When trying to determine which handgun is the best one for you, many people will rely on the recommendations of a friend, family member or the type of handgun that expert marksman use. This can be a mistake. While you can certainly evaluate their recommendations but you need to choose your handgun based on your own criteria. Not every individual will have the same grip or method of sighting. Additionally, there are other considerations such as your own physical build, preferred method of carry i.e. Ankle holster, in the waistband, etc. All of these play a part in your selection of a handgun.
Col Ben Findley is a retired Air Force colonel, served in the Special Ops trained and is Air Force qualified as an “expert” in small arms. He is also an NRA-Certified pistol instruction, range safety officer and CCW license instructor. In his book “Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials”, he outlines the process he uses to select a handgun:
- Define my Goal/Use for the handgun;
- Specify my standard Criteria and desired Features up front (I use 22, sometimes less);
- Rank my criteria/features by my importance and preferences;
- List 3 or 4 gun model Alternatives/Options I want to consider and decide among;
- Gather my specific gun model Data, do my Research, find manufacturer’s specifications, etc.;
- Objectively Evaluate each gun against the same criteria and features using a standard methodology;
- Select my “Winner.”
He discusses 22 different criteria that he uses to evaluate every handgun he is considering purchasing.
- Accuracy – The ability of the handgun to hit the target on your first time with the same distance, speed, grip and aim point for every gun.
- Reliability – The consistency of the handgun’s performance. Will it give the same results every time you use it?
- Durability – How long will the gun last based on the materials used, its design, overall craftsmanship and the details?
- Ergonomics #1 – Grip Fit; Grip Angle; Finger to Trigger Fit – The compatibility of the gun to the owner’s finger and hand size.
- Ergonomics #2 – Controls Access – Reachable – The ease of reaching for the safety, magazine release, slide lock lever and other controls of the gun.
- Ergonomics #3 – Comfortable – Feels Good – This refers to how the owner feels when holding and shooting the gun and the acceptability of the recoil.
- Trigger Press – Would you like a handgun with a long and hard press or the opposite?
- Length of the Barrel – The length of the barrel affects the strength of the recoil as well as the accuracy.
- Caliber – The size of the caliber would depend on the personal preference.
- Sights; Types; Sight Radius – This is also dependable on the use and preferences of the person. There are night sights and fiber optic front sights.
- Magazine Capacity – An increased capacity of the magazine would help an individual become more prepared in engaging with multiple threats.
- Width – Thin guns are easier to conceal than the thick ones.
- Weight (when loaded) – When choosing the appropriate weight, the use of the gun should be considered. The weight may influence the accuracy and movement of the gun.
- Safety or Not – Preference; Types; Decocker or Not – Some carriers do not want handguns with safety, but others would like to have a safety especially when using the gun at home. There are different types of safety including the firing pin block, hammer block, transfer bar, safety notch, etc.
- Height – The appropriate height of the handgun depends on an individual’s hand and finger size.
- Overall Length – The length of the gun affects the velocity of the bullet being released. Longer guns are often preferred for long-range shooting.
- Concealability – The size of the gun and the individual’s body frame affect the concealability.
- Material – Frame – Handguns can be made of either polymer or steel. Steel is usually heavier than polymer.
- Available Accessories – Parts – It is preferable to purchase guns with accessories that are readily available like ammo, pouches, magazines, holsters and parts.
- Price of Ammo – Cheaper ammo will let you practice more often.
- Price of Handgun – Compare the specifications of each handgun and check if their prices are reasonable.
- Personal Choice – Think about the special characteristics that you are looking for in a handgun.
This guide is provided to help you decide which is the best handgun for you, but you must evaluate each handgun according to your needs, purpose and reason for purchase. This is the handgun that you will be relying on to defend yourself and your loved ones, so it needs to meet your individual needs.