David's Performance and Training Corner
With David Salthouse from APC, Inc.
Associate Director of Training & Program Development

I Want to Buy a Gun… Now What?
Written by John Ritchie
APC, Inc. Senior Instructor

With so many guns to choose from where can one start. Semi-auto, revolver, caliber, capacity, grips, finish, stainless… We begin our journey by specifying the reason we want to buy a gun. Let’s assume it’s for self defense.

Our starting point is the fist rule in a gunfight which is to bring a gun. This helps lead us to the first criterion of gun purchasing. Which gun will you actually carry? If you’re old school and enjoy Dirty Harry in Sudden Impact be careful before you by the .44 automag, even though “if properly used can remove the fingerprints.” The likelihood that you’ll pack the .44 is highly unlikely. Think about it; size matters. If it is too big you won’t want anything to do with it.

Start to think of guns that you can actually carry concealed.

Now consider caliber. In a perfect world we would have a .45 ACP at our side with a 15 round magazine. But that takes us away from a realistic carry gun (unless we happen to be well over 6’4” and weight over 250 lbs). If you train often you may wish to consider a compact .45 ACP with a 6 round magazine; solid takedown power with minimal rounds to do it with. If you worry about your accuracy and want lots of rounds available, go for a 9mm; smaller gun with higher magazine capacity. Be carful though, some 9 mm’s might still breach the size barrier for those smaller framed people.

Consider the .380. You can find some that offer higher magazine capacity with a compact size. And don’t overlook the .22, .25 or even the .32. If the gun is small enough to carry you are more likely to have it when the time comes. I know the .22 lacks take-down power. But before you argue that the .22 is a worthless round think about this: do you want to be shot by one? Plus if you read David’s “Summer Time Carry” article you’ll understand the benefit of the .22.

Pick a gun that you can shoot with one hand. Yes, one hand shooting.

If you take one of our self defense training classes you will learn that one hand shooting skills are essential. Sure it is easy to hit the target when we stand still and hold the gun with both hands. The reality is you need to move (see David’s Shoot ‘n’ Scoot article) and you may have to use one hand to open a door, drag your child, or push the bad guy down. You have only one hand left to do your shooting. If you go for the large bore option you have to be careful enough that the recoil doesn’t get away from you. Shooting over the bad guy’s head does you no good.

Now look at David’s review of the “Revolver or Semiautomatic” debate; you may find it informative. Revolvers offer some great options. You can get a .38 (some say its equivalent in takedown as the 9 mm) or even a .357. There are full size options as well as compact. In fact, consider the snub-nose with a 38+P and you’ll find a perfectly capable self defense option.

Consider this: are you going to routinely clean your gun? Switch out magazines? Practice with de-cockers and safeties? If not, the time to learn is not when Al-Qaida visits your favorite shopping mall. Consider a gun that is easy for you to use and maintain.

As we reach the conclusion you’ll notice I have not singled out any particular manufacturer. All modern guns are excellent these days so you can feel free to lean towards your favorite manufacturer. Just don’t wait to buy. If you feel compelled to save your money and wait to buy the special edition with the fancy sights and trigger system, consider this: A regular gun in hand is worth ten fancy ones in the store. Refer to rule number one of a gun fight.

Be safe and remember, Failing to Train is Training to Fail!
Email John at with comments, questions, or topics you would like him to cover in a future article.