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Old 02-15-2011, 10:24 PM
iareConfusE's Avatar
iareConfusE iareConfusE is offline
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The amount of money you have, or are willing to spend on a handgun will in most cases limit you to a particular tier of handguns if you are buying new. If you decide to buy used, then you’ve opened yourself up to a lot more handguns that would normally be out of reach with your given budget. Without getting into a Glock vs. Hi-Point debate, I’ll just quickly go over what you may be looking at buying with your given budget. Obviously prices will vary and fluctuate, and you may find a really great deal once in a while, so I’ll just be going over what you can generally expect.

$100-300: You’re looking at a Hi-Point, or a used older production handgun. With this budget, you’ll have a pistol that goes bang, but with questionable reliability.
$400-600: This is the budget for most people buying their first handgun, and this is the price point that most of today’s modern pistols fall into (usually closer to 600). You’ll mostly be looking at the polymer framed pistols, such as Glocks (19, 21), Rugers (SR9,45), S&W (M&P), FN (FNP), Springfield (XD), Sig (SP2022), Beretta (PX4). In this price category you may also be able to acquire some used steel or alloy framed pistols such as the Sigs, Berettas, and CZs. The RIA 1911 pistols are the exception for all metal pistols that fit in this price range.
$700 to 800: High(er) end 1911’s (Ruger, Springfield GI) gunsmithed/modified mass produced pistols, and rare collectors items. In this range belongs a few of the all-metal firearms and some higher end polymer guns. Sig (P226, P220), CZ (SP01, 97, 75), Beretta (92, M9), used HKs (USP), and modified Glocks.
$900 and Above: You're either living reasonably comfortably to afford these, or you're not living within your means. New HKs, yet high(er) end 1911's (Sig, SA Loaded, Kimber, Colt).
"What money?":If money isn’t a problem to you, then you won’t need to worry about choosing a single perfect handgun for yourself. You see, you want, you buy - smile

The Calguns Marketplace is an excellent place to look for used firearms. For the most part, the guns listed here are very well taken care of and treated properly by their owners. I have yet to see a gun in the marketplace that was blatantly misused and abused by its owner. As long as you take a seller’s asking price, or at least give a reasonable offer to their asking price, they will be polite to you and you will have a smooth transaction. Just be prepared to do some driving to meet your seller at a FFL that both of you can agree on, and don’t forget to tack on an additional $35 in addition to whatever you’re paying for the gun, as it is almost always common practice for the buyer to pay the DROS fees unless listed otherwise by the seller.

Different Handgun Actions
Wheelguns aside, there are a few options to consider when purchasing a handgun. There are SA/DA (Single Action/Double Action) pistols, which have a hammer that interacts with a firing pin. There are SAO (Single Action Only) pistols, both hammered, and striker fired pistols. Then there is DAO (Double Action Only).

SA/DA – The double action component is when the trigger is in its most forward position, pulling the trigger cocks the hammer, and will also drop the hammer to fire the pistol after the trigger is completely pulled to the rear. The DA trigger will be long and heavy. After the first shot in DA, your slide will cycle and cock your hammer back. Your pistol is now in SA mode. Your trigger pull will be much shorter and lighter, and will be much more pleasant to shoot.

SAO – You can have striker fired SAO pistols, such as the Springfield XD’s (Glocks are not a true SAO, but for the sake of simplicity, they are a striker fired pistol without a hammer), and you can have hammered SAO pistols, such as competition CZs. The striker fired pistols do not have a hammer that interacts with a firing pin. Instead all you have is a striker that interacts directly with your sear. Many striker fired pistols will not have external safeties, but will instead have trigger safeties, that require an object (usually your finger) to be placed on the entire trigger in order for the striker to be released. However it is becoming more common for manufacturers to include external safeties on their striker fired pistols in order to comply with CA roster standards and other safety standards. Many will say proper trigger discipline is your true safety, but many are also uncomfortable with this and will prefer an external safety to physically lock the action. If you are uncomfortable without an external safety, you must not become complacent and completely rely on the external safety to save yourself from negligent or accidental discharges. Good firearms handling will always come into play, regardless of what redundant safeties your gun is equipped with. Finger off the trigger until you are absolutely ready to shoot.

