Just like in many markets there is a wide array of opinions and viewpoints when it comes to which gun is the best and which one you should buy to defend yourself with. Over the years I have heard many “experts” at gun shows, gun stores, at the range and in open discussion quick to provide their ‘professional’ opinion to the unknowing masses. Many of these so-called experts have no real training or experience behind their opinion nor have they ever had to use a firearm for anything other than to shoot a piece of paper. Their expertise lies in whatever was said in the latest article they read in Guns and Ammo or other such publication. Or, they have based their opinion on a movie they saw about Navy SEALS or some lone commando like Rambo or James Bond. These guys are quick to spot and are quick to flood the market with their opinions.
Today I am specifically going to address firearms purchased for personal protection and most often carried concealed about your person. If I were to delve into other areas of firearm ownership and suitability I would eat up too much of your time.
First and foremost, PLEASE do not purchase a firearm or more importantly carry one if you are notwilling, capable and competent to use it in a true life and death encounter. One of my favorite quotes is by Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite Training Center. “You are no more armed because you have a firearm than you are a pianist because you sit behind a piano.” Simply having a gun by your side does you no good if you can’t use it when truly needed.
Now, in regards to the actual firearm, here are a few things to consider; size, weight, caliber, recoil management, reliability, comfortable and concealable.
First, the size and weight of the gun is going to matter to you pretty quickly once you start carrying it on a daily basis. If the gun is too big and bulky you will quickly determine that the extra weight on your hip (or wherever you decide to carry it) is not worth the cost/benefit analysis. Carrying a gun concealed on a daily basis is a lifestyle choice. You will potentially have to start dressing a little differently in order to now accommodate wearing the gun on your hip and out of view of the general public. If the gun is too large for you and weighs you down too much you will soon find the gun in your sock drawer and not there when you need it.
Second, caliber. I first started reading any gun magazine I could get my hands on when I was about 14 years old. I can remember the cover of one them, “9 vs. 45”. The author talked about some of the pros and cons to each caliber but in the end never provided the reader an answer of which was better. Eighteen years later, currently sitting on the same magazine rack, there are endless articles that still debate the caliber issue. Needless to say, we are never going to agree and as long as people are paying for articles like these authors will keep writing them.
So, what caliber is right for you? Let’s clear one thing up right now. There is no “one-shot stop” round out there. Granted, there are calibers out there that do a much better job at stopping an attacker right now but it wasn’t so much the caliber that caused the attacker to stop, it was the placement of the round. I’ve seen a man shot with .40 caliber round that never lost consciousness, was never ‘incapacitated’ nor did he seem too worried that he was shot. Why? Besides a few other factors…he was shot in the shoulder and the round did not hit or damage anything vital. On the flip side, I’ve seen gangbangers shot dead instantly with a .25 caliber Saturday Night Special. Why the difference? The gangbanger was shot in the heart. Often times ER Surgeons cannot tell the difference in caliber size when dealing with gunshot victims. Ultimately, there is no massive variance in the damage done to the human body when shot with a pistol caliber round.
So, with that in mind, caliber is somewhat person specific. In my opinion, and that of many other instructors, you should carry the biggest, fastest caliber you personally can that you can control with minimal effort. So, for the 5’ – 6”, 120 lbs female is the .45 really the best? Or will she be much more comfortable and able to handle a 9mm or a .380? She will gain more rounds in the gun to help off-set the lack of size of the projectile shot at her attacker thereby potentially giving her more chances of hitting something vital. Also, by carrying and shooting a smaller
caliber her ability to manage recoil is greater. There’s no point in carrying a bigger, faster round if you will only get one round off because the recoil of the larger caliber is too great.
Third, reliability! This is almost King when it comes to making a decision to purchase a firearm. There is no point in carrying a gun when if at the moment of truth it malfunctions on you. There are many firearms out there that are notorious for being unreliable and there are firearms out there that have proven themselves over and over in testing and in real life to be utterly reliable (Glock for example). When you’ve made your decision on which gun to buy and carry you need to take it to the range to one; get it broken in (yes, many guns have a break in period-usually around 500 rounds) and two to shoot through it the same rounds you plan on carrying for defensive purposes. There are guns out there that will eat up FMJ practice rounds but then become very picky on what they will cycle when fed Hollow Point defensive ammunition. If your gun will not cycle Speer Gold Dot but it will reliably cycle Winchester Supreme Elite, wouldn’t you want to find this out at the range vs. the street?
Lastly, comfortable and concealable. If the gun is not comfortable in your hand and on your hip how long do you think you will actually shoot it and train with it much less carry it on a daily basis? Again, quickly this will become a sock drawer gun and it won’t be there when you need it at the mall when a shooting breaks out. If the gun does not conceal well then you will most likely end up having to wear larger, bulkier clothing. Something you may not want to do based on where you’re going, what you’re doing or the weather. There are many holsters out there, some that do much better than others in this area but often times the size of the gun is the biggest factor.
If you’re thinking about buying a gun for this purpose, do yourself a favor and ask around. See what your friends are carrying and why. Find local cops who are willing to talk to you and offer their advice. Most importantly, spend an afternoon at the local gun range where you can rent various guns of size/shape and caliber. Make an informed decision so that in 6 months you aren’t regretting picking up the gun that was on the cover of American Handgunner only to realize it does not fit your needs.
Train Hard – Fight Easy