Every “which gun to buy” conversation I’ve had

When you’re the token gun guy and you have friends that aren’t, you get asked about “which gun should I buy for x” a lot. Frequently. For me it’s either “which gun should I get for competition” or “which gun should I get for CCW/home defense?” Here’s how each of the conversations almost always go.

Which gun for home defense/CCW

Friend: Hey Caleb, what gun should I get for home defense and CCW?

Me: Get a Glock 19.

Friend: Why?

Me: Because it’s small enough to conceal every day, large enough to shoot well with a modicum of effort, holds a reasonable amount of bullets, chambered in a proven cartridge, and has a reputation for hell and back reliability.

Friend: But I read on the internet blah blah blah grip angle?

Me: Fine. Get an M&P9.

Friend: Why?

Me: Because it’s small enough to conceal every day, large enough to shoot well with a modicum of effort, holds a reasonable amount of bullets, chambered in a proven cartridge, and has a reputation for hell and back reliability, and doesn’t have the same grip angle as a Glock.

Friend: Oh, okay. So you carry one of those two?

Me: (sighs deeply) No, I carry a 1911.

Friend: Why?

Me: Because I have the time, resources, and most importantly interest in devoting a not insignificant part of my life to the study and practice of shooting, and because I like to maintain my guns beyond “squirt some lube on them and leave them be.” You should get a Glock 19, and after you’ve shot 10,000 rounds through it then decide if you like something else.

Some day I’ll have that conversation and my friend will just say “oh okay” and go buy a Glock 19, but probably not. Now it’s time for the competition gun conversation!

What gun to get for competition?

Friend: Hey Caleb, what gun should I buy for IDPA/USPSA competition?

Me: What do you carry?

Friend: A Glock 19/M&P.

Me: If you have enough magazines, shoot your first couple of matches with that, and decide whether or not you want to upgrade from there. You may not need a new gun if your focus is on practice with your carry gun.

Friend: But I want a new gun just for competing!

Me: (sighs deeply) Okay, get a Glock 34/M&P Pro.

Friend: Why?

Me: Because it has the exact same manual of arms as your carry gun, shares a caliber, and in some cases may even share magazines. It’s the easiest way to get started without spending a ton of money, and if you like shooting matches and want to upgrade you can always upgrade the existing competition gun or shop up for something more purpose built.

Friend: So what do you shoot?

Me: (answers with whatever I’m getting paid to shoot at the time)

Friend: Why?

Me: Because I’m getting paid to.

Now, that conversation has one variable; and that’s when the person has some kind of weird special snowflake carry gun that doesn’t enjoy massive aftermarket support. Then I tell them to get a Glock 34 or an M&P Pro right from the get-go.

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of my readers have had almost the exact same conversation. If so, let me know in the comments!


  1. They all pretty much go just like that, sans the 1911 and sponsorship. Oh, and in my conversations the brother/father/uncle/grandpa/cop/service member who loves his 1911/wheelgun/Judge/or reigning Most Powerful Handgun in the World usually makes an appearance, much to my chagrin.

  2. Back when I was shooting PPC in the 80s, I bought a 6-inch version of my duty-carry Model 66, since I looked at competition as an extension of training. I was always amused to see detectives from another department take off their 1911s, stick them in the range bags, and don their Robar-barrelled, chamber-chamfered, target-tuned, custom-sighted Model 10s in open-front competition holsters.
    Hey, it’s America, to each his own and all that, but I still think if you stick to one gun type, competition reinforces training and vice versa.

  3. For a special snowflake version of this conversation, what do you think would be the best pistol or type of pistol to develop the strongest fundamentals on? The difference here is being Canadian any type of carry or defensive use is strictly forbidden so that’s totally out. It would be for range time, competition and classes only.

    I guess basically what I’m after is would a DA/SA or DAO be preferable to a striker or SA? DA/SA is maybe harder to learn but I would think if you can develop a strong DA trigger pull you should be able to quickly adapt to a striker/SA trigger.

  4. Same conversation. They always want to argue.

    My favorite is they buy a gun & then ask was this the right choice.

  5. Caleb-I have to disagree with your choice–I will never recommend a striker-fired Glock/M&P “no-safety” gun to a first time newby—it will always be a (used?) K frame 38/357 or a 9mm Beretta type of hammer-dropping safety gun–way too many AD/ND accidents with Glocks and untrained newbies!!! DMD

    1. Have you done much instructing? K frames and other wheel guns are difficult for a lot of people to run, particularly in DA by slighter women. And just about every female and quite a few males find they can’t get through a basic 250 round class with a revolver as their hand gives out after 30 to 50 DA trigger presses.

      If your Beretta is a DA/SA it’s a similar story: most new shooters have trouble transitioning from the DA to the SA trigger pull, and throwing in the extra decocking step also tends to confuse them. I’ve seen many DA/SA guns reholstered with the hammer back sans safety, and indeed have learned to listen for the decock when my students are running one.

      With a good holster and proper training striker fired pistols have the shallowest learning curve. I always have a couple spare ones along for class; when those having trouble with their wheelgun, DA/SA, off the shelf 1911, or $250 special start having problems, I hook ’em up with a striker fired Glock or M&P in 9 mm and all of a sudden they start having a good day at the range.

    2. I have to agree with Hatchetman. I’ve trained a lot of first time shooters, and we start them with Glocks because there are only three controls to worry about (slide-lock, magazine release, and the trigger). They now spend more time working on grip and stance along with the shooting fundamentals rather than trying to remember when to de-cock, etc.

  6. [Scratches chin] You young uns have it so easy these days. Back in the days of Reagan, it went something like this:

    Me: What gun should I get?

    99% of gun experts: Get a 1911, they are perfect and everything else stinks. Blah blah JMB. Blah blah Korea, WW2. Blah blah manstopper.

    One month later.

    Me: This gun jams and doesn’t seem that accurate.

    Half of them: You stink.

    The other half: Send it to this gunsmith with $1000. Wait a year. It will be fine.

  7. I had this conversation with myself about 6 years ago after taking a two day General Defensive Handgun course from Insights Training with my Beretta 92FS. The double action trigger and slide mounted safety/decocker convinced me that I needed a new, polymer framed, striker fired, no manual safety handgun.

    I wanted to love the Glock 17 but after firing a rental I turned it back in having fired only a single mag. It was a Gen4, and it felt awful in my hands.

    Next I rented an M&P9 and loved how it felt, but the trigger was horrible, no discernible reset. I talked to Shelley Rae about it (she was working at West Coast Armory at the time) and she let me try her M&P9 which had a trigger job and it was much nicer than the stock trigger. However I didn’t want to drop $500 on a gun and then another $125 just to get an acceptable trigger.

    So next I rented a Springfield Armory XDm. It felt almost as good in my hand as the M&P9 and I really liked the trigger. I ended up getting that and used it in multiple Insights Training courses and several IDPA matches. It’s now my bedside home defense gun. I also later bought an XDm compact, and an XDs for CCW.

  8. Yup, just had a female friend ask about “what 1st gun should I buy” and she was surprised when I did NOT have a specific make/model recommendation.

    She was also under the impression that whatever gun she bought needed to be a 45 or 40.

  9. The last time I had that conversation, I told my buddy to get a Glock 19, and he asked if he could shoot mine first. Of course I let him, and on the way home from the range, we stopped at the gun store so that he could buy a Glock 19 for himself. I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

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