I have a few first-timer questions. Some the usual, others maybe different than usual


July 3, 2006, 06:39 PM
Is there any reason for me to not get a handgun?

Stuff about me:

College student, turning 21 in September. I would keep the gun at my parents' home, as I cannot have it on state property. Once I move off campus next year I'd just take the gun with me.

I live in California, and would probably try to convince the Orange County sheriff to grant me a CCW (good luck). I'd want a semi-automatic handgun and probably spend $300 - $500... Ideally I'd get my dad to come out to the range with me and we could take lessons together.

Frankly, with all the bull surrounding accidents/liability, it's maybe an arena I don't want to enter, but on the other hand, I have a right to self-defense, and I don't want to be on the wrong side of a gun in 10 years if I have a wife/kids and some asshat tries to break in.

My dad told me our cousin in Texas takes his everywhere he goes, up to ATMs, etc.

Are the odds better of me having an accident and killing myself/someone, or of me actually using the gun correctly and saving my life / family's lives in the process? I'm actually a pretty responsible person, and when I've been to the range in the past (.40 revolvers edit: .357 not .40) I haven't felt scared/nervous.


If I do get a gun, what should I be looking at? I would prefer something that can take a 9mm load (if it can take 9mm and a larger load, that's fine) and that is concealable so that if I do get a CCW (or if/when I leave California) I can carry it.

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July 3, 2006, 07:29 PM
I will not even attempt to summarize. Try these sites for starters.

Others are sure to chime in.

July 3, 2006, 07:35 PM
Hi Hegemon, Welcome to THR! :D

In a nutshell: Get the gun, your chances of accidents are dependant entirely on how you treat it. The quote you are thinking about of being 42% more likely to kill a family member or whatever has long been debunked in not only the gun community, but the statistical community as well. Google for "Kellerman" to get the full picture.

Hope you stay a while!


Larry Ashcraft
July 3, 2006, 07:44 PM
First off, welcome to THR, a lot to learn here.
.40 revolvers
Are you sure? I've never heard of a .40 S&W revolver. I could be wrong though.
if it can take 9mm and a larger load, that's fine)
Almost without exception (a couple of those being .38 Special/.357 Magnum or .44 Special/.44 Magnum) handguns are chambered for one specific cartridge, especially autos. A 9mm Parabellum handgun will fire 9mm Parabellum ammunition, and nothing else (safely).

July 3, 2006, 08:21 PM
Accidents/liability, eh?

The canonical 4 rules:
1) Treat every gun as if it were loaded. There's no such thing as a "safe" gun. (If it can fire at all, it can be made to fire at the wrong time, while pointing at the wrong thing)
2) Do not allow the muzzle to point at anything you don't want destroyed.
3) Do not allow your finger inside the trigger guard until your sights are upon your target, and you have decided to fire upon it
4) Know what your target is, what will stop the travel of the bullet, and everything in between.

Most folks agree there's a 5th rule:

5) Store your firearms responsibly. What that exactly means varies by circumstance.

Fred Fuller
July 3, 2006, 08:25 PM
"Are the odds better of me having an accident and killing myself/someone, or of me actually using the gun correctly and saving my life / family's lives in the process?"

Odds are you won't ever need to use a firearm in self defense. But it isn't the odds that matter- it's the stakes. What's at stake are your life and health and that of your loved ones. There is flatly no way to predict an answer to your question. But if you ever DO need a firearm, you're going to need it awfully badly and awfully quickly. Unless you have worked out a way to schedule your emergencies, the only way to have a gun when you need one is to carry one 100% of the time. That is the unavoidable answer that all of us who ask ourselves that sort of question eventually come to.

Read, study, and learn as much as you can. Become a perpetual student. Learn that there is a lot more to self defense than a firearm alone, that the best way to win a fight is to avoid it by seeing it coming first.

There is a lot to this decision, a lot of aspects and considerations. You may decide that owning/carrying a firearm is not for you- that is a decision only you can make. But it sounds as if you want to take responsibility for yourself and your loved ones, and that means more than always being prepared to dial 911.

Some additional web places you should visit:


Good luck, and stay safe-

lpl/nc (53 now, been carrying since I was 21 and still training)

July 3, 2006, 08:25 PM
Frankly, with all the bull**** surrounding accidents/liability, it's maybe an arena I don't want to enter, but on the other hand, I have a right to self-defense, and I don't want to be on the wrong side of a gun in 10 years if I have a wife/kids and some asshat tries to break in.

I'll just throw an oversimplified simple scenario that isn't necessarily reflective of the majority of situations in the real world or catches all the possible "what if'" and "what about" but those details can be ironed out as you give the subject more serious consideration.

a) By choosing to carry a firearm, you have immediate access to, and can excercise lethal force, as a last resort in the unlikely event it is necessary to save the lives of yourself, your family, or any human being(s). You do not have to depend on others such as a police force which, even in realistic top-notch response time, will take several minutes to arrive. A man intent to kill your party (or plain insane) can do a lot of damage in several minutes. The downside is that you will have to live with the possibility of criminal charges brought against you. If you escape that, you might also have to deal with ramifications brought on by the civil court system which might leave you in financial ruin. That, and the popular demonization of your actions by the media whilst they attempt to get the general public to sympathize with the "victim", which is in fact the bad guy you killed.

b) By choosing not to carry a firearm, you have no immediate access to a (almost) guaranteed source of lethal force. Improvised weapons (knife, club, bat, 2x4, lamp, etc) are nice ideas on paper but they might not be designed as weapons for stopping a human aggressor and you have definitely not trained to become proficient with it as, by definition, they are improvised and not ideal weapons. They are in fact, inferior, and I see no reason why one should not use the most lethal and guaranteed means of defending your loved ones.

