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Old 02-15-2011, 10:23 PM
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Default Choosing Your First CA Legal Semi-Automatic Hand Gun - A Comprehensive Guide

Updated 10/28/14
Nearly every day I see a new thread about which handgun is the best, and I often always see people respond with several handguns that they own and love, without considering that what may work for one person may not work for another.

I spent today compiling as much information as I know about handguns and putting it into this lengthy guide for beginners. It covers most aspects of a handgun, as well as accessories, modifications, and ammunition. I'm sure I am missing a lot of parts, and that it isn't completely comprehensive, but it's about as comprehensive as I can make it, while still maintaining a language easily understandable to a new shooter.

You're welcome to share this guide with your friends. Please direct any and all new shooters to this guide if you agree with the things that I say. I would like people to take advantage of the same knowledge that I have accrued in my time here on Calguns.

If you see an error that needs change, please PM me with a source and I'll have it changed.

My first ever handgun (Which actually didn't work out well for me, thus the reason for this guide)


Contents:

Post #2
Introduction
Documentation Required to Purchase A Handgun in California
The CA DOJ Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale, the 30 Day Rule, and C&R Pistols
Purpose
Caliber

Post #3
Budget
Different Handgun Actions
Size/Ergonomics/Comfort

Post #4
Testing/Renting Handguns Prior to Purchase Decision
Popular Accessories and Upgrades
Modifying Your Handgun/Aftermarket Parts

Post #5
Ammunition
Closing

Last edited by iareConfusE; 10-28-2014 at 11:35 PM..
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:23 PM
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Introduction
First off, I would like to mention that I am most definitely not the best hand gun shooter around, and I am not claiming to provide information more valuable than any other person’s advice. I have learned a great deal about hand guns and firearms in general from Calguns and the internet throughout the last year, both from personal experience and research, and I feel that people will benefit from a straight forward guide from someone who was a beginner himself not too long ago. This guide is put together from my personal experiences and from my own opinions (italicized in the text) that I have arrived at from internet research, speaking to seasoned shooters at the range, and anecdotal evidence I have read all around the internet. Do not consider this guide as a bible of sorts from which to make your decision; only use it to help yourself in decision making process for finding a handgun appropriate to your personal characteristics.

This guide is for people who are just starting to get into handguns and who will likely be asking the same question that all new hand gun shooters ask – What is the best handgun (for me)? My answer to this question is almost always, “It depends on a variety of factors”. Below I’ll go into a few basic talking points. This guide may or may not be complete but it will definitely be more than enough information for a beginner to get an idea about what they should be looking for in the search for a hand gun that will fit them best. I may be missing content or have out of date content. If this is the case let me know! I'd like to hope that this guide will provide every new shooter with an up-to-date "handbook" on the basic legalities and processes of purchasing and enjoying handguns in CA. Acquiring a CCW license in CA will not be discussed here. For more information regarding acquiring a CCW license in your county, visit here.

Documentation Required to Purchase A Handgun in California
You will need to be at least 21 years old. You will need a valid CA driver’s license or government issued ID. You will need a firearms safety certificate, which requires a very simple test of firearms knowledge and safety practices. If you fail this test, you do not deserve to own a firearm. You will need proof of residence such as your vehicle registration, with your current address listed. Some FFL’s may require more proof of residence, but unless you are not a resident of CA, this is usually not an issue.

The CA DOJ Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale, the 30 Day Rule, and C&R Pistols
Handguns for purchase in California are regulated by this roster, and manufacturers send their new models to testing facilities so CA DOJ (Department of Justice) can decide whether or not the gun is “safe” for our use or not. If it passes, the manufacturer pays a fee that must eventually be renewed, and their handgun is added to the roster certified for sale in CA.

Only one new handgun (unless on consignment) can be purchased from an FFL every 30 days. PPT’s (Private Party Transfers) and consignment handguns are exempt from this rule.

C&R handguns (50 years old or more), are exempt from the CA handgun roster, but still needs to be DROS’ed through an FFL, regardless of whether or not you hold an FFL 03 (License to collect Curios & Relics).

Purpose
There are so many semi-automatic pistols in today’s market, and each one fills a different role, but serve double duty in other roles as well. You may want to purchase a handgun for a couple reasons: Home defense, carry, range/plinking. The pistols that are available to fill these roles will vary in size, magazine capacity, and all around features which will be mentioned and elaborated upon in later sections.

As an example, if you are purchasing a handgun for home defense, you may want to consider a pistol with an integrated rail in the frame. This will allow you to mount a weapon light and use it to identify targets at night. This discussion will continue in another section regarding accessories and upgrades.

