I Just Got My Handgun License. What Kind of Gun Should I Buy?

by Tony Pellecchia

At a recent Law Shield speaking engagement concerning how to protect yourself in a mass-shooting situation at a mall, school, or work, I was asked a question by a middle-aged woman: “I just got my handgun license. What kind of gun should I buy?”

I answered her question with more questions:

1. Have you ever shot a pistol before?
2. Have you ever carried a concealed handgun?
3. Have you ever drawn a pistol from a holster, moreover, a concealed holster?
4. Do you carry a handbag most of the time?
5. Do you wear a dress and work in an office?
6. Are you a stay-at-home mother and homemaker?
7. How much hand strength do you have?
8. How large or small are your hands?

I asked these questions because all are factors that should — and will — come into play if she has to use her handgun.

I assessed the woman’s body shape and size, which allowed me to give her a much better answer, enough so she could visit her local gun shop and make a confident and smart purchase for herself.

You see, what is concealable on a 220-pound man is not so concealable on a 110-pound woman. The ability of that same 220-pound man to work the slide on a Glock 19 and control the recoil may not be the same as the 110-pound woman’s ability.

However, possibly a Kahr CW380, Beretta Nano, or a .22 Magnum revolver may be more suited for the hand strength and size of the 110-pound woman. The concealability of the aforementioned pistols on the woman is more in line with her body shape and size as well. Again, these aforementioned pistols are safer for someone with NO experience than some others that are similar.

Long trigger pulls and stiff double actions are undesirable to the accomplished shooter, but nevertheless, are safer for inexperienced folks to carry. So when you weigh the odds of the middle-aged woman actually having to shoot someone against having an ND (negligent discharge) because her pistol was unsecured and flopping around in her purse, that helped me give her an informed choice of handguns that might suit her.

So, here were her answers: She has only shot a pistol once in her life; she has never drawn a pistol from a holster; she has never carried a concealed handgun; she does carry a handbag most everywhere she goes; and her everyday day dress is casual.

With these factors in mind, my recommendations to her were as follows:

1) Choose a handgun that does not have an external safety.
Reason: Unless she intends to train at least twice a month with any handgun, she will never learn to take the safety off if she needs to defend herself. Also, she most likely will not return it to safe if she does take it off safe.

2) Choose a .380 ACP before a 9mm, and nothing less than a .22 Magnum.
In my experience as a trainer, I’ve noticed most women limp-wrist compact 9mm pistols. “Limp wrist” means the wrist is weak and will bend at the wrist joint because there is not enough strength and resistance at the joint to allow the slide to function rearward properly.

3) Handle pistols to see which she can easily work the slide on, or choose a revolver.
The revolver is easy to understand and use. And she can easily try out handguns to see if she can work the slides. If she can’t, then she doesn’t buy them.

4) Use two types of concealment
I recommend that she use two types of concealment: holstered in her handbag or secured in a belly band. So her gun needs to be easy to work in either type of gear.

5) Seek out training from a reputable instructor or gun range and train, train, train!

This really should be the first point, but that’s not how this event transpired. There are a lot of folks who are trying to enter the gun lifestyle, so she needs to have a relationship with a trainer who has to understand that, as a new shooter, she must have the basics on how to remove or stow her pistol and why a light trigger at this stage of her education isn’t the right choice. Also, the trainer can provide proper advice on how to manipulate a double-action trigger pull effectively. She will never notice whether her gun has a 3.5-pound trigger or a 10-pound trigger when she is about to die and is forced to shoot someone to protect her life or the life of others.

In the gun community, some folks will roll their eyes at a .380 and say that it’s not enough gun to stop a threat. Same goes for the .22 Magnum. Carrying a .45 is useless if you can’t hit what you’re supposed to.

So I will defend folks who want to carry a gun, but yet, shouldn’t carry too much gun — a gun that they become dangerous with, and cannot control. It’s better for them to carry a smaller-caliber pistol, and one they have confidence with and proficiency in shooting.

The moral of the story is: The first rule in a gun fight is to have a gun. Without that, you can’t get to the second rule (Never miss!) and the third rule (Reload, and keep shooting until you solve the problem).

Tony Pellecchia’s background is in police special operations, international security operations, counter-terrorism operations, and he is an active weapons and tactics instructor. He is a frequent speaker at Texas and U.S. Law Shield Gun Law Seminars.

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