You will by default have to depend on others. You will have to depend on others such as civilians that might be nearby and might be carrying firearms or a phone to come to your aide (or even give a cursory glance your way). You will have to depend on your abilities to call 911 and get out your message, location, and situation to the operator if no help is nearby. You will have to depend on a speedy response time from the police. By choosing not to defend yourself actively, you are risking your life on a large set of unknown variables and any of those falling short can lead to grave consequences. In such a case, you might end up as a statistic with the CDC as a homocide victim. If you escape that, you might get to live the rest of your life without some of your loved ones. Lastly, the media will likely demonize the situation by making another public outcry and that you fell victim to the evils of firearms.

As much as it angers me to see families of druggies and criminals successfully suing people that rightfully defended their loved ones in civil court from a force willing to take away everything in their lives (or just their lives), I would gladly choose a fate of prison, financial ruin, media demonization, and taking someone's life. The alternative is living the rest of my life knowing I was apathetic and did not do everything in my power to protect those close to me and they are now gone forever (assuming I did not perish along with them).

Again, its an unrealistically simplified presentation of "A or B" scenarios which have infinite variables and conclusions and I am not stating these are the only choices as that would be a logical fallacy, but it might get the ball rolling for your big decision.

July 3, 2006, 08:30 PM
Are you sure? I've never heard of a .40 S&W revolver. I could be wrong though.
No, you're right. I was spacing... I've been shooting .357's

July 3, 2006, 08:31 PM
And to all of you, I appreciate the posts re: liability, etc. That pretty much responds to all of my reservations.

Do any of you have strong suggestions about particular guns I should consider?

Larry Ashcraft
July 3, 2006, 09:07 PM
Do any of you have strong suggestions about particular guns I should consider?

.45 ACP in a 1911 pattern gun. There are no other alternatives.

*Runs and hides*

July 3, 2006, 09:23 PM
You need to go out and shoot a variety of handguns and see which you use the best. In the $300-$500 range I would suggest Glock, Springfield Armory XD series, Taurus, used Sigs and Walthers. If you have $1500 to spend then look at some of the millions of 1911's out there. Do take the safety course and do commit to memory the four rules of firearm ownership...see geek's post.

July 3, 2006, 09:23 PM
single-stack 1911 .45ACP fan here, but go out to a local gun range and shoot as many types of revolvers and autos that you have time/money for. You need to find a model/brand/caliber that you are comfortable with, and can live with. Also check the forums extensively (this and others) for pros/cons, personal reviews (which are sometimes more helpful than "professional" magazine reviews), and comparisons.

Afterall, you wouldn't purchase a car or wife without taking a look around or giving it a test drive first, would you? ;)

July 3, 2006, 09:48 PM
Are you sure? I've never heard of a .40 S&W revolver. I could be wrong though.
Yes there is a .40SW revolver. The SW Model 646 is chambered in .40SW and the Model 610 which is a 10mm can also shoot the .40SW (though both are now out of production).

July 3, 2006, 09:49 PM
Let me just say this: I was in the Army , spent time in all the supercool units and fired all kinda weapons and high speed expiremental stuff. Even got to shoot some stuff that has since come on line. when i got out, I did not shoot/carry a weapon again for 15 years. when my boss took in some work trade instead of the money, but instead firearms ,from a very respectable dealer here in Houston(collector's firearms) I said, okay ill take a pistol instead of my cut of money.
Since then, the declaration of indepedence has taken on a much more classical meaning for me, truly meant for the self aware- and self reliant. It was never meant to protect the Sheeple, and it should not. Kinda like , animals have no rights if they can't claim them. this may sound harsh, but i assure you, this was not lost on our citizenry 225 years ago, when all our documents, plus thomas Paine, Paul Revere, and other's writings were read publicly, every day , in the public square, making sure that even those who could not read, were kept up to snuff , and squared away.
you will come to realize, how important, those first ten are, which were actually the first 13, narrowed down to 10. 2 combined into 1, which became our Second. That they are individual rights, not group rights, not government rights, not militia rights, etc. But yours, mine, the guy on the range line next to you. And you will find yourself become more perterbed at two people, the ones who don't think you need some of your individual rights, or that others are antiquated, and those who think eww yicky or hey it 's not gonna affect me, why should I care?
I now love rifles, and shoot pistols, but am really interested in the crafstman ship and the beauty of the old rifles. I once had a ww1 enfield with beautiful dark almost red wood, looked like mahoganny. it had a 600 yds zero on it, and the front site was peened in place. made me think of the ww1 sniper who had it, to fire a long way out against the Hun , across those impossible trenches, thick with heat , and mud , and rats, deatha and disease all around him. Did this man make it? Did he shoot many guys with this rifle? He was a Brit, probably a fine young man, fighting for freedom. should i think of My Declaration any less?

July 3, 2006, 09:54 PM
.45 ACP in a 1911 pattern gun. There are no other alternatives.

*Runs and hides*

Now Larry, whyever would you run and hide? You should be able to say that loudly and proudly. It was my first gun.

However, I might recommend a Springfield Armory XD9 or Glock 17- I failed to take into account ammo prices, and it seems that no matter where I go, 9mm costs half as much as .45ACP. That's a fair amount of shooting.

As for the statistics, stakes, and decision to be responsible for the protection of yourself and your loved ones, I think the others have made it plenty clear. Just follow the 4 Rules as though they were chiseled upon stone tablets by God Himself, and always be eager to learn (but do use discernment when it comes to what opinions you accept as gospel).