Caliber
I will not go into a ballistics discussion debating 9mm over .45ACP in this section, or in any section for that matter. I will also assume that all of the new readers will be purchasing pistols that they do not own pre-ban magazines for, so I will assume that 10 rounds is the limit for all the new handgun buyers.

The three most popular centerfire calibers for today’s semi-auto pistols are: 9mm Luger, .40S&W, and the .45ACP. There are plenty of popular calibers for wheel guns, but that will not be discussed in this guide. What you choose as your caliber of choice may be dependent on your shooting budget, as well as the purpose for which you want to use your gun. 9mm will typically cost about half the price of .45ACP, and for most beginning shooters, especially women, will be more pleasant to shoot than a .45ACP (In terms of felt recoil). I see the .40S&W as an intermediate between the two, but do not have much personal experience with the round myself.



There are pocket semi automatic pistols chambered for .380ACP as well. The .380 round is basically a "9mm short", and is usually found in guns that easily fit into the pocket for a deep concealed carry (thus the name pocket pistols). Although the .380 is a popular carry option, it is not normally a round that is considered by first time buyers.

If you are a completely new shooter, or is someone who is looking into it for a friend or loved one, you may want to consider a pistol chambered for .22LR. .22 pistols are an excellent way of introducing people into the shooting sports, as it has very mild, manageable recoil, and very little noise compared to the centerfire options. Another advantage is that is it inexpensive (getting pricey lately however) compared to centerfire ammunition. This round is desirable for new shooters, as the loud explosions and heavy recoil of centerfire pistols may be upsetting to a completely new shooter to the sport altogether. There are many .22LR pistols on the market, with some being better/more reliable than others (this has been proven). Popular choices include the Ruger Mark III and 22/45, Browning Buckmark, Walther P22, and the Sig Mosquito.

"Thoughts": Some people prefer to purchase a .45ACP handgun as they trust it has more stopping power than a 9mm, and they figure that since we are going to be limited to 10 rounds per magazine here in CA, why not fill that magazine up with the biggest round easily available? Although sound logic, this should not be the advice given to every new handgun buyer. The recoil of a .45ACP will not be as easy to manage as a smaller caliber for some shooters, and you will need to choose your caliber based on what you are comfortable with. It's best to try out these guns before you buy. I'll talk about renting and testing the guns in a later section.

The biggest deciding factor for caliber of choice in my decision making process for my first handgun was price. I was a college student on a low budget that really wanted to shoot. I went with 9mm because ammo was readily available, and much cheaper than the .45ACP I wanted. Currently however, I have begun reloading for .45ACP, which has allowed me to finally afford to shoot this caliber, and has opened up a much wider spectrum of pistols for me to consider, as the cost of admission to .45 is no longer as much of a concern as it once was.

Last edited by iareConfusE; 03-10-2016 at 8:49 AM..
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:24 PM
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Budget
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.

Size/Ergonomics/Comfort
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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Old 02-15-2011, 10:24 PM
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Testing/Renting Handguns Prior to Purchase Decision
There are only so many ways you can go about doing this. I can only think of two. The first is to ask any friends you have that own the guns you would like to try out. Ask them to take you to the range and allow you to shoot their guns. You’ll likely receive a “yes” out of them, especially if you offer to pay for your own ammo. Most gun owners are very receptive to new shooters and will go out of their way to make shooting a fun and pleasant activity for beginners. If you don’t have any friends that own guns, post a thread or ask a local Calgunner if you can try his/her gun out. I have often seen Calgunners generously offer beginners the chance to shoot their guns, even providing ammo for them.

Your second, more expensive option is to visit your local range, and rent every handgun on your list of handguns. If you get lucky, you’ll visit a range that has a flat rate on gun rentals, and won’t charge you for every single gun you rent. Most ranges however will make it mandatory for you to purchase their ammo, as they do not want people shooting potentially unsafe reloads through their guns and damaging them. When shooting the guns, remember that this evaluation is part of your decision making process, and you need to be able to analyze the feeling of each gun while you shoot it. See if the gun slips around in your hand under recoil. See how easy the gun is to point and how easy it is to acquire a sight picture with it. Get a feel for the trigger, and its separate stages. This should be one of the biggest deciding factors in purchasing a first pistol. Your first stage will just be a light take up of the trigger. The resistance you will feel here is mostly from the trigger return spring. Your second stage will be a slightly heavier pull, which is when your trigger is under tension from the striker or hammer about to break free from the sear. A good trigger should have a light and smooth first stage, with a very crisp break, and minimum overtravel. Guns with great triggers can come with a price, but if you find one you shoot well with, consider it.

