Whether you are a first-time gun owner or have been shooting since you were a kid, there are many factors to consider when selecting which firearm to get. Unfortunately, there is no be-all and end-all gun that will be suitable for every purpose or every shooter, and when you are planning to buy a gun, there are several factors to consider before making your purchase. What will the gun be used for? Who will be using it? What is the shooter comfortable with or used to? Will the shooter be able to control the recoil? Experienced shooters and hunters will more or less know what they are looking for, so this guide will be geared toward individuals who are newer to the self-defense or casual shooting world.
Whenever handling a firearm, ALWAYS follow the four fundamental safety rules:
- Always treat every gun as if it were loaded and ready to fire.
- Always be aware of your muzzle, and keep it pointed in a safe direction at all times; never point the muzzle in the direction of anything you aren’t willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until your sights are on target and you have made a conscious decision to fire.
- Be sure of your target, what is in front of your target, and what is beyond your target.
The primary consideration when picking out a new gun is what will it be used for? A practical person wouldn’t select a shotgun for concealed-carry purposes, nor would a big-game hunter pick out a pepperbox derringer. Considering that Toe2Toe is a self-defense-oriented business, we will focus on firearms for self-defense and home-defense purposes, although several of the guns we have can certainly be used for multiple categories, such as home defense, concealed carry, casual plinking, and competition. Some of our carbines can also swing into the hunting role.
For self-defense or concealed carry, there are a TON of acceptable compact, subcompact, and micro-compact options available, especially since the introduction of polymer striker-fired pistols with decent magazine capacity, some of which can flex into other categories of use as well.
For home defense, there are several different options depending on your training, level of comfort, or budget. Shotguns are always a good choice, as are semiautomatic or lever-action rifles, or full-frame pistols. The AR-15 pattern carbine provides an extremely modular and versatile platform for home defense, and the Ruger PC Charger gives the shooter the stability and reliability of a carbine in a compact 9mm package.
Once you’ve decided the primary use for your gun, next consider who will be likely to use it? If it will be for one specific person, select the gun that will best suit that one person, but if it will be used by several members of your family, make sure everyone can effectively train with it. Someone with smaller hands may have a harder time holding a pistol with a large grip, while someone with large hands may not be able to effectively manipulate a smaller pistol. A shooter with small stature may not be able to shoulder a full-size rifle or shotgun, while a tall shooter will have trouble with a youth-sized rifle. Left-handed shooters will quickly tire of getting hit by spent brass ejecting from the right side of a semiautomatic rifle or shotgun.
Another factor that many new shooters and first-time gun buyers don’t realize is that the size and weight of the gun makes a huge difference in perceived recoil and “muzzle flip” (the force and amount of vertical movement of the muzzle during recoil). Generally, a heavier gun will recoil less and be easier to control than a lighter gun. A longer slide also adds weight toward the front to reduce recoil and adds to accuracy for longer distance shots. This is where the balancing act begins for finding a concealed-carry option that includes something small enough to cover, yet be able to maintain control through recoil and land follow-up shots on target.
Once you have decided what your primary use for this gun will be, and who will primarily be using it, you can begin to narrow down your options to fit your specific needs and find a fit that is comfortable to use. Your firearm should be something that you like in your hand and something that you want to use every day. If you like it, if you are comfortable with it, and if you WANT to use it, you will train with it. If you buy a gun that doesn’t feel good in your hand or that hurts when you shoot it, you won’t train with it and it will end up collecting dust on the top shelf of your closet, at which point it will not be useful to you in a defensive situation.
Once you have taken possession of your new gun, it is important to train with it. Become intimately familiar with every feature, especially if this gun will be used for defense. Get good with it, then get better with it. Owning and carrying a gun for defense is not enough; you must know how to use it effectively, and the only way to do that is through training. At Toe2Toe, we have a unique firearm training simulator that will allow new shooters the opportunity to become familiar with firearm safety, operation, and basic marksmanship in a completely safe and controlled environment before heading to the range for live fire training.
By Spencer Roos – Firearms Trainer
Conway Toe2Toe and Toe2Toe Firearms & Training