July 3, 2006, 09:57 PM

Then there's the Ruger convertible Blackhawk that can, and mine does, shoot both .357 and 9mm ammunition.

With that out of the way, I'll second the suggestion to try a lot of different calibers & types of actions, & get what suits you best. However, many people just getting into handguns & the self-defense concept find that the classic double action revolver is an excellent first gun.


July 3, 2006, 10:05 PM
Also as a worthy sidenote, purchasing a .22LR conversion kit for a 1911 would ensure you could shoot, train, adjust, and perfect most every aspect of handling the 1911 on the cheap. You can shoot a brick of .22LR, then finish a typical range day with a several hundred rounds of .45ACP to get used to recoil and follow-up shots. That shouldn't fatigue you out either.

And if customization and individuality plays a factor in your decision, there are more 1911 variants, options, custom smiths, and accessories than there are people on the planet.

July 3, 2006, 10:15 PM
Do any of you have opinions about the Springfield XD-40 subcompact? I looked at the H&K USP just now, but that's out of my price range, it seems. The place I went to didn't have the XD-40, though.

July 3, 2006, 10:23 PM
If you're any bit skittish around firearms, I would stay away from a 1911. I like them, personally, but wouldn't really recommend one as a 'first gun'.... especially given your limiting caliber of 9mm. CZ-75's are GREAT guns.... very few people here will disagree. I wouldn't want to carry one, but I guess it meets your requirements. Home defense I would get a shotty, but a CZ-75 is pretty darn accurate, cheap to shoot and a solid pistol, and in your price range.

As far as safety/liability... it's not that much a matter of probability as it is awareness. You can have 5 different safeties, double action triggers and 3 dummy rounds in the magazine, it still comes down to responsible firearm handling and not putting your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. You can have the best and brightest 'safe' gun, and an old colt SA, and neither will fire unless you pull the trigger... therein is the safety factor. common sense prevails. Keep your finger off the trigger, don't play with it, and keep it locked up/away from kids. CZ's are 9mm, easily controllable, high-capacity *not in CA lol*, and shoot well.

July 3, 2006, 10:29 PM
CZ-75's are GREAT gunsAnything smaller than the 75 from CZ? Well, maybe I should ask, how small is it?After looking around today, I want a compact /subcompact. I hope to eventually carry and want something manageable. Plus, I want my GF/fiance(soon) to be able to heft the thing if there's a problem when I'm not around. Poor girl is like 5'3" with baby hands and there's no way a full-size weapon would do her any good in an emergency.

July 3, 2006, 10:34 PM
(53 now, been carrying since I was 21 and still training)How was it when you bought your first gun at my age? Any regrets or things you'd do differently? Advice for someone so "young"?

July 3, 2006, 10:42 PM
I've never heard of a .40 S&W revolver. I could be wrong though.

S&W M610 will handle 10mm Auto and .40S&W with moon clips. (The 10mm can be loaded without the moons, but they have to be pushed out with a stick. :p )


July 3, 2006, 11:28 PM
yep cz's are not only fantastic, but for the money you pay, the are double more so. i have 2 rifles and two pistols from cz. the cz makes several smaller models, the compact , the compact bd, the compact d, and the RAMI. all are very good for conceal carry, the rami being the smallest, with all smoothed out corners and the like. Plus everybody carries extra mags for cz now, and they are not too expensive.

July 4, 2006, 03:32 AM
I'll try to keep this short, I have no idea how likely you are to actually get all the way through the thread.

Buy The Gun Digest Book of Combat Handgunnery (Paperback)
by Massad F. Ayoob. Read it three times. He has been there and done that more than anyone else. He writes in brutally simple detail.

If you want to start with a pistol because of its price, that's ok, but over time, decide to get the one you want, regardless of the price. It is entirely possible that the one you will want will still be a less expensive model. (Ruger, Glock, and Springfield Armory XD are all economic models you might find a cop using.) You do get what you pay for, but don't buy more than you need. You can buy a Kimber 1911 starting at $610, which is more or less the same gun L.A. county SWAT carries, which is 2" accurate at 25 yards. (Far more accurate than most of us can shoot.) You can buy a 1911 from one of the custom shops for close to $3000, (Like Nighthawk Custom,) and it is 1" accurate at 25 yards. Are you serious enough to spend $2400 for one more inch, when you can't really maximize 2"? I'm not.

Don't let someone tell you that a heavy round like a 10mm or .45 is harder to shoot. If you are serious about defense, don't get anything smaller than a 9mm. Find a shop with a rental range that will let you shoot a lot of different pistols in a lot of different calibers.

Someone beat me to it. A S&W 610 can shoot .40s or 10mms.

Learn a Glock. Work your way up to a 1911. Get night sights.

Since you aren't in your own place, get a small safe, and be reasonable about keeping it secure. When you have your own place, with no kids in the house, you can exercise more judgement about keeping it out in the open.

Something I did for both my Glock and my 1911, was get a .22 conversion kit. You switch out the barrel, slide, and magazines, and you can shoot .22s. You can shoot all day without spending your whole paycheck.

July 4, 2006, 09:44 AM
Another 1911 fan here. Carry one almost daily. That being said, I'd not feel undergunned with a CZ or maybe a Browning HiPower. And as for the gun-for-girlfriend/fiance thing, the only way to be sure is to have her come with you and try them out. Make no assumptions about what she can and cannot handle. There's a lot of petite ladies out there packin' full-size 1911's.

