be not quite right, you can “test drive” pretty much anything on the market. However, in the end, it’s just a test drive. You can’t put thousands of rounds through it in a single day, unless you’ve got that kind of time and money. Sure, you could take some bulk ammo and just start blasting away during your rental. But what will you have learned about the gun? A more intelligent approach is needed when making these kind of decisions, so I’ve outlined a simple road map for taking a single box of 50 rounds and evaluating that pistol you’ve got your eye on.
Once you’ve selected your gun of choice, it’s time to pick out some bullets.
It can be tempting to purchase the most inexpensive bulk ammunition that the range has to offer, especially when just trying out a pistol to see if you like it. But, if you’re going to adequately evaluate the gun in just a single box, you owe it to yourself to spring for some high-quality match ammo.
Match bullets can be pricey, but remember what we’re trying to accomplish here. It would be a shame to go through the test and declare the pistol “not for me,” when it was simply because you chose to save a few dollars with inferior ammo. The pistol deserves the best chance possible in making the cut!
After all, if you end up purchasing the handgun based on your range test, the amount of ammunition you’ll put through the pistol over a lifetime will make that initial trial run seem pretty cheap in comparison. And if you decide not to buy the pistol, purchasing quality ammo just saved you potentially hundreds of dollars.
Accuracy Testing: 10 Rounds
Whether you choose to test the pistol’s accuracy capabilities at the beginning or end of your 50-round box of ammo is completely up to you.
Some shooters, myself included, find that we shoot our best after having a few rounds through the gun, to get a feel of how the sights and trigger work. It’s also helpful to use a few rounds to get accustomed to the recoil impulse and trigger reset. Of course, dry firing a few times costs you nothing.
Others find that they shoot their best at the beginning of the range session, before their flinch really starts to show up. Just do whatever works for you. Two precision five shot groups are enough, at whatever distance you’re comfortable with.
Sight Picture Presentations: 15 Rounds
If you’re going to use the pistol as a hunting or carry piece, it’s important to do several repetitions from the low ready (or if possible, from a holster). This can tell you quite a bit about how the pistol handles, and how fast it takes you to pick up the sights.
Recoil Impulse: 10 Rounds
Does the pistol hang up at the top of the recoil arc? Does it want to rise to the right or to the left when firing? Paying special attention to how the gun moves during the recoil cycle can allow you to either adjust your grip to make it work, or simply decide that it’s not for you.
Reloading: 5 Rounds
Doing five-slide lock reloads can tell you if your hand is going to get pinched by inserting a magazine, and if you’re going to have issues reaching the slide release lever. Speaking of the release lever, keep an eye out for inadvertent activations during your range session.
If you have a compatible magazine pouch, that’s great. If not, just picking the magazine up off the shooting lane table will work almost as well.
Multi-Shot Drills: 10 Rounds
These rounds really put everything together. You’ll get an excellent feel of how the sights, trigger, grip and recoil impulse play together when doing double taps. These tests can really burn up the ammo, so it’s best to just spend 10 rounds doing it. Pay close attention to what the gun is telling you!
Time to purchase?
Perform these simple tests with your box of 50 rounds, and you’ll have an excellent, generalized idea of how a particular pistol performs. It might seem like a lot of work, but you’ll be much better informed when it comes time to lay out the cash.