These are epic times in New Jersey, when you can now legally exercise the right to protect yourself and your loved ones with a concealed firearm. As a Firearms Instructor, I always get asked for my thoughts on what pistol a new handgun owner should purchase. It’s a tough question to answer because everyone is built differently, has different physical capabilities, and personal preferences. As well, there are so many options to choose from. Let’s look at a simplistic approach to making the best choice for you.
First, selecting a firearm and necessary equipment to conceal carry should be YOUR choice, not one that is encouraged or influenced by a social media post, an employee at a gun shop, or a friend’s purchase. You should absolutely do your own research and find something that satisfies your taste/needs and you’ll feel you can adequately train with and shoot correctly. So many times, I hear, “They sold it to me at the shop!”, “It got good reviews online!”, or even, “I saw it on YouTube and it looked like a great gun!”. Although, at times, you may get some good advice or recommendation from a shop, as well as an online platform, your choice should be well thought out.
Let’s mention some of your possible options. Single action semi-autos, liked by many gun enthusiasts, have been upgraded recently to now have double stacked magazines and the most popular makes and models are known to be very accurate, but you would need to make sure to train to flawlessly work the safety levers. Double action/Single action (DA/SA) semi-autos can also be good, as long as you’re training to work through the longer initial trigger pull and working that de-cocking lever. Some shooters still prefer revolvers as they rarely malfunction, but make sure to train your best at making those (usually slower) reloads due to its lower round capacity. The most popular choice are modern striker-fired, polymer handguns. They come in various frame sizes and calibers, and some are super modular and simpler to shoot.
Concealment is the usual idea in the onset, especially if you plan to carry (and is a requirement in this state). The small-framed polymer handguns though are not the most fun to shoot. You will need to train to shoot them well, overcoming the recoil and possible manipulation issues if you have larger hands. I can safely say that larger framed handguns are easier to shoot because of the ability to grip a larger surface area, helping to control the cycling/recoil of the handgun.
We can go on and on about the firearms manipulation: can you rack the slide back to charge the firearm? Can you access the mag release? Oh… and can it be done under stress? So, the most important underlying factors are: Familiarization and Training!
So many of the beginner level courses that I’ve taught end with students prepared to change, update, or rework the choices they’ve made. After getting some training in, students realize that they’re unable to accomplish what needs to be done defensively with their handgun.
Your chosen firearm should be thought of as an investment, an important tool used in your defense and defense of your loved ones. Let’s look at some other important investments. You would absolutely go to an open house to view a possible new home purchase, and have it inspected before purchasing. You would most likely test drive a vehicle you plan to purchase, as well. Well, how about actually shooting the firearm you plan to buy?
I spend most of my time teaching at Gun for Hire range, in Woodland Park Range. What a great place to get it all done. Once you’ve narrowed down a few of your best options, you can rent it, give it a run, and see how it feels. Are you able to handle the way it cycles and its recoil, and can you shoot it accurately? After this trial, you’ll be more capable of making a better choice. Additionally, with all the resources under one roof, you’ll be able to make a more comfortable purchase at the gun shop as well as begin your training at the range.
It’s understandable that at times, having so much to choose from and so many variables (I’ve only touched the surface here), it can be overwhelming to some. Trying before buying is good advice, it allows for a more educated decision. A basic pistol class will also help, such as an NRA Basic Pistol Course, covering safety, nomenclature, ammunition and fundamentals. Those courses can be taken prior to purchasing and will allow you to shoot both a semi-auto handgun and revolver prior to completion.
I’d like to add one more thing, the firearms community is filled with some of the best people I know. They are always willing to help. It’s my experience that even some of the country’s best ranked shooters and instructors will take the time to answer your questions.
Once you’ve decided and made that purchase, train, train, train!
“Proper Repetitive Training Builds Automatic Permanence!”
See you on the range!