Caliber wars…again

Last year I got a few emails asking for advise on selecting a first gun purchase. I love getting these requests, but not sure they really want to hear my answer.

So one in particular had a lot of detailed questions geared towards a single answer already and they were more looking for validation than suggestions. None of what they were proposing did I feel like was a good idea for first time gun owner; double action in .40cal. Is it possible to develop solid marksmanship skills with that combination, yes, it’s just not probable without a lot of bad habits and struggles in the process.

Since we are seeing more and more first time gun owners purchasing their first pistol what should they be looking for? Before we get too far down the rabbit hole, define what you intend on doing with the pistol. Is it for home defense only, concealed carry only or both? That will start you off on the size of the pistol, full size versus compact. Truthfully there are a few compacts that can fulfill both roles really well, but unless you are a super large human the full size pistols are going to be harder to conceal.

Next, I suggest looking at magazine capacity. You want the largest standard capacity you can get your hands, literally. Sure you can find extra capacity magazines, but they will more than likely affect how well you can conceal the pistol by increasing it’s size.

Now comes the big question, what caliber? Straight up without any reservations I’m going to recommend 9mm. Don’t get sucked into the caliber wars about this will expand more or this has history attached to it or any of the other numerous reasons folks come up with to justify their purchase. The 9mm has come a long way, technology and materials have allowed the caliber to close the gap between it and other calibers. I try to remind folks that for any caliber to be effect the shooter has to hit it’s target. That means the rounds need to be reliable first and foremost, they have to go bang every single time you pull the trigger, no exceptions. Testing the three variables (firearm, magazine & ammunition) is a responsibility you will have to bear, you could rely on others to provide you that information, but it is your ass on the line so take the time to do it yourself.

Once it goes bang every single time, then you need to be able to strike the target. That means you have to be accurate enough and fast enough. That will require training and no caliber will EVER make up for a miss so don’t get too wrapped around the axle there.

About the only thing I consider to be based on the performance of the caliber is penetration. As long as the round is reliable (goes bang), hits the target (marksmanship skills) then it needs to penetrate a minimum of 12 inches in soft tissue.

Now that you have all that advise, you need to follow it. Don’t try and force something that is suboptimal to work at peak conditions. It’s just not going to work out the way you might want it to at the time you need it to.

7 thoughts on “Caliber wars…again

  1. Rcraigjohn says:

    Great advice, Jeff. As a range officer, I see many many women struggling with some gun that their husband or boyfriend has bought for them. Most are either too large (look, honey, I’ve got this 454 you can shoot) or too small. Most recently, I helped a terribly frustrated woman whose husband had bought her a small double action .380. It was one of the cheaper brands. It had such a terrible trigger pull, was a double action, that she couldn’t shoot the thing. Heck, when I tried it, it was like hitching a mule team to a wagon to get it to fire. I had her try my XD (sorry — not a GLK, Jeff) in 9mm. Within minutes, and with a bit of coaching, she was hitting most shots within a three inch circle at 15 feet and was feeling very good about it, and was determined to unload the POS she had even if it was ‘more concealable’ in her purse. Told her to go find an XD or Glock and she would be much happier, and actually could get competent.

  2. RamZar says:

    9mm because today’s defensive ammo are leaps and bounds better than 10 years ago. Then, it comes down to shot placement and penetration.

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