July 4, 2006, 09:57 AM
gwa45 wrote:
The canonical 4 rules:
1) Treat every gun as if it were loaded. There's no such thing as a "safe" gun. (If it can fire at all, it can be made to fire at the wrong time, while pointing at the wrong thing)
2) Do not allow the muzzle to point at anything you don't want destroyed.
3) Do not allow your finger inside the trigger guard until your sights are upon your target, and you have decided to fire upon it
4) Know what your target is, what will stop the travel of the bullet, and everything in between.

This is where every gun newbie should start. These rules should be tattooed on the inside of their forehead. Of course, anyone who has ever contemplated CCW realizes that there is a flaw in rule 2: namely, whenever you are carrying, the muzzle is always pointed SOMEWHERE and the bottom of a holster is not a bullet stop, so that points out a flaw in rule 4 as well. These are rules for range handling, not CCW policies, correct? So are there an equivalent set of rules for CCW handling, rules that can be adhered to in a strict sense?

Hegemon, I second the recommendation of a CZ75. I have a neighbor who is 5'1", and of all my firearms the handgun that felt best to her was the CZ75, in fact there was a gleam in her eye when she handled it. Some people think a woman needs a light gun. Just the opposite, a light gun has no mass to absorb the recoil, so it transfers the recoil to the shooter's wrist and arm. Not a pleasant introduction to shooting, and it turns a lot of women off to shooting if that is their introduction. The CZ is a steel framed firearm, so it has enough mass to lessen the recoil. It doesn't appear small, but the grip size is quite manageable for all but the smallest hands. I honestly don't think I've handled a more compact grip in a decent man-stopping caliber. Also, the manufacturer sells a high-quality upper slide which converts the CZ to .22 for target practice and plinking. This would be an excellent way to practice a lot for next to no cost, since .22 is very very inexpensive. And making it perhaps the perfect sidearm for a smaller woman to be introduced to the sport with.

If you can borrow a friend's CZ75 for an afternoon, tuck it (unloaded of course) in the back of your waistband, toss a shirt on over it, and hang around the house for a few hours. I did this, and barely noticed it was there. It's not a gun you can stick in your sock, but properly carried it's not a boat anchor either. Give it a chance, I think you'll like what you see.

Side note on all the folks recommending 1911's - if that's what you like, or what you learned on, and it's your "comfort zone" then great. Personally, for a newbie who's handled primarily double-action revolvers, considering a carry piece, looking at subcompacts, and potentially training a smaller woman (presumably first time shooter) I don't think it's the best choice. A single-action-only manual safety cocked-and-locked sidearm definitely wouldn't be my top pick for a couple of relatively inexperienced shooters for CCW due to the compexity of operation and narrow margin for error. I think a DAO or DA/SA sidearm would be a better choice.

July 4, 2006, 11:30 AM
This is where every gun newbie should start. These rules should be tattooed on the inside of their forehead. Of course, anyone who has ever contemplated CCW realizes that there is a flaw in rule 2: namely, whenever you are carrying, the muzzle is always pointed SOMEWHERE and the bottom of a holster is not a bullet stop, so that points out a flaw in rule 4 as well. These are rules for range handling, not CCW policies, correct? So are there an equivalent set of rules for CCW handling, rules that can be adhered to in a strict sense?

Yes, that is true. Muzzles are always pointing somewhere. The idea is that if you violate one (or maybe even two) of the rules at any given time, the other two or three will save your bacon. I have neglected "all guns are always loaded", but because the gun was pointed in a safe direction, on safe, and my finger nowhere near the trigger, I was only chastising myself for a mental lapse instead of a "dead" mattress.

These rules are guidelines meant to prevent NDs. If you must violate one of them, know exactly WHY you are doing so, and be able to articulate it to myself. For example, in a self defense shooting, #4 (know your target and what lays beyond it) might not be able to be followed to the letter (the "what lays beyond it" part, not the "know your target" part), since you may either have to take the shot or be killed yourself. You don't always have your assailant standing in front of a large earthen berm or other impenetrable object.

I have never heard or seen a better set of rules than the Big Four. If I do, I plan to adopt them, but until then, I'll stick with those. Learn them, love them, live them, and when the time comes that one must be bent, be darn sure that you have no other recourse or option, and can explain why.

July 4, 2006, 01:22 PM
Springfield XD9

Baba Louie
July 4, 2006, 01:55 PM
Hegemon, (and lurkers)

Being a CA resident you're limited to 10 rds. No need to buy a high capacity handgun unless you think that you might in the future move to another state without said limitations. (But always wise to be prepared) CZ and Glock make upper slide/barrel/magazine conversion kits to fit their standard sized handguns (well, maybe Glock doesn't make one but one can be bought from action arms) which will add another couple hundred dollars expense...

'Twere it me and my choice and were I 21 again, I'd look for a good .22 lr initially, probably a lightly used Ruger MkII, or, if money were no object (it was to me when I was 21) a S&W 617 revolver (a Taurus 94 might do in a pinch). Buy ammo, take your GF, Mom and Dad target shooting and plinking.
Definitely take an NRA class or two with at least your GF. 22's are nice to develop good habits and gain some confidence and help avoid flinching, plus they are pure fun and COULD be used for HD (as a last resort... big grain of salt there).

Since it will be your 1st handgun, might as well start the philosophy to buy the best you can afford and have no later regrets (or desire to sell it off for something better)

Buy a small safe for storage.

Once that is done and you know you're going to continue shooting (again, if it were me), look at purchasing a good .38/.357 revolver. Ammo abounds ranging from light and slow to heavy and fast, plinking, target and HD.

If you really think that CCW is in your future, something smaller (size wise... not caliber wise) is nice to carry concealed. To my mind, the bigger the bullet diameter, the better, but it usually (always?) costs more. What's your life worth?