Popular Accessories and Upgrades
Weapon lights. Good or bad won't be debated here. Its use is self-explanatory. If you decide to use one on a defensive handgun, know that identifying your target does not require you to point your weapon at the person. If you are unsure of your target, you may shine your weapon light at the floor in front of or to the side of your target and the reflected light will be enough for you to identify and make your decision.

A Streamlight TLR-3 on my CZ P-01 with Kadet .22LR conversion slide. (Note adjustable sights on the rear of the slide as well. Adjustable for both windage and elevation using the screws that make up part of the rear sight.)


Night sights are a very popular upgrade for handguns, and may be used in conjunction with a weapon light for even faster target acquisition/sight picture. Night sights usually consist of three vials with a mild radioactive substance called tritium. Quality tritium vials will glow for years without significantly dimming, and do not need to be charged by light prior to use like glow in the dark paint. The glow is most easily visible in complete darkness, but is still visible in low light conditions. The tritium vials are usually encircled by a white ring that mimics that standard 3-dot sight that most stock pistols are sold with. These are to aid in aiming during daytime conditions.

Diagram of Trijicon Night Sights.


Another popular accessory is a laser. This may come in the form of rubber grips such as Crimson trace, in which the laser is integrated into the top edge of your grip panels. The laser is actuated by a pressure switch usually located on the front strap of the pistol grip. You may buy a separate laser unit that mounts directly to your weapon’s rail integrated frame. Some manufacturers such as SureFire and Streamlight offer a combination weapon light/laser unit that mounts to your pistol’s rail. A third option I have encountered is a laser recoil spring guide rod. Your factory guide rod is replaced with a hollow guide rod housing a laser unit.
The laser can also be used as an excellent training resource, as it will reveal your errors made during shooting. It can show you if you are flinching or jerking the trigger the instant before the shot, and it can show you if you are making errors in your aiming. For self defense, it will be very useful if you find yourself in an unconventional position where you cannot get a proper sight picture and must shoot from cover. You need only place the red (or green) dot on your target, and pull the trigger. Assuming your trigger pull is perfect, your round will go where the laser is pointed.

A combination light/laser (Streamlight TLR-2) and Crimson Trace Laser Grips.


Modifying Your Handgun/Aftermarket Parts
One consideration prior to purchasing your handgun is whether or not you may want to modify your pistol in the future for various purposes. You may want to turn your stock 1911 into a race spec 1911, or you may want to lighten up and smooth out the trigger pull on your home defense M&P. Whatever changes you decide on, I strongly recommend learning about the products you're considering, as well as the risks that come with self-modified firearms. There will be aftermarket parts for most modern semi-autos available today, but some more than others. Some of the common modifications/upgrades that shooters make to their pistols consist of the following:

Lighter triggers – can be achieved with gunsmithing, drop in parts such as sears, hammers, and springs, or a combination of both.

Sights – Any shooter that wants to progress beyond the novelty aspect of shooting guns eventually upgrades their factory sights to either night sights or adjustable competition sights (unless provided by the manufacturer). As discussed in the section about accessories and upgrades, the night sights will help you in low light conditions. The competition sights will allow you to make any adjustments necessary, so you can maintain the same point of aim while using ammunition that has different points of impact. Heavier bullets will have a higher point of impact than a lighter, faster bullet shot out of the same barrel. Adjustable sights will allow you to adjust for elevation so that you will not have to use a specific holdover depending on your type of ammo. You can tailor your gun to your ammo, or even vice versa if you reload your own ammunition.

There are numerous modifications you can do to your pistol, and I’m just going to leave you with these two most common ones that came to my mind.

A little input about lightening your trigger pull. For defensive pistols, you do not want a competition light trigger pull. 2-3lbs is too light for your defensive pistol, and can make you more prone to an accidental or negligent discharge.

Last edited by iareConfusE; 10-28-2014 at 11:28 PM..
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:25 PM
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Ammunition
For all range use (plinking/target practice) FMJ (full metal jacket) is your cheapest and most abundant option. There are many brands of ammunition in today’s market, and what works in another person’s gun may or may not work in your gun. It would be advisable to purchase a few boxes of different brands, to get a feel for what your gun functions well with. Some popular brands to note to help you get started in your search for target ammunition: Federal Champion, Winchester White Box (WWB), Remington UMC, and Blazer Brass.



