What the heck is a Foolproof First Pistol and why am I talking about it today? I’m the first one to say that handguns make for shitty weapons.
With that said, you can’t stuff a shotgun in your shorts with any degree of comfort. That means that when you venture far from home, you’re relying on your handgun.
Einherjar over at Kommando Blog already did a fantastic post about choosing your first carry gun. It’s a great read, and very thorough. His method is a little different than mine, though.
He presents the data and real-world events, then relates that to a newbie’s options. All while keeping his personal preferences out of it, which I appreciate.
While I keep my preferences out of things as well, my approach is to take the complex and make it simple.
Energy figures on ammo boxes never brought home any deer meat. I’m pretty sure that people who shot perfect scores on paper targets have missed in real life.
What I’m saying is that reality and data don’t always agree, so I try to keep things basic.
I don’t mess with my social media much anymore, but I do clear notifications every few days. I found this tweet in my notifications:
@BusinessAndBull I will be purchasing a semi-auto pistol soon for concealed carry and will be training with it.
Knowing me I will pursue a high level of accuracy and ability to draw and fire swiftly and accurately.
— Arnie (@TheSigmaMind) January 8, 2018
I appeared on Arnie’s podcast last year, and had a great time talking his ear off. I can relate a lot to the way his brain works, aside from his not being a “gun guy”.
In reading his tweet, I realized that a lot of folks are probably in the market for their first pistol, and they would be best served buying a foolproof one.
What Makes a Foolproof First Pistol Foolproof?
A foolproof first pistol is foolproof in that you won’t regret the purchase. There will always be a use for that pistol, even if you later acquire another that caters to your needs better.
This is as opposed to most of us gun nuts who buy our first pistol then buy into the marketing. The next gun, the eternal quest for something “better”.
That, friends, is why the majority of civilian owned guns in America are owned by only 3% of the population – that 3% being us gun nuts.
If your first pistol is a foolproof pistol, then you really don’t NEED another handgun. Barring rare circumstances, you’ll have that gun until you die and it will do everything you ever need it to.
That’s not to say that you CAN’T buy another pistol – of course you can – but that you won’t ever NEED to.
My motto “Live Free, Make Money, Pack Iron” is listed in order of importance. You should use your money to buy freedom, not buy money with freedom just so you can go buy that next gun.
The amount of money most of us gun nuts have wasted on guns we didn’t need would shock and appall the general population.
Anyone who isn’t a gun nut in-the-making doesn’t need to waste that money…they just need to make sure their first purchase is foolproof. Now let’s talk about how to do just that.
Traits of a Foolproof First Pistol – Chambering
When a newbie learns about guns from TV and video games, they believe different guns possess different levels of “stopping power”. They quickly learn that in reality, the chambering of their gun is what determines its power range.
“Chambering” refers to the cartridge your particular gun is designed to load and fire. You should never load a gun with a round it isn’t designed for, even if that round will fit in the gun.
BE VERY SPECIFIC AND VERY CAREFUL.
I know people who (for example) have fired .45 GAP out of their .45 ACP handgun. If they had discovered this in a deadly encounter instead of the firing range, they’d be dead.
At best, your gun won’t function reliably. At worst, your handgun turns into a bomb in your hand. Bye-bye fingers and eyes.
Now, with that said, Chambering is often referred to improperly as “Caliber”.
People love to extol the virtues of their pet cartridge, how their “caliber” is the only one that will prevent you from going home in a box when the balloon goes up.
That’s a load of horse shit, of course.
As a general rule, all handgun chamberings suck. To illustrate this, look at the difference between a .30-30 ( seen as a mild rifle cartridge) and a .44 Magnum (seen as something that will “blow your head clean off”).
Federal Ammunition Hollow Point .30-30
- Bullet Weight – 125 Grains
- Muzzle Energy – 1,833 Ft/Lbs
- Muzzle Velocity – 2,570 Fps
Federal Ammunition Hollow Point .44 Magnum
- Bullet Weight – 240 Grains
- Muzzle Energy – 806 Ft/Lbs
- Muzzle Velocity – 1230 Fps
Now, I’m the first one to say that Data and Reality don’t always match, but numbers with this much of a gap definitely DO show a difference in the real world.
These figures on the .44 Magnum are absolutely HUGE for a handgun, but a relatively mild rifle cartridge like the .30-30 absolutely blows them away. You’re getting more than double the muzzle energy and velocity with a bullet almost half the size.
Not convinced? What if the bullets were exactly the same size?
Federal Ammunition Soft Point .45-70
- Bullet Weight – 300 Grains
- Muzzle Energy – 2280 Ft/Lbs
- Muzzle Velocity – 1850 Fps
Federal Ammunition Cast Core .44 Magnum
- Bullet Weight – 300 Grains
- Muzzle Energy – 896 Ft/Lbs
- Muzzle Velocity – 1160 Fps
The only difference in the Soft Point and Cast Core is bullet hardness, which has an effect on penetration but not on the inherent power of the cartridge. One of the most powerful handgun cartridges commonly available is peanuts compared to just about any rifle.