Besides the 4 rules posted by geek, read up on Col. Cooper's color conditions and begin to practice and catalog those as well. (look in the THR Library, upper right hand corner of each page) Perhaps some martial arts training for you and GF (do they teach aikido/judo at your school?).


You could just go buy a Glock 17/CZ 75b w/ neutered magazines and a bunch of 9mm WWB (100 rds @ $12+) from wallyworld now, have some fun learning (read a lot) & shoot a lot, saving to buy an action arms/CZ Cadet .22 conversion kit. (When you DO decide to CCW, look at the S&W 442/Glock 26/CZ Rami, tho' I've CCW'd both my CZ and G-17)

Tho' I've only mentioned Ruger once, they do make a fine selection of cost efficient firearms; wheelies, semi's, rifles and shotguns that will last you a lifetime.

By the way, welcome to THR and the Great American Gun Culture.

Fred Fuller
July 4, 2006, 03:55 PM
Originally Posted by Lee Lapin
(53 now, been carrying since I was 21 and still training)

How was it when you bought your first gun at my age? Any regrets or things you'd do differently? Advice for someone so "young"?

I grew up in rural Alabama, and my dad ran a small country store. I worked there from the time I was old enough to see over the counter and by the time I was 13 or so was running the place by myself when my folks had to be elsewhere. Crime was always something at the back of your mind in a situation like that. Fortunately we suffered only from burglaries (three or four over the years) and never robberies. My dad had an old S&W five-screw Model 10 that he always kept handy but there was never any call to use it save for the time I had to dispatch a neighbor's cow that had been hit by a car.

I bought a S&W Model 36 snubbie as soon as I was old enough, in the summer of 1974. And I got my first carry permit then too, all it took was going by the county sheriff's office and filling out the card. The Chief's Special was a constant companion from then on. It went with me through graduate school in 1975, nobody worried overly much about guns on campus then, believe it or not. It was there in the car with me the day I was headed back to school after a visit home and came upon a sedan parked in the middle of an intersection I needed to get through. More of a hazard to navigation than the parked car was the man in civilian clothes holding a long-barreled shotgun. I stopped about 100 yards away and started to commence a three-point turn to find an alternate route (and a telephone), when a State Trooper in uniform, complete with Smokey the Bear hat and an AR-15, stepped into the road from concealment and waved me forward. Turned out there had been an escapee from the local county jail, the trooper sent me on my way after a brief talk. I was glad to have the revolver aboard but much more acutely aware of its limitations at that point.

The Model 36 got shot a lot, an awful lot. I had bought a Lee Loader in .38 Special and was turning out wadcutter practice reloads by the box, plus loading 158 gr. hardcast SWCs to carry. I loaded shot loads with Speer shot cups (they were yellow then) and #8 shot, dicovered that buckshot would fit in there too. The snubbie was getting pretty tired, and after I got out of school and started a new job I ran across a nice new 3" Model 36, also in .38 Spl. I traded in the snubbie and started with a new companion, and after all these years a 3" Model 36 is still my favorite knockaround gun for woodswalking and fishing and such.

Then I started riding reserve with the local PD. I had joined the small town volunteer fire department soon after establishing residence, and got asked to ride along some with the PD as well. Since I was carrying concealed with a permit, I continued to do so during ridealongs. But after a couple of things that suggested life in a squad car might get a little more interesting happened, it began to feel as if the Model 36 might not be enough gun. So along about 1978 I bought a satin nickel Colt Combat Commander in .45ACP, and made the first of several transitions in types of firearms I had to work my way through. I found it important to build confidence with a firearm that was to be carried, so as to be comfortable carrying it. I found it took time to do this, and did not necessarily come easily. I find that this has not changed for me through the years. Transitioning from one type of gun to another means getting a new set of moves ingrained in muscle memory, and that takes time and repetition.

The Colt was easy to reload for too, and I graduated to a single-stage press to reload for it. I suggest taking up reloading as a hobby along with shooting, picking a caliber that is easy to reload for as a primary consideration. Saving money on practice ammo is often a big consideration for beginning shooters.

The Commander was a lot more reassuring gun to carry but it took a while for me to get used to. Fortunately a friend with a lot of 1911A1 experience in the Army helped me learn the gun and how to shoot it reasonably well, and after a while I was comfortable carrying it cocked and locked. All of my early training was informal, at the hands of family and friends. That was all anyone who was not police or military got in those days for the most part. The group I was running with began shooting a variation of what was to become 3-gun in the late 'seventies. One of that group was a Special Forces retiree, a friend of Bob Brown, who ran the local range. It seems that the SOF (_Soldier of Fortune_) crowd had an influence on what we were doing at our local range.

All I did to this gun was buy spare magazines for it and put a set of Pachmayer rubber grips on it, otherwise it was box stock. And I shot it- a lot. I think it's important to shoot what you carry a lot, and be good with it. Your ability to shoot well will degrade under pressure, so you need to be as good as you can get on the range to have a better chance at being good enough on the street.

I lived with this gun for years, even after I had left Alabama and moved to North Carolina in the early 1980s. It was a shock to discover that there was no such thing as a concealed carry permit in NC, and it took a while to learn what was legal and what was acceptable and what was the difference. It was legal to open carry in a vehicle but not to carry concealed, and while it was technically legal to open carry in public there was this thing in the code about 'going armed to the terror of the public' so open carry was not practiced. So it was either carry concealed and be illegal, or not carry. I elected to generally obey the law and carry in my vehicle, which became sort of a de facto holster.