Note that all of the above particular brands/types listed are brass cased ammo. Ammo may also come in steel cased, and aluminum cased. Both of these are generally cheaper than the brass cased ammunition. There has been a lot of debate about whether or not steel cased ammo will cause harm to your gun or not. It is my opinion that because the steel that this ammo is made with is softer than the steel parts your gun is made out of, the steel cased ammo will do no harm to your gun, whatsoever. I have put several hundreds of rounds of steel cased ammo through my own guns, and there are people that have put several thousand rounds of steel cased ammo through theirs, without any problems to report. Aluminum cased ammo will most definitely not hurt your gun, but some guns may have difficulty feeding this type of ammo reliably. One brand that comes to mind is Blazer. This ammo is just sold as Blazer, without “aluminum” appended to the end of the model. Some people have reported that the aluminum case sometimes will get stuck in their chamber after firing, causing a failure to extract, which causes a failure to feed. I have not had any problems with this ammo in a couple of my guns, and as I said once before, you need to try these different types of ammo before buying a particular brand in bulk. It is also important to know that most steel cased ammo is berdan primed, and will not be reloadable. The same can be said for the aluminum cases. Although not berdan primed, the aluminum case becomes brittle after firing, and attempting to reload the aluminum cases may lead to your case exploding in your gun, likely causing damage to your gun and yourself.

Steel cased on the left, aluminum cased on the right.


For personal protection, I recommend looking into a JHP (jacketed hollow-point) round. Again, without going into a discussion of terminal ballistics, I’m just going to give my thoughts and my knowledge on the subject of JHPs. You want a JHP for personal protection because (typically) the fired bullet will expand upon impact of its target. This allows for a larger wound channel in your target, and will stop an assailant much faster than a FMJ round, which will likely pass through a person with a relatively small wound channel. Your goal in a defensive situation is to stop an assailant as fast as possible – neutralize the threat, and the less shots it takes you to do so, the faster you will accomplish this. One common misunderstanding of JHP ammo is that it does not over-penetrate barriers. A bullet travelling at the speeds fired from a typical pistol (anywhere from 800ft/s to 1400ft/s) will most definitely penetrate your standard backstops in a house – drywall, 2x4 studs, tables, etc. A JHP is not a magical person stopper round either, but its expansion properties definitely help to create a larger wound channel. Not only will you need good ammunition, you will also need to place your shots effectively. If you’re under attack by a person under the influence, they might not even feel that they were shot, and you will need to take a vital shot that will literally stop them in their tracks.



There are numerous brands and types of defensive ammunition on the market today. They vary in bullet shape, hollowpoint cavity depth, manufacturing process (bonded/nonbonded), and many more characteristics that each manufacturer will advertise as the best bullet in expansion and penetration tests. In my opinion, I feel that most modern JHPs are about equal in man-stopping capabilities, you just need to find one that will reliably feed in your pistol. Be sure to test fire your newly purchased defensive rounds through your pistol and the magazines you’ll be using them with to ensure that they cycle through your gun just fine. Although this can be expensive, many people will shoot up to 200 (some people even more) rounds of this premium defensive ammo, before deeming it a feasible round for their use in defensive applications. If you don’t have the funds to support such testing, some JHP testing is better than none, and you should at least put a few magazines worth of it down range.

To make things even more complicated, manufacturers have defensive cartridges of the same caliber, but of different weights and velocities. Such designations will be seen is 115gr, 124gr, 127gr, 147gr (I’m using 9mm as an example). This number designates the bullet’s weight in grains. After the weight, the manufacturer will list +p, or +p+, which designated a more powerful, or hotter load. You should not shoot +p or +P+ ammo too often through your gun, as it will put increased stress on your frame and slide, and will accelerate wear and tear. The purpose of these variations is to allow a shooter to compromise between penetration and expansion, and find a happy medium between the two important characteristics of JHP ammo. There are many tests that have been documented on all sorts of JHP ammo, as well as Youtube videos that show results of expansion and penetration.

Another factor that I feel is worth at least mentioning is the muzzle flash of the different types of defensive ammo. In a low light situation, the muzzle flash from your gun will likely ruin your night vision for a second, and you want to try and minimize this possibility. Some manufacturers assemble their defensive ammunition with low flash powders, or powders that may burn a different color so as to have as little effect on your night vision as possible. As far as knowing which brand has the best type of JHP ammunition with the lowest flash is up to you. There will always be a personal research requirement when searching for defensive ammunition to accompany your defensive pistol.

Closing
I hope this lengthy guide has helped you in your search for the right pistol. I’ve said it several times before, and I’ll say it again. This guide was never meant to be the end-all-be-all, go-to solutions manual to finding your handgun, but I hope you can take what I’ve learned and compiled here to aid you in your decision making process. I am always learning more almost every day. This guide is meant to be a working, breathing work in progress, and will be constantly updated and revised according to comments I receive and with more that I learn.

