Consumer Information

I Need a Gun – Where Do I Start

close-up photo of men using and inspecting gun in store. salesman explain how to use it, customer hold it in hands

It is hard to turn on the television, listen to the radio or talk to your friends and not hear of a recent attack in someone’s home or neighborhood, or an assault on an innocent person going through their daily lives.

There was a time when these stories seemed random, while you were away on vacation, at work or in those “rough neighborhoods.”

They seemed distant and almost unreal. These stories have gotten closer to all of our lives.

Predators are getting bolder and more aggressive.

The answer is becoming more and more prevalent to law-abiding citizens that we must be able to protect and defend our families, loved ones and ourselves.

Today, more and more people, with women leading the pack, are choosing to legally act on their Second Amendment rights and purchase, properly train, legally own, and carry a gun.

Finding the right gun can be a daunting experience with all of the hundreds of firearms from which to choose available in today’s market.

The truth is, a firearm is a tool. A personal-defense gun is a specific tool for a very specific job — self-defense.

This might help you begin your homework.

Gun Display Stands. Pistols for sale in the store.

Larger-Caliber Handguns

First, large-caliber guns or defensive shotguns are to quickly incapacitate the assailant or bring a quick end to whatever made you choose this course of action.

These are typically .45 ACP pistols, 10mm Auto pistols, .40 S&W pistols, .44 or .357 Magnum revolvers, and 12 or 20-gauge shotguns.

The advantages of these larger calibers are when properly used, they provide a devastating impact on the target and can discontinue the assailant’s ability or will to continue by causing a severe wound, even if it is not terminal.

The disadvantage with these guns is they let you know when they go off!

The recoil is almost unmanageable to inexperienced or untrained shooters.

Guns work best when the bullets hit the target. Additionally, these guns can be less, if not completely, unable to discreetly conceal on your person.

Springfield 1911

9mm, .38 and .380 Calibers

Now we come to guns designed to create an incapacitating or even terminal wound in a smaller package that can be more concealable and usually has recoil that is more manageable.

These guns are as effective as the ones above and have cartridges that are tried, tested and have been used by soldiers and police officers for years.

Some of these are 9mm Luger pistols in medium to larger frames, .38 Special revolvers in medium to larger frames and .380 ACP pistols in medium to larger frames.

S&W M&P .380 Shield EZ

Pocket Pistols

Finally, we come to one of the fastest-growing segments in personal firearms, and that is the so-called “pocket pistols.”

I have heard and prefer to call these “get off me guns.”

These guns can be easily concealed and available, where others may be left in the car or home due to the size of the gun, adequate clothing to conceal and weight.

Many of these you can safely carry in the front pocket of your pants, shorts or in a small purse.

A note of caution is that these guns are in a small frame, and due to that, may have uncomfortable recoil, as the gun frame is not compensating for the discharge.

However, an old phrase that still stands the test of time, is that the best gun ever made is the one you have on you when you need it.

In addition, one of these you will likely have on you more often than not.

Good examples of these are .38 Specials in small frames with a “snub nose,” .380 ACP pistols, .22-caliber pistols and Derringers in many calibers designed by good quality manufacturers.

NAA Mini Revolver

Finally, Cheaper than Dirt!’s Product Technicians and Firearms Specialists offer further advice on quality guns, ammo and all of our other products to keep you and the ones you love safe in these disconcerting times.

Just call 1-800-421-8047 and speak with one of our expert technicians.

Do you have any tips for new gun owners or any questions for gun experts? Let us know in the comments below!

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 (11)

  1. I’ve carried a gun sine I was 18 yrs. old. I have my favorites, like the 1911, but since the conversation is about what I would recommend to a 1st time buyer, I’ll try to be neutral. What I think is this- the gun you should buy should have sufficient power to stop an armed attacker. If the buyer is willing to practice-alot- then I would say AT LEAST a 9mm semi-auto pistol; a .40S&W would be better if the shooter can control it. (Lots of practice.) That also requires being able to take it apart for cleaning. If the new shooter just wantssome thjing they can just pick up and fire when necessary,, then I would say get a revolver of AT LEAST .38spl cal. and use +P ammo. The key is what ever the shooter can shoot well with compared to other guns, is the one they should get. The MOST IMPORTANT thing is that the shooter MUST know and understand the law concerning the use of deadly physical force, AND be ready, willing and able to use that gun without hesitation when necessary, AND understand the leagl results of using a gun against another human being. Even if the shooting is legally justified, there very well could be lawsuits which cost a bit of money for lawyers.

  2. So Lady Luck and Mr. Chance show up. So what? They were there before Mr. Crazy kicked in the door, and they’ll be there long after everything is cleaned up.

    Were the victims of any mass shooting “better off” by not carrying? Last I heard, citizens were more efficient, more responsive, and safer than that police at ending mass shootings.