That almost got me into trouble the first time I really needed a gun in hand in NC. It was around Christmas and I was going back to the car after doing a little shopping after work. I noticed a man hotfooting toward me across the parking lot, and got to the car and got it unlocked before he got there. He never said anything to me at first. He was holding his right hand down behind his pants leg and as he got to within about twenty feet I sat down in the car and retreived the Colt from under the seat, keeping it out of sight behind my right knee. I doubt he ever saw the gun but he did see my movement. The man stopped closing on me as I got under the wheel, moving laterally and saying, "You aren't going to shoot me, are you?" I said, "Not if you don't come over here with that knife," and drove away. I was indeed very close to drawing down on him, and had I done so I would have shot him if he didn't stop immediately. But he apparently concluded he had lost the advantage, and stopped.

In 1990 I was asked to accompany a friend, her daughter, daughter's friend and her mom on a trip to an out of the way island off the coast of NC. Access was only by a small ferryboat, I was asked to go because I had a four-wheel drive truck and that was the only way to get around on the island, which stretched for miles. We would be camping, and there was too much gear to carry by hand. A few years before I had switched from carrying the all steel nickeled Commander to a Lightweight Commander that was blued, and I didn't want to carry a blued gun on this trip where I couldn't maintain it. I wasn't supposed to have a gun at all where we were going but there was no way I was going to be responsible for women and children in an isolated place without one along. Glocks had been out for a year or two by then, and they were supposed to be pretty durable as far as finish was concerned, so I bought a new Glock 19. I bought it early enough to get used to it before the trip, and to be sure it ran right and I could shoot it well enough. It did and I could.

I depended on the Glock for a number of years after I made the transition from single action Colts. I have experimented with several other pistols in the interim- pocket pistols/backups, to include a Beretta Model 70 in .22LR, a KelTec P3AT in .380ACP and a Kahr PM9. There's also been a Kahr P9, and lately a Kahr P45. After more than a decade the old .45ACP is calling me again. The P45 is a neat pistol and shoots well, but I find myself looking at components to build the equivalent of my old Lightweight Commander (now retired to the safe) out of modern materials. Unfortunately Caspian has hit a snag with availability of their titanium frames. My 'smith is all lined up to build it for me as soon as components become available though, and I look forward to going back to a 1911A1 style pistol again.

I had had some pretty serious medical problems for several years which precluded my doing things like driving and shooting. Unfortunately these problems started up right after I had made up my mind to start teaching formally, and had taken three NRA Instructor classes and the first NC Concealed Carry Instructor's class after we finally got concealed carry here, so I never got to get started teaching. Lately I have gotten better, though I was forced to retire early for health reasons. I am driving again and have again started training, starting back with a bang at the OPS's Snubby Summit in Titusville, FL last year and attending Louis Awerbuck's basic shotgun class in Durham, NC in May this year. I'm still pretty halt and lame and have a lot of work left to do, but I'm working on it.

All this is a pretty long winded recitation, I know. But you asked 8^) and so you get all my war stories, such as they are. That's by way of explaining how l'il ol' me got to where I am, and why I am willing to offer advice to an absolute stranger. I haven't been exactly where you are, I don't know your particular circumstances, but I think I know enough about the subject to offer what I have to give. Just don't go mistaking me for an expert 8^), we have some of those here and I know some of them, but I'm not one of them. There are a lot more people here better qualified to give you advice than I am, find them and listen. That's the absolute best advice I can give you, to take advantage of some of the genuinely outstanding trainers who are working these days. The shooting community in this country is blessed in the extreme to have such a gathering of eagles to look to. Find good trainers working close to you, and take advantage of their skills, knowledge and abilities.

A lot has changed in the last few years in a lot of places. There seems to be a growing realization that the police can't be everywhere all the time, that police are in fact not legally obligated to protect private citizens, and that people need to take responsibility for their own security and that of their loved ones. And a lot of people are stepping up to the plate to take on that responsibility. There are so many resources now to make concealed carry easier, lots more knowledge, shared experiences, more options, more training opportunities. So many more jurisdictions now allow concealed carry, and the practice seems to be spreading at the state and local level. It seems the pendulum is swinging in the direction of expanding protections for law abiding gun owners at last.

I hope you'll support that movement. It seems you have some awareness of the responsibilities involved in deciding to take responsibility for yourself and your family. Help make it easier for yourself and others who feel the same way by learning to handle firearms safely and responsibly, by exercising your political muscle at every opportunity, by being a good example for others who are following the same path. I hope this helps.

Stay Safe,


July 4, 2006, 05:00 PM

First, welcome THR and the shooting community. There has been some very good advice posted. I'll encourage you to read up on the recommended material. Also, you may want to take, and have the GF/Fiance take with you, the NRA Basic Pistol Course. It will really help you both "get your feet wet" in a very supportive and safe learning environment. Additionally you'll get a chance to handle and fire several different guns to see what general types suit you. Info can be found on the web at the NRA site, but also call around to your local shops and ranges as the instructors are sometimes unable to post classes on the site.

Like Lee Lapin, I was lucky to grow up around firearms (even though my parents don't shoot). I learned on pellet guns and 22s at the local YMCA Camp in both summer day camps and after school programs held at the camp (unfortunately they couldn't afford to keep it and it's now a very ritzy subdivision, but I digress). My parents, both being from a small town in South Georgia were supportive and bought me BB guns and then a 22. My uncle used to take me and my cousin (born 10 days apart) shooting our 22s. We spent many summer days loafing around in the woods plinking with BB guns in the country near their house. My dad's cousins were also helpful instructors, both former military, one volunteers and teaches the hunters safety course, the other is now the Sheriff in county were they grew up. Finally I had a good friend and mentor from Church youth group. I was in middle school and high school while he was in college and grad school.

