Choosing your first handgun can be both exciting and overwhelming. Just like choosing your first car, there are a number of models, sizes, and budgets available. Not to mention new versus used, ease of maintenance and the cost of the ammunition required to use with it.
To make the process of taking this big step a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of questions that will help you determine a course of action when making this important purchase.
Why Are You Making This Purchase?
Knowing why you are buying a handgun will help you decide what type. Do you intend to keep it on hand at home strictly for home defense? Do you plan to obtain a concealed weapon permit and carry it with you? Are you a recreational shooter who doesn’t want to rent one at the shooting range anymore?
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The answers to these questions will help you determine what size and caliber will work best for your needs. Larger models can be more intimidating during a home invasion. So much so that you may not even need it to be loaded. Smaller models are easier to transport back and forth to the shooting ranges.
What’s Your Budget?
Knowing ahead of time what you can afford will have a big impact on the number of handguns are available to you.
Do You Want a New or Used One?
Your budget may have some impact on how you answer this question. If you are interested in a higher price model, a used version may allow you to get just what you want without breaking the bank.
If you do go with a used handgun, make sure you purchase it from a legitimate vendor. Then have it checked thoroughly for damage and wear that could affect its firing performance and safety.
What Caliber and Size?
When comparing two handguns of similar size and weight, the one designed to shoot a larger caliber will perform with more recoil. Smaller caliber designs have less recoil.
If you are just beginning to work on your skill, a smaller caliber will allow you to focus on improving your aim and ability. As you progress, moving up to a larger caliber will let you continue your progress.
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A note on gun size as it relates to the size of your hands. In addition to caliber and how easy or difficult it makes handling the weapon, a smaller size will also be more manageable if you have a smaller hand size. Recently a friend went with her husband to the local shooting range to try out his 9mm. After firing off several clips, she had the opportunity to test a .380. She was amazed by the ease of use of the smaller caliber and size after fumbling with the larger and more cumbersome model her husband owned.
If you know you want to use your handgun for personal protection, it’s a good idea to get one that is easy for you to load, fire and reload.
How Does It Feel?
While closely related to the size and caliber question, when it comes down to it, this is the most important question you’ll answer. If a certain model and size feel more comfortable than others, that’s probably the one for you.
A good way to test different models is to watch for vendor demos at your local shooting range. Sig Sauer, for example, will often do demos several times a year. At these events, you can test several models of different sizes and calibers to see what works best for your skill level.