Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Best Defensive Handgun

As a highly credentialed firearms trainer, I have seen, handled, and operated more than my fair share of different handguns. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that I am frequently asked by many prospective first-time handgun owners about the best firearm for them to purchase for personal protection. It's a fair question. However, the definitive answer to this inquiry is simply: "It depends."

The best defensive handgun for a specific person is a pistol that perfectly fits his hand, is at least 9mm or higher in caliber, is a pistol he can reliably shoot, and is a handgun he feels good about owning.


The Best Handgun Must Fit Your Hand
A handgun must perfectly fit the shooter's hand to allow maximum control while operating it. To that end, no fingers should be hanging off the bottom of the frame, the trigger finger must be able to reach the trigger at the proper point, and the thumb must be able to reach all available controls: safeties, magazine detach button, and de-cocker.

Although most introductory gun safety training classes teach new shooters how to discharge a firearm with a two-handed grip, a handgun was designed to be used with one hand. Ultimately, it should be a goal for novice shooters to learn how to shoot one-handed - both left and right.

The Best Handgun Has A Caliber Size Of 9mm Or Higher
In addition, a defensive handgun should pack enough power to eliminate any threats. One must take into account that violent predators may be wearing heavy clothing or be high on drugs. A handgun with too low of a caliber size may require multiple hits to be effective. Most gun authorities and firearms experts suggest the following caliber sizes for a defensive handgun: .357, 9mm, .40, and .45. In general, less hits are required when engaging a threat with a higher caliber sized handgun.

The Best Handgun Can Be Reliably Used
Furthermore, the operator of a handgun must be able to reliably engage his target. As mentioned earlier, it is preferable to operate a higher caliber sized handgun. However, higher caliber sized handguns have more recoil (i.e. kick) and may require additional training and practice to master than is the case with a smaller caliber sized handgun.

There are penalties associated with missing your target when shooting a handgun. There is a legal concept known as "Transfer Of Intent." In simple terms, it means that the 'intent' to fire your gun travels - if you will - with your bullet until it hits a target. Thus, if you ever fire your handgun - at an assailant and miss but managed to unluckily hit another person who posed no threat to you - prison is likely to be your new residence.

In the aforementioned scenario, you 'intended' to shoot. Your intent traveled with the bullet that came out of your handgun until it hit a target. This target did not pose a threat to you so you will be looking at some type of a murder charge for 'intentionally' shooting someone. Harsh? Perhaps, but it is the law.

The moral of the story is to not miss your target. Only carry a handgun that you can reliably shoot and go to the range regularly to practice your defensive accuracy and marksmanship. I advise my students to practice at least once a month and to shoot at least a box of fifty cartridges. This is a minimum recommendation.

The Best Handgun Is A Joy To Own
Finally, a handgun should make its owner feel good. No two gun owners are exactly alike. Different people like different types of guns. Whatever you like in handguns should be manifested with an appropriate purchase.

Some folks love to watch the wheel turn on a revolver whereas others love autoloaders. Some folks swear by Glock™ while other would only buy an American-made handgun. Some ladies love pink guns and some guys love all stainless steel guns. The cool thing about personal preferences is that there are no right and wrong answers. It's really all about being happy with what you own.

Bottom Line:
In summary, there is no single best definitive handgun for all people. For sure, the definition of 'best handgun' that I described in this article does establish some minimum standards. Namely, your defensive handgun should be chambered in a caliber that is effective against threats, you should be able to reliably shoot the caliber you selected, your handgun should fit your hand properly, and your gun should give you pride of ownership.

So, what defensive handgun do you carry?
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