I say the above to encourage you to get plugged into the shooting community. Beyond the ability to defend oneself and loved ones you will also gain a very enjoyable hobby and a great community of friends. Again, welcome. Always be safe, but have has much fun as you can while doing so.

July 5, 2006, 03:14 AM
Lee, thanks for that amazing reply. Did not expect it at all, but thanks!

This has actually been much more productive than I would have expected! Also, thanks to Oldtimer who sent me a very useful PM.

I've got a couple months to go to decide which gun to buy, but when I do I will report back.

July 5, 2006, 04:09 AM

Read everything you can get your hands on regarding handguns. I suggest American Handgunner, Hanguns, Handgunning magazines.

Read all you can about using lethal force in self defense. I suggest a good start would be Jeff Cooper's: "Fireworks" and "To Ride, Shoot Strait and Speak the Truth", also, Masad Ayoob's: "In the Gravest Extreme".

Decide what gun you think you want, or three or four of them. Go to a shooting range and try out some rentals.

Buy your gun. Start training. Read more. Train more.

Buy a Dillon reloading press (you won't save money, you'll just shoot alot more).

Eventually, attend one of the prestigeous shooting schools in the country such as Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, Front Sight, Chapman's, there are many these days.

Train some more.

In the mean time, if you get your CCW, carry every day and make it second nature. After a while you'll feel naked when you're not carrying.

Join the NRA and the GOA.

Welcome to self-responsibility.

July 5, 2006, 05:37 AM
I agree with Uggarguy.

Take the NRA Basic Pistol course before you buy a handgun. You'll learn a lot and get to try out some different guns. Get the instructor's business cards and e-mail addys and you'll have a local resource to ask when you have a specific question.

To find a course, check out the NRA website at www.nra.org. Not all instructors put their courses on-line though. You should also ask around at your local gun shops and ranges and you'll find a course.

The training you get will definately get you started in the right direction, right from the start.

July 5, 2006, 08:45 AM
I've got a couple months to go to decide which gun to buy

Why wait until you turn 21? All of of my life threatening experiences happened before I turned 21. That 21 crap only applies to buying new and obtaining CCW permits as far as I know.

July 5, 2006, 09:49 AM

There is very little I can add to what has already been posted.

I heartily concur with the statement about the odds being low, but the stakes being high.

The chances of your ever needing a gun are low, but if you ever do need one, you will need it badly.

I'm partial to the Smith & Wesson 642 (a 5-shot, .38 caliber snubbie). Came visit with us sometime at the 642 Club (http://thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=138658).

Welcome to THR.


July 5, 2006, 12:17 PM
Welcome to THR Hegemon!

I turned 21 a little over a month ago and decided on a XD-45 for my first gun.

Here is why I chose it;

1, reliable, safe and easy to use.
2, .45, call me a traditionalist, but I don't care for 9mm.
3, cost, it's on the low end cost wise.

Thatís a condensed list of why I went with a XD-45.

I didn't grow up around guns, and the first time I shot a handgun was about a year ago. Here are some of the things I found helpful.

Read everything you can get your hands on, I spent hours reading gun magazines, and hours and hours reading this forum, there is a wealth of information on here.

Take a class or two, it's one of the best things you can do. Though if youíre on a tight budget like me, classes are expensive.

And shoot as many different guns as you can before you buy.Though if your like me, and don't have a lot of friends that shoot often, it's expensive to rent. And if your not 21, they won't rent handguns to you anyway.

anyway, thats my $.01


July 5, 2006, 12:31 PM
Plus, I want my GF/fiance(soon) to be able to heft the thing if there's a problem when I'm not around. Poor girl is like 5'3" with baby hands and there's no way a full-size weapon would do her any good in an emergency.

Something about guns...

Heavy guns recoil less. The gun pushes against the bullet, just as the bullet pushes against the gun. The less gun there is for the bullet to push, the more YOU get pushed. That's why you typically don't shoot rifle cartridges out of a handgun.

So, if you extrapolate that to subcompact handguns, it becomes painful to shoot a snub-nosed 357 ultralite revolver, or a teeny-tiny lightweight 40caliber. It makes follow-up shots much harder. Your sight radius (distance between front and back sights) is smaller, impeding accuracy.

Subcompacts are certainly functional, but they aren't the funnest guns to shoot in the world, IMO.

If this gun MUST serve the CCW role as well as target/fun/range, then look at an XD9 service size or a Glock19. Stay away from 40S&W. It is very high pressure, and this increases perceived recoil. 45acp is actually a more mild recoil, IMO. 9 or 45 in autos, 38/357 in revolvers.

A 3" revolver is also hard to beat, though. 6 shots guaranteed to go bang, and no stovepipes (feed jams). 5 shots in smaller models.

Guy B. Meredith
July 5, 2006, 09:34 PM
I'll let the real experts comment on the selection.

Regarding that probability of injuring yourself, put 'automobile' in that quote and consider what the rate of accidents would be. Put 'own swimming pool' in that quote and consider what the accident rate is.

Hopefully the odds of an accident WILL be greater than the need to shoot someone, but you should be able to keep both near zero.

July 6, 2006, 12:47 AM
put your fears at rest. First off, you ARE more likely to use a gun vs a badguy than 'accidentally shoot a familiy member quietly entering so not to wake up other people' or any of that jive. Contrary to what the antis would have you believe, there are very few incidents of children (and I mean 8 year olds, not 23 year old gangbangers)messing with guns and getting hurt/killed. Heck, mopbuckets cause more death of very young children than firearms by a huge margin. A private swimming pool is much more likely to cause a death than a firearm.