A List of Today’s Popular Semi-Auto Handguns
Glock
Smith and Wesson (M&P Series)
Beretta (PX4 and 92 series)
CZ (CZ75 B, SP-01, and P-01)
Springfield Armory (1911’s, and XD series)
FN Herstal (FNP series)
Sig Sauer (P226, 220)
H&K (USP series, P2000)
Ruger (SR9,40, P series)
Colt (1911)

There are many other brands and models that I have not listed, but these are, from what I have seen, the most commonly discussed firearms.

Last edited by iareConfusE; 07-08-2011 at 9:16 AM..
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Old 02-16-2011, 1:24 AM
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Old 02-16-2011, 2:27 AM
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Good job, however Glocks are not SAO, they're actually classified as a DAO as the striker is not fully cocked by slide operation.
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Old 02-16-2011, 3:14 AM
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Too long did not read.

Although, what little I skimmed looked good as a jumping off point for a beginner... (if they have the patience to read a dissertation on purchasing a handgun.)

RollingCode3: They're legal, however they're not rostered (and will NOT be rostered). You may own them, but you gotta hit one of the exemption routes.

With that said: there should be no "end all be all post" (and I know this isn't one) on a forum. Some topics SHOULD come up often or at least periodically. Times change, rules change, guns change, and opinions change. If people feel like debating "what's the best X for purposes of Y?" yet again, go for it. Or "who's got singleshot exemptions on gun Z at a reasonable price in my area?"

The exception to this is if there's already a retardedly easy to access FAQ that covers the subject (like the specific legalities of a purchase, or what's on the roster), then yes, that question need not be asked and the person's a jerk for not even trying to google it.
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Old 02-16-2011, 6:26 AM
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I thought you did a fine job on this post. There were only 2 things you could have improved on :
#1:you should have added a glossary of terms: FFL, LEO,FTF as many newbies dont know the terms (you did put many in parenthesis later down the article)
#2: At the end, you didnt list SIG in the popular pistol list..for shame,for shame
Anyways,as said great job...this should make sticky status!
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Old 02-16-2011, 8:59 AM
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This is a nice post and should be helpful for folks buying their first handgun.

While I don't necessarily disagree with anything articulated, can I suggest that the format be changed slightly? I recommend that any opinions/considerations be perhaps segregated and/or highlighted as such. Just picking an example and again, not necessarily disagreeing with anything said, the last paragraph of the Caliber section seems suggestive of getting 9mm because is available and cheap but 45acp is what people should really want. This may steer people towards a less than suitable choice for their specific needs.

Good job.
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Old 02-16-2011, 9:05 AM
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Great info!
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Old 02-18-2011, 8:16 PM
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And, for how to stay out of trouble with your new handgun, please read The Calguns Foundation Wiki.
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Old 03-05-2011, 10:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reductio View Post
Very nice info there for beginners.

Only thing that might be nice is an index or outline up near the top.
Thanks for the suggestion. I added one.
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Old 03-06-2011, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IPSICK View Post
Excellent and detailed info but the above statement kills this for the average newbie. I see you are referring people to this thread in other threads but from a persuasive standpoint you're going to run into issues with people's short attention spans. Mine own included.

Thanks for the info and the effort though.
That's just fine, it's not for everybody. Someone who is serious about finding a perfect firearm for themselves and who is willing to put in the effort to make sure they make the right decision will read all of it. Those who chose not to read it likely already own a pistol and don't feel they need any guidance. Both are just fine, to each their own methods.

Thanks for the comment.
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Old 03-07-2011, 4:45 PM
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thats some fine writeup you have there. just hope all the new shooter will actually read it instead of just post another which XXX is the best thd.
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Old 03-25-2011, 12:50 PM
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Another point of issue is the training certificate; which last time I purchased a handgun WAS NOT required when I showed my military ID card; the guy started hauling out all kinds of paperwork (which I'm used to in the military), and when I showed my ID, he dumped that pile of paper and gave me a small "slip" to fill out. I was puzzled, but while waiting I noticed a lot of people filling out A LOT of paperwork, he stated since I was trained in the military I wasn't required all that, NICE! (I also commented that I probably had a larger inventory of weapons than the store had and the weapons were ALL automatic-he laughed and said I probably did).

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Old 04-22-2011, 5:32 PM
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As one who is new to shooting at looking at my first pistol, you post is outstanding. Keep up the good work.

Yakman1
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Old 05-15-2011, 12:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runninrebel85 View Post
Question for all forum members. If I been stationed in WA state for the last couple of years and will be relocating back to CA, will I be able to register my handguns that are not on the DOJ approved list? Thanks for your insights!
http://wiki.calgunsfoundation.org/in...earms#Handguns

Yes you can register them.
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Old 06-20-2011, 6:42 AM
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First of all, thanks for the great post.
I'm going to be buying my first handgun very soon and I was hoping to get some opinions from some calgunners out there. I have always shot my father's .45 so I am very comfortable with this caliber.

