Friday, April 04, 2003

First Handgun

Like most people who shoot a lot, I get asked for gun recommendations by new shooters and potential shooters. Usually they are interested in something for self defense. Also while hanging around gun shows and guns shops i get to hear the advice others give out.

Most of it is bad advice. Mine used to be bad, too, and for the same reason: i recommended my personal preferences and did not think about it from a newcomers perspective.

The 1911 and 45 ACP is a combination which is hard to beat for those who practice and become proficient with it. But i don't think it is a good choice for most people to start out with as a self-defense piece.

Col. Jeff Cooper agrees. As related here he remains committed to the 1911 as the best weapon when in the hands of the accomplished shooter. However, he suggests that the DA revolver is the better choice for those who are not expert and lack the commitment to become so.

"We conclude after years of careful study, that the best service sidearm for a policeman is a double action revolver."

Note, that Col. Cooper is talking about the police. So if the high priest of the "cult of the 45 auto" recommends DA revolvers for law enforcement, i do not feel right recommending a 1911 to a civilian who is just starting to shoot.

The most common objection i hear from knowledgeable friends is that revolvers hold fewer rounds and are slower to reload. True enough, but Col. Cooper says that is of no import. When he was interviewed by TV's American Shooter, they noted that he doesn't think tactical reloads should be a major element in training. In his view, if you cannot solve the problem with five or six rounds, you have probably already lost. For civilians, certainly, this is true. Two or three rounds will be enough, if we do our part. And if we cannot hit with six, will we have time to shoot 20? Plus, the typical newcomers doesn't carry extra clips anyway.

Psychologically, most people find it easier to carry a loaded revolver than a cocked and locked 1911. I know that John Browning designed it to be safe that way and it is. BUT, for a beginner, it is disconcerting to see that hammer pulled back. Often they opt to carry it loaded but not cocked, or unloaded with the magazine in. In either case, their weapon will be slower into action when they need it.

The other big advantage for the DA revolver is cost. At my local gun shop they have a Kimber Pro Carry for $799 and a Browning Hi-Power for $610. In contrast, a Ruger GP 100 goes for $420 and a Taurus 85UL is only $325.

Those are prices for new guns. You can get used revolvers in great condition for well under $300. Moreover, i am more confident buying a used revolver than a used auto. There are too many ways an auto can be temperamental (feeding various brands of ammo, for example). A good deal can turn into a bust.

In future posts i'll get specific about what i recommend, plus i'll discuss why i have come to take my own advice.