Further, a lot of gun stats are skewed by gang shootings, because gangs are heavily populated with boys in their teens. Anti gun groups love to include people up to the age 21, and sometimes even 23 as 'children'. Unfortunately these gangers and a few other groups like drug dealers and meth heads are shooting and getting shot (intentionally and unintentionally...basically a gangbanger is more likely to mistake that family member quietly sneaking in to be a rival trying to kill him than the average person is), so unless you are a criminal, guys are damned safe. But really, how safe your gun is ultametely relies on you.

Finally, when a gun is used in a lawful manner vs criminal types, you are 20 times more likely to simply show it, or draw it, for the criminal types to flee. Again, this effects the anti stats, which seem to want to count only those incidents where the gun owner shot the criminal dead as 'successful gun usage', that's why you see stats like 'more likely to shoot a friend/family member than kill an intruder'

Now, for what type of gun. First off, don't discount the revolver. A nice 357 with a 4 inch or 6 inch barrel and adjustable sights is an excellent starter package. shoot 38s for low recoil, low cost fun, move to 357s as you see fit.

For semi-autos, there is 3 different loadings to know, 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, 45 ACP, all will serve you fine.

All the standard 'name brand' manufaturers make excellent, solid, safe products. It's kind of like cars, you have dodge, plymouth, lexus, saturn, chevy, ford, GMC, Honda, Toyota, BMW, etc etc. All make good cars, but some are a bit more high end than others.

In the "Saturn" end of the gun world is CZ, Taurus, Ruger, and the much less well known and younger Springfield XD. Note, these are 'Saturns' and not 'Daewoo' or 'Kia'. Hell, maybe Saturn isn't even the right example, but you get my drift. Very solid, well made guns by respected manufaturers, just tend to be a bit less expensive than the rest.

Next in price you have your Berettas, Glocks, Brownings, Smith &Wessons, etc etc. Again, basic solid run of the mill stuff, cannot go wrong. A small step up into something a bit more expensive is going to be Sig and H&K.

Now, the biggest issue with which handgun is how it fits your pocketbook and how it fits your budget. The fanciest most expensive gun that doesnt' fit your hand is a waste of money.

Your best bet is to go to gun shows or gun shops and see how different guns fit, or better yet rent them and try them on the range. I have heard people say 'I picked up a gun and it just 'felt right'. I personally think that is bunk. That's not how you try and determine how well a gun fits you. What you need to look at is can your fingers easily reach all control levers? Is the magazine release located in a position that is conveinient for your size and thickness of fingers? Does the meaty part of your hand protrude to far below the end of the grip? Is the slide going to dig into your hand when it is racked back? Can you comfortably reach the trigger with the first joint of your finger? these are what you should be checking, not some nebulous 'feels good' bullcrap. In the same manner, I never sat my fat rear end down in a car and, just from the seat, decided that 'this is the car for me'. Same thing with guns

July 6, 2006, 12:56 AM
also, I'd like to second the comment that for guns, the smaller and lighter the gun, the more difficult it is to control.

Unless your girlfriend needs you to lift a half gallon jug of milk for her, no gun will be too heavy, but MANY will be too light.

For finding a weapon that is both man and woman friendly, don't try and find a light weight gun. Also, don't think you need to get a superweak cartridge either. Just like for you, gun fitting hand is MOST IMPORTANT. Women normally have slightly smaller hands. What this means in terms of guns, is that high capacity 9mms and 40s are frequently too wide. Turns out many women can shoot supposedly hard recoiling 'manly' .45s in 1911s really well, better than your run of the mill 9mm, because the slim magazine of 8 rounds fits their hand better than a fat magazine of 15 rounds.

There are plenty of nice 9mm and 40 guns that are built around 7,8 or 9 round magazines, and these should fit a small hand just great. Further, as you live in CA, and are limited to 10 round magazines, I'd definately get a single stack design in whatever chambering, because it doesn't make any sense to go twice as wide for jsut 2 more rounds. check out Sig 239, or smith and wesson 908, or smith and wesson 3913s

July 6, 2006, 08:45 PM
Read Calguns.net lots of good stuff for us California folk.

Their firearms for sale section is down right now for "legal reasons" but hopefully it will return.

You can find some nice used guns there that are Cal. legal - be careful if you want to order from out of state that it is on the approved handguns list.

Turners.com has a link on their site for the approved list.

I bought a Sig. P239 in .40 for $450 with 4 7 rnd mag's and it had nite sights - maybe not a great price but I think it was a fair price. I mention it because it is one of the few handguns that my small handed wife found comfortable to hold. But, maybe your GF needs her own gun!

Speaking of Turners Outdoorsman they have a consignment list on their website - please check it and buy all the nice guns before I have a chance to - my wife will thank you.

There is a heavy barrelled S&W model 10 .38 special at the Torrance store for $250 - I'm not sure if thats a good price or not. I saw a Ruger Service Six in stainless with a 6 inch barrel for $265 at a shooting range for sale. Just soem examples.

Since older handguns off the approved list cannot be sold except face to face in Cal. you may want to pick one up. They cannot be mailed or shipped even FFL to FFL in this state - that kind of makes them more valuable (unless we lose the approved list which I doubt). For example, my S& W model 38 is not on the list but the newer model 638 is so the only way to get the model 38 is to buy one face to face (consignment at a gun shop is considerred FTF). If I wanted to sell it, I could not ship it to an FFL in california even! This applies to handguns not longguns.


July 6, 2006, 10:05 PM
cambeul41 ,

Thanks for those great links I hadn't seen them before.

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