I've pretty much narrowed down my choices to:
* Springfield armory XD45 tactical
* HK USP 45 (haven't quite decided yet between the full size or compact)
* S&W M&P45 (haven't quite decided yet between the full size or compact)

Any calgunners out there that have experience with any/multiple or all of these?
The purpose will basically be for primary home defense weapon as well as plinking at the range.

I know that the HK is the most expensive, I'm just wondering if it's worth the extra coin or not. From what I have read up on, most peoaple seem to be very pleased with any of these.
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Old 06-20-2011, 9:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gunguy1 View Post
First of all, thanks for the great post.
I'm going to be buying my first handgun very soon and I was hoping to get some opinions from some calgunners out there. I have always shot my father's .45 so I am very comfortable with this caliber.

I've pretty much narrowed down my choices to:
* Springfield armory XD45 tactical
* HK USP 45 (haven't quite decided yet between the full size or compact)
* S&W M&P45 (haven't quite decided yet between the full size or compact)

Any calgunners out there that have experience with any/multiple or all of these?
The purpose will basically be for primary home defense weapon as well as plinking at the range.

I know that the HK is the most expensive, I'm just wondering if it's worth the extra coin or not. From what I have read up on, most peoaple seem to be very pleased with any of these.
All of them are great guns, with each gun having a couple different features. I currently own the HK USP45 full size, and have owned an M&P9, but also shot the .45 version. The full size USP has a recoil dampening system that I believe the compact does not. The felt recoil is actually less than a 1911, at least to me it seems. It also has different characteristics from the other two guns you listed.

The USP is a hammer fired gun, and is DA/SA, but also comes in variants that can make it DA only (LEM trigger). It has an external safety that can be engaged, as well as a decocker on some variants. The XD and M&P are striker fired guns, with the XD having a grip safety similar to that of a 1911. The M&P is available with a manual thumb safety, but most people prefer to buy it without one, (a-la Glock).

All guns have provisions for mounting a pistol light, however it's much easier on the M&P and the XD, as you'll need a proprietary rail adapter for the USP.

The triggers and handling characteristics on all three guns will feel totally different, and the only way you'll really be able to tell which one is right for you is to handle them all and fire them. If they aren't available for this, then you may have to play the buy and sell game until you finally find the one that fits you best and stick with it. Or, just buy all three

I have handled all three of those guns, and I prefer the USP out of all of them. The XD felt too small and slippery in my hands, the M&P felt great but I didn't shoot well with the jointed trigger, and the USP feels just about right in my hands, with very manageable recoil.
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Old 06-24-2011, 3:05 PM
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damn, i wish i had found this thread a couple of days ago. I ended up purchasing a M1991A1 series 80. too bad its a consignment they had just gotten so i won't get it until the end of july. no matter. more time for me to research and get comfortable with legal dog and pony show.

I have a question for you about reloading, what is your approximate cost per reloaded round compared to buying by the box and then buying in bulk. I have some friends that reload but i'm curious of your experiences as well.

Thanks again for a great guide. I would suggest maybe including some links to the discussions on legal carrying procedures as well since this will also be a common question for beginners.

I bought mine through turners and all they said i needed to purchase was a cable lock but it sounds like it is better to transport a gun in a locked case with ammo probably separate (but not necessary). Also whats the best way to store ammo? get some metal tins from an army surplus store? any concerns with moisture/heat/light?
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Old 06-28-2011, 12:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conanobrennan View Post
damn, i wish i had found this thread a couple of days ago. I ended up purchasing a M1991A1 series 80. too bad its a consignment they had just gotten so i won't get it until the end of july. no matter. more time for me to research and get comfortable with legal dog and pony show.

I have a question for you about reloading, what is your approximate cost per reloaded round compared to buying by the box and then buying in bulk. I have some friends that reload but i'm curious of your experiences as well.

Thanks again for a great guide. I would suggest maybe including some links to the discussions on legal carrying procedures as well since this will also be a common question for beginners.

I bought mine through turners and all they said i needed to purchase was a cable lock but it sounds like it is better to transport a gun in a locked case with ammo probably separate (but not necessary). Also whats the best way to store ammo? get some metal tins from an army surplus store? any concerns with moisture/heat/light?
Cost per round when you reload depends on how much you buy your components for. Generally, you can half the costs of commercial ammo. I can reload 9mm at around $.11 per round, and .45ACP for $.16 per round.

Get the cable lock (even though it doesn't do anything to satisfy the legal transportation requirements) since Turners will require it. If you have a locking trunk, just put the pistol in a hard case and wrap the cable lock around the handle, and just throw it into your trunk. It gets a little more complicated and there's more to it, but doing this will just be the easy way without having to explain all the stupid little details to do it a different way.