  3. Does it ever occur to those of you calling names that you’re just making that person’s argument – whether right, wrong, or indifferent – look stronger? If you have a problem with what’s being said, how about explaining yourself rather than calling names. Unless you’re 10 years old and in a playground. That being said, having been in a number of fights myself (fists, knives, and guns, you name it), I’d say that faultroy is 100% accurate when he says that it is not like in the movies – it’s generally chaotic and micro-second fast. Unless you’ve trained extensively for the adreneline burst and react somewhat instinctively (and fast), it’s probably not going to end well. BUT, and this is where I find fault with faultroy, the alternatives to not having SOMETHING plausible are bad and worse than having a gun. I’ve never met someone that has actually been caught with their pants down as the victim of a crime that doesn’t have a desire to protect themselves better “the next time.” And, it’s not “new” – it’s only the gun control crowd that’s relatively new. When I was a boy, nobody questioned the right (if not the obligation) to self-defense and to owning a gun.

  4. Faultroy makes a good point, one must continue to train often and frequently. I live way out of town and the police response time if I am lucky is 45 minutes more often then not it’s 2 hours. With the rise in home break in’s etc, where I live, I can’t count on the police to defend me. Hence, I do alot of training.

  5. Faultroy, I have been reading the blog comments generated from the email from CTD. I have to tell you, yours is the most lucid, well thought out, honest and well written response I have read today. Thanks

  6. I’m not sure where all this hysteria about guns, carrying and shooting is coming from. I carry and have been involved professionally (as a police officer) with guns for most of my life. But it is only recently that we have seen this obsession with guns and carrying and protecting against the most absurd “possibilities.” The fact of the matter is that you are more likely to die a number of different ways (like being obese for instance) than to be assaulted by someone with a gun. In addition, I can tell you from personal experience–as someone that has been in a gunfight, that it is not like in the movies. Everyone that goes into a gun fight does not go in alone. They go in with three people. To your left is Lady Luck. She’s about 10ft tall. Next to her left is Mr. Chance. Mr Chance is about 5 miles tall. Like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. You could be the best shot, the best shootist in the whole world. But in the end–Mr Chance makes the call–and God makes the final decision. You can increase the odds by constant and assiduous practice and staying in peak condition–but you can’t plan for everything. For most people–cause they don’t take it as seriously as they should–when you add up Lady Luck and Mr. Chance, they would just as well be better off not even carrying, but using good common sense…but then again, that would play hell with the marketing of firearms–wouldn’t it? Why talk about reality when you can dwell on fantasy…it’s so much more fun.

  7. I live outside of Atlanta, a city that the mayor and police do not like armed civilians. When a weapon is stolen and recovered in Atlanta the police quietly either keep them for thier own use or destroy them instead of returing them to their legal owner. I used to carry a semi but now carry a snubnose .38 5 shot revolver on my person. When I have to go into town to work wierd hours I also cary a semi 15-17 shot larger calibre just in case I happen to get into a really bad situation. The great thing of the .38 revlover is the casing are not spread all over the place if one has to fire it and a 2″ snubnose makes a lot of nose which is also a deterent to most of these cowardly criminal types looking for easy prey. At home, a model 500 .12 gauge pump with #4 shot is great. Noise and a blast that will not neccesitate having to aim precisely. The .12 guage pump was a great arm in Nam also. Of course we filed the sear and pulled the plug and every time you racked it it went off, 8 times, quite illegal at home but very effective in a close combat situation. I would suggest a snubnosed .38 standard with semi-wad, no P load, for especailly women. And look out for the hammerless as they will sometimes chew up the web of the hand when firing.

  8. Thank you Allen for having a point of view not sanction by fix news idiots, the truth about shooting and the physical act never seems available on the same site as gun nuts. Maybe this site will become a valid place to express opinions on the second amendment and the inherent responsibilities of society to keep this stuff out of the hands of fools, politicians, nut-bags and criminals and helping to warn the police anonymously of groups planning assaults against our citizens, against corporations I would reserve any findings in a court for individual cases as inanimate objects are not even on the list of forms i would go out of my way to protect.
    Any group that violates the Constitution or the Bill of Rights is my enemy as my oath I took only was to protect american citizens, have believed sense my tour of duty unless attacked we have no business in another country, and even then only to attack those who violated us, no occupations for any reason outside our borders! We must shutdown all foreign adventures and fix up our country, then have only the people decide-vote for or against wars again, like we use to before bush. Additionally having gun rights and the threat of use by individuals and laws to protect us americans we should be able to influence all treaties we have had in the last 50 years. We must have all rewritten so we get equal balance of trade, nothing free for anyone! But knowing your limitations Allen is the most important aspect you exposed, and your teaching moment, it just might save a few of these civilians! Good work! Joe

  9. if youre not carrying it all your waking hours, & have it (or another one) “at ready” in bed & shower, then forget it, find something that you WILL have on you or immediately at ready; anything’s better than nada, esp if “unloaded” into attackerz’ face, eyes; my favorite is “contact shooting” w/ pocket-holstered j-frame; also any laser-dot makes it all so much easier.

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