I find myself encountering more and more people who ask me for advice on getting their first pistol for self defense or, more usually, concealed carry. I’ve repeated the advice so many times at this point that I thought it would be wiser just to write it all down and send them a link instead of trying to explain it in person or over the phone. Now I know what some readers may be thinking…”Aren’t there about a billion blog posts on getting started with CCW out there?” and that may be true. I don’t read a lot of blogs, personally, but I’m sure I’m not the first person to tackle the issue. I do know that I regularly encounter some spectacularly awful advice being given out by people with lots of enthusiasm but absolutely no damn clue what they are talking about…so clearly what some would consider to be common sense isn’t really all that common.
So let’s start with Step 1: Buying your first pistol
There are a bunch of handguns on the market these days in all sorts of different calibers, configurations, and even colors. Picking one out of the vast number of options may seem like a pretty daunting task but take it from a guy who has bought more handguns than any human being could ever possibly need: It’s not that hard. All you have to do is keep focus on the requirements of your purchase. I highlight the word “your” there because if you ask people for advice you will often get their version of the gospel rather than what you actually need.
You don’t need to buy the same gun that the SEALs use.
You don’t need to buy the same gun that competition shooter X uses.
You don’t need to buy the gun currently endorsed by Tactical Youtube Celebrity whatever.
You don’t need to buy the gun some clueless neckbearded dork in a crappy gunshop tells you is the BESTEST EVER.
Yes, you may be new and people who have been gun owners “for years” may seem like they know what they are doing, but consider this: How long have you owned a car? Has owning that car for however many years made you able to drop the transmission out of it and rebuild it today? Does it mean you could drive it around a track faster than, say, a Formula 1 world champion? Same with firearms. The fact that someone has owned one for years doesn’t mean they have the slightest clue how it actually performs, how to actually fix it, or how to use it properly. I know it might sound smug, but the number of times I’ve witnessed violations of even the most basic firearms safety rules (like DO NOT POINT GUNS AT PEOPLE YOU DON’T INTEND TO KILL) on the range or in gun stores indicates that the batting average out there is pretty low.
There are plenty of knowledgeable people out there. There are also plenty of people who are dumber than a sack full of hammers. There are also people who have the very best of intentions and wish to be helpful but who just don’t know what they don’t know. If you start out thinking that you’d like to purchase something relatively small and easy to carry with the requirements of your lifestyle and the way you have to dress, do not let the advice of others talk you into buying a pistol you will leave at home the majority of the time because you can’t effectively conceal it. Having the most tactically awesome handgun ever made sitting at home does precisely zero for you when you’re staring down the wrong end of a felon’s Hi-Point in a supermarket parking lot.
So with all of that being said, what should you buy?
Something that’s reliable.
Something you can afford to practice with.
Something that’s easy for you to carry.
Something that’s relatively easy to customize.
Note what isn’t on that list. I didn’t mention caliber, or brand, or polymer vs. metal. I didn’t even mention bore axis. Here’s a top tip for you as a beginner: If you are asking for advice on your first pistol or your first concealed carry piece and somebody mentions bore axis, go ahead and envision that person wearing a dunce cap and clown shoes because it’s about the same thing.
I would love to tell you to just go out and buy a hi-cap 9mm service pistol, but I know for a fact that a lot of you out there in reader-land can’t carry that kind of pistol every day. I try pretty hard and even I can’t carry that kind of pistol in every situation of my life. The Glock 17 is a superior weapon to the Glock 42 in every way…but the Glock 42 can go places that the G17 can’t.
Some gun is always better than no gun. Get as much gun as you can because unfortunately you don’t get to dictate the terms of a gunfight, but don’t become so fixated on buying a pistol that will let you survive the zombie apocalypse that you buy one you can’t keep on you to stop the street assault you’re much more likely to face. Choosing a handgun is a compromise between competing factors and you’re really the only person who knows enough about your situation to accurately weigh all of them and come up with a reasonable solution. There are enough handguns on the market that whatever you conclude you need, somebody likely makes it.
When you really sit down and think through your circumstances I think you’ll find that the vast handgun market is whittled down pretty quickly to a relatively small number of options…and then you can focus your research on those possibilities.