Bulletpoints: Picking a piece

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If you’re in the market for a pistol to carry on a daily basis, you’re going to be spoiled for choice. This is an extremely deep field, with more than a few players vying for your cash. There are a few things you have to remember before cashing out for that latest single stack nine, or ultra-super-snubby subcompact in .50 AE. Far be it from us to change your mind if you have it set on just one piece, but sit back and read on. You might just want to lengthen your shortlist.

You don’t have to go hammerless

Striker-fired pistols are wonderful. Apart from all the amazing striker-fired options available in the market today, there are some distinct advantages to not having an external hammer to your handgun, not the least of which is a snag-free draw. This doesn’t mean that hammerless/striker-fired is the only way to go, or that having a hammer on your weapon is going to cause it to catch on every scrap of fabric between you and the bad guy. While it’s true that the hammer is one other thing that can snag, but if you practice, have decent gear, and don’t spend every waking hour worrying about your gun snagging at the draw, you should be okay. Really, there are other things about carrying you have to worry about. Don’t let the presence of a hammer keep you from carrying your 1911. Holster up and carry on!

Small but terrible

There is an inverse relationship between how easy a pistol is to carry and how pleasant it is to shoot. Smaller, lighter pistols offer less resistance to the effects of recoil, so the shooter feels the recoil impulse significantly more than a larger, heavier pistol. I’ve fired some pistols in .380 ACP that were a lot less docile than my full-sized 1911 in 9mm Para. It’s simple physics, and there’s really no way to cheat that. Apart from the whole inertia thing, smaller pistols also have less to grab on to. It’s hard enough trying to keep a good grip on a pistol that’s essentially fighting its way out of your hands, and if that pistol isn’t even giving your hands enough to hold on to, whether because the grip is too thin, or too short, there might be some problems.

Go too large and/or too heavy, you’ll be miserable carrying it, and might even be tempted to leave the weapon at home, defeating the reason behind the whole exercise. There’s nobody who can really say whether you should err on the side of too heavy, as nobody knows yourself better than yourself. It’s something you have to try out yourself, though I’d personally much rather have a gun than not, particularly when I need it.

The Caliber debate

There is no way my saying anything about this topic will sway the tide one way or another, nor do I hope to convince you of anything other than your own beliefs. I do hope, though, that you consider looking at both the evidence at hand, and the testimonials of those more qualified than I. Within reasonable limits, and with reputable, modern defensive ammunition, ammo isn’t as big a factor as you might imagine. Modern defensive hollowpoints perform admirably, and pack enough power and penetration to get the job done.

The advantage of the smaller, lighter ammo is the relative ease at which follow-up shots can be made. The importance of being able to make fast, accurate follow-up shots is, as far as can be told, greater than the “stopping power” of a single round. Can’t decide what you want more? Get ‘em all and be done with it! For science!

Carry conditions (Skip if you hate the 1911)

I know of at least a few people who carry single action firearms with the hammer down on an empty chamber, assuming they have both A) the presence of mind to draw, rack, aim, and fire under duress to perform, and B) the skill to do the same. When pressed, they admit to carrying this way because cocked and locked (Condition 1) feels unsafe. While Condition 3 (hammer down on an empty chamber, with a full mag inserted), has a much lower chance of going off unintended, it does have the consequence of having a much lower chance of going off when you want it to as well. Getting the gun ready might not seem like that difficult a task, but when you consider that a determined attacker can cover 21 feet in the 1.5 seconds it takes the average person to draw, aim, and fire a pistol, and that extra step starts looking like a lot of effort. Don’t even get us started on the dangers of carrying in Condition 2, or heaven forbid, Condition 0.

While these really mostly apply to 1911-style pistols, generally speaking, you’re trying to keep the best balance between making the gun difficult to fire, and ready to act.

Revolvers are your friends

Revolvers are amazingly reliable weapons, though they have admittedly fallen out of favor against semi-automatic pistols. Don’t be put-off by the revolver’s older technology. They can take more of a beating, have fewer moving parts, are mechanically (and operationally) simpler, and throw lead just as well as their more modern counterparts. Revolvers can accept various kinds of ammunition, with some notable examples capable of loading both pistol cartridges and shotshells.

As with any skill, you’re going to have to put some hours into using a revolver. Some processes, such as reloading, can take a little more practice on a wheel gun than a semi-auto. This is a critical part of using any handgun, so if you go down this road, make sure you do it right.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE August 2015 Issue
Words by Ren Alcantara