The ammo does not need to be separated from the gun, though your gun cannot be loaded. You can legally have loaded magazines in the same container, but the mag cannot be inserted into the gun, and there cannot be a round in the chamber either.
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Old 06-29-2011, 4:39 AM
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I can not answer several of the questions on here being an LEO. Because I am exempt from most of the "rules". But, I will back up "Beer's" statement. The SIG is by far the best firearm among all the rest. Just my opinion...

Stay safe...
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Old 06-29-2011, 9:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerkyg View Post
I can not answer several of the questions on here being an LEO. Because I am exempt from most of the "rules". But, I will back up "Beer's" statement. The SIG is by far the best firearm among all the rest. Just my opinion...

Stay safe...
Different strokes for different folks. I for one don't like Sigs much due to their ridiculous height over bore. The guns shoot great, and they shoot straight, but the felt recoil is far more compared to anything else I've shot due to that simple fact.
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Old 07-04-2011, 5:45 PM
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Great information for beginners like me.

I am planning on buying a Springfield XD9 4" service model Bi tone from turners, they have this gun on sale this week for $520 + tax. Do you think its a good price?

thanks
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Old 07-04-2011, 6:45 PM
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Nice!
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Raptor3000 View Post
Great information for beginners like me.

I am planning on buying a Springfield XD9 4" service model Bi tone from turners, they have this gun on sale this week for $520 + tax. Do you think its a good price?

thanks
Fair price, but you may be able to find a perfectly good used one here on Calguns for around $100 less. I have seen XD's go for as low as $400 in the marketplace. That's only $435 out the door after the DROS fee. Remember when you buy brand new you pay for DROS as well as the tax.
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Old 07-08-2011, 8:12 AM
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Updated with a few pictures to help people that learn a bit more with visuals.
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Old 08-17-2011, 12:52 PM
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Nice document. I am the intended audience and did read it ALL.

I might suggest:
1. a mention of Grips.
-I found the same gun I rented was harder to shoot on a 98' day in shade at the range mainly due to my sweaty palms and the grips not being as tacky. Something that testing indoors may not have highlighted. Ability to add Hogue or other grips will be something I consider now, and also more focus on the stock grips when "damp". A newbie like me will need to realize some grips have a "plastic-y" tact (slippery) feel if sweaty, while others have more natural rubber hold, sorry if I didn't explain well. Useful for outdoor range and panic self defense situations, I would think.
2. more on Trigger smoothness/grittiness, and reset. What/ how to look for it unloaded (in store), and why it matters, ie how effects accuracy/followup fire.
3. Sight picture details and sight types (3 dot, "target sight", or others), just more on options - stock and aftermarket.
4. Mention of Father->Son gift exemption (out of state) for FFL. How to use logistically, appropriately, etc.

I am going to be doing more research on new models with ability to switch out barrel to .22 for range and still use .40 or .45 without having second gun.

Also, somewhat confused on reliability (not from your post), as nearly every gun I have been interested has some review/feedback on failures, gritty, or other issues. So, will continue the research. FYI I will not be putting in 1000 rounds to break in, per some other suggestions I have seen, and many newbies will probably be more like me in that.

Thank you for the info and consideration of my feedback.
B
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Old 08-17-2011, 4:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigSurf View Post
Nice document. I am the intended audience and did read it ALL.

I might suggest:
1. a mention of Grips.
-I found the same gun I rented was harder to shoot on a 98' day in shade at the range mainly due to my sweaty palms and the grips not being as tacky. Something that testing indoors may not have highlighted. Ability to add Hogue or other grips will be something I consider now, and also more focus on the stock grips when "damp". A newbie like me will need to realize some grips have a "plastic-y" tact (slippery) feel if sweaty, while others have more natural rubber hold, sorry if I didn't explain well. Useful for outdoor range and panic self defense situations, I would think.
2. more on Trigger smoothness/grittiness, and reset. What/ how to look for it unloaded (in store), and why it matters, ie how effects accuracy/followup fire.
3. Sight picture details and sight types (3 dot, "target sight", or others), just more on options - stock and aftermarket.
4. Mention of Father->Son gift exemption (out of state) for FFL. How to use logistically, appropriately, etc.

I am going to be doing more research on new models with ability to switch out barrel to .22 for range and still use .40 or .45 without having second gun.

Also, somewhat confused on reliability (not from your post), as nearly every gun I have been interested has some review/feedback on failures, gritty, or other issues. So, will continue the research. FYI I will not be putting in 1000 rounds to break in, per some other suggestions I have seen, and many newbies will probably be more like me in that.

