Sunday, May 24, 2009

Handgun Buying Consideration: Form Factor

A prospective handgun buyer should consider 'form factor' when making the decision to buy a firearm. Form factor is a term that refers to the physical size and shape of a device. In this context, it will refer to the measurable dimensions of a handgun. The physical dimensions of a desired firearm will have resultant consequences and influences: operatability, caliber size, ammunition capacity, recoil level, and concealability.

A Handgun Must Perfectly Fit The Buyer's Hand
For starters, a handgun should perfectly fit its owner's hand as if it is a mere extension of it. The buyer's shooting hand should able to comfortably hold and control the firearm to maximize his ability to reliably control it. Thus, the buyer should not have any fingers unable to make contact with the frame. It is imperative that the buyer has complete control over his firearm such that there is no shifting and undesired movement of the gun while it is being firmly held.

From an operational standpoint, the buyer's shooting hand's thumb should be able to effortless reach and engage any controls that are present: magazine detach button, slide release lever, de-cocker lever, and any safeties. If the buyer can't engage the controls, this firearm is not the best purchasing choice for that person. If the shooter is left-handed, a gun with ambidextrous or opposite-side controls should be evaluated for purchase. Further, if the gun is ill-sized for the buyer's hand - too big or too small - a better size handgun should be consulted.

Moreover, the buyer's forefinger - also known as the trigger finger - should able to reach the trigger at the proper position. The middle fleshy part of the forefinger's first segment - centered exactly between the fingertip and the first crease - is what should make contact with the trigger when firing the handgun. If the buyer's trigger finger is not the proper length, another handgun should be evaluated for purchase. Improper trigger finger placement can induce a torque (twisting) force that will cause shots to be errant.

Ammo Capacity & Caliber Size Are Often Related To Size
It should come as no surprise that the ammunition capacity of a particular handgun is related to form factor. Quite simply, a larger gun can house either more chambers in its cylinder (for revolvers) or accept a larger magazine in the frame's well (for autoloaders).

Furthermore, a buyer's desire for a specific handgun caliber size can also influence ammunition capacity. For example, gun owners with smaller caliber sizes often realize that it may require more hits to neutralize threats than if they had a larger caliber firearm. Thus, a gun owner with a 9mm handgun may want and require a larger ammo capacity than another gun owner with a .45 caliber handgun.

Smaller Handguns Have More Recoil
With all other factors equal - including caliber size - smaller handguns generate more recoil (i.e. kick). Most of my CCW Class students are surprised to learn this fact but readily concede that it has to be true when I explain why. A small-sized .45 caliber handgun and a large-sized .45 caliber handgun both shoot the same ammunition.

Accordingly, the power generated by the discharge of both firearms are the same. The only significant difference between the two guns is the size differential. Thusly, a constant force applied to a smaller object - in this case a gun - will cause it to move more (i.e. have more recoil) than that same force applied to a larger handgun. So, if a buyer desires to acquire a small-sized large caliber handgun, he must know that he can handle the generated recoil such that he can reliably hit his intended target.

Concealability Is Related To Size
The ability to conceal a handgun on a person's body is an important consideration for folks with Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPL). The whole point of having a CPL is being able to secretly carry a gun. The element of surprise is lost if other people can see the gun's outline through the gun carrier's clothing. Obviously, larger handguns are harder to hide than smaller handguns.

Concealability of a handgun can also be influenced by the gun carrier's body shape, the gun carrier's style of dress, and the gun carrier's method of concealed carry. It might be necessary to conduct a lot of 'trial-and-error' tests to find the right combination of a suitable gun size along with the other aforementioned variables to optimize a firearm's concealment but it can be done.

Bottom Line:
A firearm's form factor is an important consideration when buying a handgun. The size of the handgun will have implications on other characteristics. Specifically, the following aspects of a gun are impacted to varying degrees by size: ammo capacity, recoil level, concealability, operatability, and caliber size.


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