When it comes to handgun selection, we all have our ideas. I do not subscribe to a certain type of shooter that seems to have had his or her options weighed by the cinema.
A high-capacity 9mm and two spare magazines is reasonable for service use, but hardly practical for most who carry concealed. It is difficult enough to convince the student to carry an adequate firearm. A spare magazine or speed loader is a major leap!
Then there is the choice of a good holster versus a $20 chain store holster. Very often, the final arbiter of survival isn’t what gun, but simply that you had a gun. You must be willing to use the gun and be skilled in its use.
I began carrying a handgun at my grandfather’s service station, working late hours in a remote location. I was a teenager and the Colt Detective Special was comforting.
I also took to carrying this handgun when hunting and took game, such as bedded rabbits and even squirrels. I knew how to shoot. No one told me the .32 Colt New Police was an ineffective caliber and I am glad I never had to learn that the hard way.
What followed was many years of testing, research, study and some years in uniform. Among the work I am most satisfied with has nothing to do with the popular press.
Fact vs. Fiction
One of my abstracts on patrol carbines was used to persuade a major agency to adopt patrol rifles that were cataloged at a federal level. I also wrote a well-received report on investigating hate crimes and dealing with those that instigate crime via the internet.
The point is, I am a careful researcher and do not take facts lightly. I have known the heavy blow of a fist, the cut of a knife and the burning of a bullet. It got real.
When a writer that is supposed to have some type of authority tells you that all calibers are the same and there is little difference in effect, and the writer never meets a gun he doesn’t like, well, he is a false prophet and the worshiper’s end will be poorly met.
This stratum of obscure and distorted facts would never survive in the professional community.
Power vs. Accuracy
I carry much the same type of handgun I have carried and trusted for more than 40 years. I don’t do so because this is what is expected of me or because it is a trend, but because this is the best system I have encountered.
The bottom line is that there is a steep learning curve when it comes to changing handgun types and relearning certain operations. I am just fine with my choices. If you are just beginning, study the types and then invest in the system and train.
Those that carry inadequate armament are in the unenviable situation of being armed with a deadly weapon, but not well able to defend themselves.
But, by the same token, those carrying a handgun that is too powerful for them to control, a handgun they have not mastered or a handgun weight that is too heavy are in the same situation and with worse chance of surviving.
Defense vs. Offence
Here is what will matter. I have faced people who meant to do me harm, most often because they were stopped from harming another by my interference.
On at least one occasion, I faced an individual who professed a desire to die—until he realized his wish was almost certainly to be fulfilled. If you do not project competence and they do not see “shoot” in your eyes, you will fail.
I do not mean to be aggressive or to provoke a fight, but that is a ticket to jail. I mean that when confronted with a threat, you are capable of getting the pistol into action quickly and you are able to deliver the payload to the area where it will do the most good.
Only if these factors are firmly in place (along with the determination to defend yourself) will the handgun you carry have any bearing on the outcome of the battle.
Most of the time, the fight is over when the gun is presented and the bad guy retreats. Another point is that a strong right hook has stopped gunfights before they begin. My rule is that the gun doesn’t come out unless I am willing to fire.
The situation must be so bad that the only means of stopping the attack—a lethal threat—is that the handgun must be used to stop the threat. The handgun isn’t there to extend your will or to prevent a few bruises. It is there to save a life.
In those instances where the handgun must be used, the single determining factor in your survival will be prior training. Not handgun weight or any other factor.
This means the ability to place the bullet into center mass. This is the area that will most likely result in a shutdown of the assailant’s body.
There should be blood loss and a lot of it. The bullet must have adequate penetration. The body has heavy bones and if the assailant’s arms are extended or he is wearing heavy winter clothing, there is a lot to overcome before the vitals are encountered.
Some of the trick bullets that fragment early or break into shards are going to be a very poor choice in this arena.
Cost vs. Value
While mental operations and mental elements are most important, the handgun’s and bullet’s performances are also important. The handgun should be relatively fast into action, secure and safe carried close to the body, and of high quality.
I began my shooting life with Colt and Smith and Wesson revolvers and still own a number. I carry them concealed from time to time, but my favored carry gun is a Commander-type 1911 .45. These are quality handguns I am familiar with.
I realize that handguns are expensive and young shooters have more important responsibilities, such as children, education, orthodontists, soccer uniforms and student loans. Today, I measure my handguns against the hours of toil it took to obtain them.
It was very difficult for me to come up with the $149.95 for my first Colt 1911. A good-quality .38 revolver was less than $100.
By the same token, my good friend Trevor could not wait to put down a month’s pay for his Colt Government Model .45 when he was fighting in Africa. What is your life worth? You cannot put a price on your life. GLOCK is the baseline.
The GLOCK is reliable and works for most shooters. Also, many GLOCKs have a handgun weight that is lower and are therefore easier to shoot.
But the question remains: if a gun is cheaper, what corners have been cut? What advantage are you getting when you spend more?
I am impressed by the performance of modern 9mm loads and find the caliber acceptable with careful load selection. A 124-grain +P or better still a +P+ offers good wound potential.
The .40 may not be as popular as it once was, but it offers excellent wound ballistics. As long as the pistol isn’t too small to control well, these are good choices.
Threat vs. Real Threat
Think about the problem you may be facing. It may be a doper looking for a fast mark. You may startle a car thief or a burglar. They are only motivated by profit and easily spooked.
But there are very tough individuals who are determined not to return to prison and who enjoy inflicting human pain and suffering. Some have been shot and stabbed and have little fear if you do not have the determination to back up the threat.
If you are armed with a pocket pistol, derringer or minigun, there are men out there that will literally feed it to you.
An acquaintance of mine was badly bitten by a large dog and spent two months in recovery—after his 9mm hollow points flattened out in two inches of hard bone and muscle.
The dog was smaller than the majority of the members of our protein-fed ex-con criminal class.
The bottom line: choose a handgun you are able to use well. For most of us, this means a 9mm or .38 of neither the largest nor the smallest size—loaded with a high-quality defense load you have qualified in the handgun.
You should carry the handgun in a quality holster that keeps the handgun secure during movement and one which allows a good, sharp draw. This means a handgun weight that isn’t too heavy or light.
But a quality holster just may allow you to carry a heavier handgun than you thought possible.
The presentation from concealed carry should be smooth and will save your life, whether any shots are fired or not. Confidence is important and this means training and practice. Nothing else is acceptable.
How important is handgun weight to you? Let us know in the comments below.