Thank you for the info and consideration of my feedback.
B
Thanks for the suggestions, I'll add a couple more things you suggested when I get some free time.
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Old 08-17-2011, 5:21 PM
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Nicely written and very clear, especially since it's coming from someone who claims to be confused.
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Old 09-22-2011, 1:25 PM
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What do the competitive shooters use? After all, they tend to run 10,000 to 20,000 rounds a year. From the 2009 IDPA Nationals, 136 ran Glocks, and about 90 some 1911's (various makes), 35 or so S&W revolvers, couple of HK's, Sigs, CZs and Berettas.

http://www.idpa.com/tj.asp?ID=252
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Old 09-26-2011, 6:14 PM
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recoil...is just a thought...u should be able to control that...

i have an original...1995...begium made hi-power...i have no feeling of much difference.

i agree...different strokes for different folks....

but, i love this gun....sig sauer....40 cal. 229 with rail. we can go back and forth on this...

i carry it off duty...inside the pants holster...

with a leo 12 mag...feel much safer with it that, than my hi-power...9 mil...with 15 rounds.

just my opinion....

stay safe
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Old 10-04-2011, 2:37 PM
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Default great post

I found you write up very helpful and also very informative. Thank you for taking the time to do the write up.
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Old 10-15-2011, 4:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nstoolman1 View Post
Nice right up.


Does the seller have to be a resident of California?

My father-in-law wants to give me a gun for some work I did for him at his house. He lives in AZ. I want to know that if he gives me the gun and he is present when I register it here, will that work.

I think the info in your post answers my question but I just need to be sure. I hate to have him come out here for nothing.
Thanks.
Yes, you can purchase it here at a CA FFL, however you will need to perform the transaction as an interstate transfer, as opposed to a traditional PPT. The handgun also needs to be on the roster to do this. - http://wiki.calgunsfoundation.org/in...te_resident.3F
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Old 10-25-2011, 8:31 PM
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Thanks for a good post. Just enough info to give me areas to research for my self. Very informative
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Old 12-12-2011, 6:18 PM
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Thanks. 30 year absence from shooting. Went to a range in Artesia and tried 5 different pistols. Picking up my Glock 19 on the 20th. This old newbe says thanks.
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Old 12-24-2011, 8:33 AM
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Just read and really enjoyed it. Will recomend to newbies I come in contact wih. Calguns!!!
I purchased my first firearm with a similar check list, but soon after purchased my second on pure impulse. A large part of this hobby is trying to make a gun you find your new favorite because of the ammo or accesories it can support. Thanks for taking he time to put your thoughts and experiences out there for all to learn from.
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Old 12-24-2011, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iareConfusE View Post
Yes, you can purchase it here at a CA FFL, however you will need to perform the transaction as an interstate transfer, as opposed to a traditional PPT. The handgun also needs to be on the roster to do this. - http://wiki.calgunsfoundation.org/in...te_resident.3F
I not sure about that. Reading from:
http://wiki.calgunsfoundation.org/Tr...Family_Members

It seems pretty clear that intra-family transfers are exempt from the roster:

These transfers are exempt from the Roster
An additional part of the Penal Code, 12132
12132. This chapter shall not apply to any of the following:

(b) The sale, loan, or transfer of any firearm that is exempt from
the provisions of subdivision (d) of Section 12072 pursuant to any
applicable exemption contained in Section 12078, if the sale, loan,
or transfer complies with the requirements of that applicable
exemption to subdivision (d) of Section 12072.
says that intrafamilial handgun transfers are NOT subject to the Roster of Handguns.

But I am just learning this stuff; I haven't found any words about "needing to be present", so I may have missed entire chunks of law....
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Old 12-25-2011, 3:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speedrrracer View Post
I not sure about that. Reading from:
http://wiki.calgunsfoundation.org/Tr...Family_Members

It seems pretty clear that intra-family transfers are exempt from the roster:

These transfers are exempt from the Roster
An additional part of the Penal Code, 12132
12132. This chapter shall not apply to any of the following:

(b) The sale, loan, or transfer of any firearm that is exempt from
the provisions of subdivision (d) of Section 12072 pursuant to any
applicable exemption contained in Section 12078, if the sale, loan,
or transfer complies with the requirements of that applicable
exemption to subdivision (d) of Section 12072.
says that intrafamilial handgun transfers are NOT subject to the Roster of Handguns.

But I am just learning this stuff; I haven't found any words about "needing to be present", so I may have missed entire chunks of law....
His inquiry had nothing to do with the roster, just that his father lived out of state and wanted to get the gun in-state. We all know you can already get off-roster guns here in CA.
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