When I wrote my original post on the folly of chasing gear for competition I did so at a point where I had been competing for a little over a year and had less than ten matches under my belt. For a reference I write this post having concealed carry for almost 12 years and in that time I have changed guns and platforms an order of magnitude more than I did with competition gear. With Part 1 I will look into some guns I tried and what I learned.
If you are new to concealed carry this as an example of what not to do; If you are a CCW veteran this might seem familiar or even laughable to you. Either way I present to you a method not worth repeating.
The First CCW Gun
The first gun CCW gun I bought was going to be my last – or so I thought when I paid for it – a Rock Island 1911 Officer’s model. Presently Rock Island (Armscor) has built a reputation for decent 1911’s; mine was not made in the era of praise. It had so much going wrong for it I can’t list it all; a sample includes: GI sights, no beaver tail, a gritty 7+ lbs trigger, sticky mag release (it would stick in!) and the worst Parkerized finish imaginable. It would feed 230 grain ball ammo, sometimes and it would feed JHP’s exactly never. I did a little work on it, got it to function semi-reliably and actually used it in the shooting portion of my licensing. It was accurate: when it fed. For the record, the magazine brand or type didn’t matter, this sucker was the king of feedway stoppages! I quickly quit trying to make it a reliable gun and relegated it to range toy, but it sucked at that as well. I sold it, with full disclosure of the problems to a guy who wanted it for a truck gun on his ranch. As far as I know he hasn’t shot it even once.
That was followed by a string of mediocre garbage by Bersa, Taurus, Rossi and Kel Tec.
Lesson #1: Don’t believe what you read and damn sure don’t listen to the guy behind the counter. Find a reputable trainer/friend/co-worker and get several opinions and never, ever, ever, never, ever buy a cheap 1911 and plan on it saving your life.
The Airweight J-Frame
In my string of crap I did manage to hit a home run, at least with reliability, build quality and accuracy. I bought a slightly used S&W Model 642-1. I slapped some Crimson Trace grips on it and carried it often. 8 years later I still have it. It has ridden IWB, OWB, in my pocket, on my ankle, in my console, and in a backpack. It goes bang every time and after putting untold rounds down range I can actually make decent hits with it. It is not extremely fun to shoot, but it works. I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND ONE FOR A FEMALE BEGINNER! For that matter, I wouldn’t recommend any J-Frame to a female beginner. If I am really dressed up, ala’ funeral or wedding (one and the same?) then you’ll find that old 642 in my pocket. Otherwise it spends it days in peaceful solitude, secure in the fact I can never be sold because of the discoloration caused years of sweat and grime.
Lesson #2: The Airweight J-Frame’s are fine firearms, IF and only IF you are willing to learn it. It is not a gun for people who are recoil sensitive and it is not range toy. It is ultra reliable, easy to carry and will always be there for you.
380 ACP? I’ve owned a few
An old FI Industries D380 1911 look-alike, a Kel-Tec P3AT, the Bersa Thunder CC and most recently a Ruger LCP. After shooting way too many rounds of over-priced 380 ACP I can safely say I am done with that cartridge. Fixed barrel blowback operated 380’s have more muzzle flip than an equivalent size 9mm with a normal recoil operated action. The smaller guns hold fewer rounds and with a shorter barrel you generally get weaker performance compared to the S&W 642. Before some smart ass says it, no I don’t want to be shot with either one. The small LCP/P3AT carried great in my pocket, but so does my 642 and it is not as susceptible to lint and if I am shooting from an odd grip or odd position I won’t be the recipient of a stove-pipe. For me, the small 380’s and 5 shot revolvers fill the same role. Choose wisely.
Lesson #3: Carry the most powerful handgun you can conceal, all else being equal. Any handgun cartridge is a poor man stopper, don’t make the situation worse by compromising.
With that I will wrap up Part 1. If this offended you just wait for Part 2! The mathematical constant in all of these lessons is wasted time and wasted money that could have been spent on training and ammo.
Do you feel I am grossly wrong? Have you made similar mistakes? Tell me below.
The pattern of behavior you describe is a familiar one. People with little experience don’t understand the difference between an expensive gun and a cheap gun. They all go “bang”, right? It’s not until you spend significant time with one, and try to make it work for your situation that you begin to understand and appreciate the differences. I’m on my 6th carry gun in about the past 8 years. I still own five of the six. Only one of them was beyond my ability to find a long term role, the others have settled into roles as home and vehicle guns. Trusted advice is a great place to start, but nothing takes the place of experience. My advice for the first time ccw purchaser would be to buy what you think will work, and absolutely put in the time to make it work, but fully expect that your first choice won’t be your last.
So strange….you make it sound like someone would only have one carry gun? What bizzarro world do you live on? 😉
Actually, yeah. Having just one carry gun is frickin’ smart.
I currently have three that are deemed carry guns and have real carry holsters, but only one of them is my 90% of the time gun and the other two are niche guns filling the remaining 10%.
Great article. I have chased gear and the behavior you describe can happen even if your first gun was an HK.