Considering there are bad guys who have soaked up rifle rounds and shotguns slugs without giving up the ghost, do you really think there’s going to be any difference between a 9mm and a .45?
Here are your criteria for selecting the Chambering of your Handgun:
- Has the cartridge you’re considering been used by ANY Military or Police Force in the last 100 years?
- Is this cartridge locally available to you at a price that will be conducive to respectably regular live fire practice?
That’s all you need to worry about.
Traits of a Foolproof First Pistol – Action
Action refers to the operation of the handgun. Is it single action? Double action? Double Action / Single Action?
To make things more complicated, companies like Glock and Springfield Armory have invented (and no doubt trademarked) new words for actions that are honestly something else.
The heuristic for action type is that the name of the action refers to how many “actions” the trigger must perform.
Single action? That means the trigger performs the single action of releasing a cocked hammer.
Double action? That means the trigger performs the action of cocking the hammer AND the action of releasing the hammer. The trick with this action is that the reciprocation of the slide loading the next round into the chamber cocks the hammer for you, making all subsequent shots single action.
In practice, action type will dictate how your pistol is carried on the day to day.
The Foolproof First Pistol should be of an action type you’re comfortable carrying. You should be confident in your ability to safely carry your handgun.
If you aren’t confident in your ability to safely carry your gun, how are you supposed to build confidence in deploying that gun when you need it? You won’t!
If you are new to guns and don’t understand what I mean, then think of this:
Single action pistols I own are of the 1911 design and the Browning Hi Power design. Remember that a single action pistol is designed to be carried with the hammer cocked – otherwise, the trigger doesn’t work.
All the trigger does is perform the single action of releasing the hammer – it cannot cock it. You then should carry a single action pistol with a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked, the safety on.
The 1911 has an additional grip safety that locks the trigger unless you depress the grip safety by holding the gun. The Hi Power does not. They both have a manual safety on the frame.
Despite logically knowing that both guns are as safe as I make them, the lack of a grip safety on the Hi Power makes me illogically less confident in safely carrying it. I am always checking it to make sure I haven’t disengaged the safety on accident.
My purchase of a Hi Power was NOT a foolproof purchase, at least for me. You should be supremely confident in your ability to safely carry your pistol, both logically and illogically.
Traits of a Foolproof First Pistol – Ergonomics
Everyone knows about Ergonomics as what I call “Firing Ergonomics”. Does the gun fit your hand? Can you control it under recoil?
Obviously you should be choosing a gun that fits your hand and ideally firing it before buying it to ensure you can control it. Those two elements are not the be-all end-all of ergonomics, though.
I argue that what I call “Carry Ergonomics” is equally important during your purchase and more important afterward.
If it is hard to carry your gun, guess what? You simply won’t carry it.
I don’t care how much money you spent on it or how much you think you need it. There will come a time where you leave it in a drawer and that’s probably the time you’ll need it.
Murphy’s Law is a bitch like that.
There is good news, though. With a proper belt, proper holster, and the proper physique, you can carry just about anything.
This aspect of a Foolproof First Pistol doesn’t need any more explanation. If you don’t see why Carry Ergonomics and Firing Ergonomics are absolutely crucial elements to consider, then you probably shouldn’t be carrying at all.
The Foolproof First Pistol Checklist
- Is this pistol chambered in a cartridge that has been used by any military or police force in the last 100 years?
- Is this pistol chambered in a round locally available to me at a price I can afford to purchase fairly regularly?
- Am I confident that I can carry this pistol safely?
- Do I understand the manual of arms and operation of this type of pistol?
- Does this pistol fit my hand?
- If possible, can I fire this pistol before buying it, even if I have to go to a firing range and rent one just like it?
- Can I acquire a holster made to fit this gun, and if so, how soon can I acquire it?
- Will this gun and the holster made to fit it require a stiffer belt than the one I have now, and if so, how soon can I acquire such a belt?
Did you notice that I didn’t mention the brand of manufacturer at all? That’s because it doesn’t matter.
All pistols WILL eventually malfunction. They are machines, and machines wear over time and use.
People who buy Brand X and just assume their machine is impervious to reality are playing pretend.
What do you think is more beneficial:
- Blissfully pretending reality isn’t real and because you own a Brand XYZ pistol, it will never malfunction
- Embracing reality and acquiring the skill to clear any malfunction you may experience
Once you’ve gotten yourself a Foolproof First Pistol, focus on acquiring, honing, and maintaining skills instead of buying more guns. Remember…
“Never assume that simply having a gun makes you a marksman. You are no more armed because you are wearing a pistol than you are a musician because you own a guitar.” – Jeff Cooper