DAO – This action is popular in many small framed defensive or personal protection pistols. The logic behind having such a long and heavy trigger pull for a defense weapon is that under stress, with your finger on the trigger, you do not want to accidentally fire on your target with a very light competition weight trigger. A 2-3lb trigger is not ideal for defense, as you may accidentally fire your gun when you don’t yet mean to. You need to be sure that you absolutely must pull that trigger to save your life or the life of others around you, so the heavy trigger pull is a sort of physical buffer between your stress response and your decision making process.

Handguns come in all shapes and sizes, and what may fit well for one person, may not fit well for another. A well documented example is the mainspring housing contour preference for 1911’s. From what I have seen, most people prefer a flat mainspring housing on their 1911’s, and few prefer the rounded mainspring housing. Whichever shape fits your hand best is up to your perception of comfort. The best thing for you to do is to visit your local shooting range and ask to first handle their rental pistols. You don’t need to shoot them yet, just handle them. Get a feel for what each gun feels like in your hands, and note a couple that seem to fit you the best. While doing this, also locate and play with the different control levers and buttons on the gun. Make sure you can comfortably reach each lever or button without having to completely break your grip or use your other hand.

Size is an important factor, and this criteria also overflows into the purpose category. There are generally 3 (or 4) size categories for handguns: full sized, compact, subcompact, and (micro)pocket. If you are looking for a pistol to use as a home defense weapon, then you might consider a full sized pistol with a rail for a light or laser. If you are going to be carrying this pistol, you may want one that is easily concealable inside your waistband, or even outside, while still maintaining a certain level of comfort. Many subcompact pistols are a popular choice for this purpose. Even smaller yet, you may want a pocket pistol chambered in .380, so you can easily slip the pistol into your pocket and not have to worry about IWB/OWB holsters.
If you are on a budget, then you may only be able to purchase a single pistol that will have to serve as an all purpose firearm. My personal recommendation is to save enough to buy a reliable and beautiful firearm if you only get to have one.
Typically, most new shooters will be comfortable handling a pistol that is proportional to their size. If the shooter has small hands, they will likely feel comfortable with a smaller pistol, but can learn to adapt to and shoot a larger framed pistol with experience.
Some guns by design may also have a slimmer or wider grip. For example, the overall profile of a 1911 is fairly thin, and is made for use with a single stacked .45ACP magazine. Most polymer pistols today however, are designed with a double stack magazine. Staggering the rounds in a magazine allows more rounds to be fit inside of a single magazine while sacrificing a slim overall profile. Some hands may feel comfortable wrapping around a single stack grip, and some hands around a double stack.

Weight also plays a large role in the "shootability" of the handgun in question. In general, most target/recreational shooters will find that a heavier, all steel pistol will have much more manageable recoil, and will as a result be more pleasant to shoot. If you are looking for a gun that you may potentially carry, then a compact polymer framed pistol may be more desirable. Lighter, and still very much accurate, the polymer pistols will be a nice option with plenty of firepower and carrying comfort. It is becoming more common now for manufacturers to offer light alloy framed pistols in which the frame is usually made of aluminum, or sometimes even scandium. This gives you a light weight and durable metallic option, if you have qualms about using a polymer pistol (I'm not saying polymer pistols are not durable!). You may opt to carry a full sized, all-steel gun if you feel your body type permits it, but just know that you will likely be more physically uncomfortable doing so.

With these categories in mind, I’d like to just mention that full sized pistols with a longer barrel will inherently have a higher level of precision due to its longer sight radius (distance between your front and rear sights). Additionally, a longer barrel will push a bullet (assuming same weight) out of the barrel at a higher velocity than a shorter barrel.

Another overlooked feature in modern semi-autos today is a beavertail. This feature is a protrusion at the back of the pistol that hangs over the web of your hand when you grip the pistol. In hammer fired pistols like the 1911 or the CZ75, this beavertail acts not only as an ergonomic feature to allow you to get a higher grip on the gun, but also acts as a barrier between the hammer and your hand. If you have large hands and are considering a hammered pistol, you may want to look into a pistol with a beavertail, as you might encounter hammer bite. This occurs when you fire the gun and the slide cycles back, the hammer is cocked, and the back of said hammer pinches or jabs the web of your hand.

Last edited by iareConfusE; 09-13-2016 at 9:16 PM..
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