My mid life crisis hit at age 40. Got my first CCW and started shooting IDPA. I kept chasing gear. I’d chase gear for conceal carry and gear for IDPA. Then I remember a lesson that should have stuck with me in the 1980’s when Air Jordan’s came out. The shoes never made me better. Practice and training made me better. Unfortunately I wasted some money. Yes, I have some nice products but I needed to learn the word “enough”.
Bottom line, 99% of the people who visit this site are NOT good enough shooters. I’ll say it again, you are worse than you think you are. (Myself included!)
The gear will not make the difference. Practice, practice, practice will!
Last point…your gun will not be perfect NO matter what gun it is! What will matter is practice, practice, practice with it.
My first four years of shooting were very expensive and inefficient. The last two years have been much better and focused. My skills have reached “expert” in IDPA (which still means I suck). But, “master” is reachable. I working hard to get there.
(My intent here is not to challenge the original article in any way. I agree with the author’s points. I came into gun with reputable products and I still chased gear and I delayed learning the necessary, hard practice it takes to get better.)
re the .380
I absolutely agree with you about the fixed-barrel .380s. Even I found my Walther PPK/S extremely unpleasant to shoot.
I always gnash my teeth when I see the sales folks at the gun counter steering women customers toward those pocket .380s with crappy sights and triggers. I just want to scream at them.
However, my Beretta 84 was one of, if not the, softest-shooting centerfire pistols I owned. And I know other people who swear by their SIG P-238 and Glock 42.
Is the Beretta 84 big for a .380? Yes it is. Is the .380 ideal? No it is not.
But for certain people who, for whatever reason, cannot or will not shoot a 9mm, there are .380 caliber handguns that fill a much needed niche.
I have fondled the Beretta 84 more than once. I just can’t justify it, but man does it feel nice in hand.
Back when I was enamored of the .380 (@1978-81), I owned 3–the old single-action AMT Backup (actually the pre-AMT, called the OMC), a PPK/S, and the Beretta 84. The PPK/S was the absolute worst; it had a million-pound DA trigger and the slide cut railroad tracks on my hand with every shot. The Beretta was by far the best.
Then Smith came out with the 469, which wasn’t really that much bigger than the Beretta, and I dumped all the .380s and never looked back. (Although sometimes I wish I still had the Beretta, just for S&Gs.)
Unless you’re extremely recoil-sensitive, you gain nothing and lose a lot by going to a .380 instead of a good, subcompact 9mm.
I’m kind of embarrassed about that big box of holsters I’ve acquired. I did get my wife to sell off my Raven mag carriers that didn’t work for me. Next up will be all that Galco leather that doesn’t get worn.
I am very curious about the age of your RIA Officer 1911; I have one purchased in 2009 and it runs everything just fine. ACT mags that work great in any 1911 I’ve ever tried them in. The only issue I ever had with it, was the slide not locking open once after I cleaned it. Took it back apart and reassembled and it works fine ever since.
As for remorseful purchases, there have been some. One was a Sig P290RS (too many restrike issues for starters), traded it in for a CZ75D PCR; best move I ever made. Sig P232 (restrike issues again), although it has finally been repaired by Sig and runs well, just not a firearm I really enjoyed (though it looks sharp and felt good in the hand); don’t much like the bottom mag release. Full size M&P Vtac 40 S&W; neither set of sights work good indoors. Otherwise it shoots well, but I prefer the M&P 40 Compact, even over the M&P Shield; another firearm I wouldn’t buy again.
You mentioned the LCP, which I’ve had for about 7 years now, it is certainly a snappy little critter; nothing a set of Hogue rubber grips and extended mag cannot reduce and make relatively nice to shoot. I’d much rather carry this than a J-frame, though I may have found it’s replacement in the Remington RM380 that I acquired in early November. To date after about 200 rounds there has not been one fault with it. The slightly larger size and weight make it friendlier to shoot than the LCP without the Hogue grips; now I am waiting for the addition of recoil reducing grips for the RM380 to make it even more enjoyable.
I bought my RIA 1911 in early 2004, so it was likely a mid-2003 model.
Ugh, I don’t have to list the bad gun decisions I made do I, it could take a while. Holsters, lets not even go there. The Beretta 96D in the giant fanny pack, oh the shame. I think we’ve all gone a similar route though. Not all of it was the gun(s) we bought fault. Didn’t we all suck and blamed those early guns? When we make that first purchase we are looking for 1 gun to do everything. Home defense, range favorite, competition, carry and BBQ gun. When you learn that guns are like golf clubs, things make a little more sense. A Ruger SP101 w/CT became my long time trusted companion. I really had to work at it, but it was worth it. Just last year I switched to a S&W Shield 9mm. It’s about the best compromise I can imagine. Reliable, easy to carry, fun to shoot, and not to mention price. I was carrying a speed loader and quick strips with the revolver. Now I carry a spare magazine in a PJ Holsters mag carrier. The right gun lesson is just a small part of the over lesson we all need to learn.
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