By: Rob Wager
It’s a day like any other day at the shop and while making the next order of ammo and guns, I get that customer that comes in looking for “the perfect gun”. To some this is a matter of purchasing their first pistol for protection or the long time shooter that just wants the latest and greatest. Finding this “unicorn” can be a challenge for both. Being a practicing gunsmith since I was eight years old, a law enforcement officer and tactical operator for over 16 years, I have seen and shot a lot of weapon systems.
So the question remains what is the perfect gun? Well not to be an ass, but if I were to put all of what I have heard into what makes a perfect gun it would be an animal that is described as such. It would be small enough that it could fit in the front pocket of a pair of tight Wranglers for “easy access”. Weight is important, because anything over 20 oz is too heavy to carry. It would have to carry no less than 100 rounds of ammo in a caliber at least .40, but .45 is better. The gun needs a laser or flashlight so bright that it can be seen by both the user and the bad guy in day or night. The gun must have the recoil of a .22, because recoil affects accuracy. The gun must consistently and accurately hit a six inch target at 100 yards, because if it does not, it’s a piece of crap. It is also a gun your buddy told you was the only gun/caliber that would stop a man, is the only “brand” to buy, and should cost about $100.
Well, the above described beast does not exist, so let’s cover each of these points from a reasonable, real world perspective. What is the perfect size pistol for me? Well this is a question that is better answered as if you were getting a pair of new shoes and what are you going to use it for. You don’t wear boots to the prom and you wouldn’t wear six inch heels hiking. First, is this going to be an every day carry gun that is concealed or in a purse? Is it going to be for target shooting, tactical operations, or hunting? A large frame semi auto or revolver is the answer for some, but not for conceal carry. Does the gun fit my hand and feel comfortable as it was made for my hand? This is important because if the gun is not comfortable you will not want to shoot or carry the gun at all. Can you operate the controls of the weapon with ease? This means, can the trigger, safety, slide and magazine release all be used without a struggle. This is very important, because you will be in a high stress situation when using lethal force and must be able to operate the weapon without the luxury of time on your side.
Weight depends on size, material used (polymer or steel), ammo caliber and magazine capacity. Small guns are great for conceal carry, but in large calibers can have hand splitting recoil. (like .357 Mag snubby revolvers or .410/45 LC derringers) Again, this could cause you not to want to shoot the gun or train with it. In 1992 the FBI crime stats showed that the .22 LR was the cause of most homicides involving a firearm. Most conceal carry guns come in small calibers such as .22 LR, .380, and 9mm. The reason is, more cartridges can fit in small frame guns and most shootings that are in self defense
happen between three to seven feet. These guns are most effective at this range or up to 21 feet. Remember distance is your friend, but shooting someone that is 50 yards away with a baseball bat is hard to prove a direct threat to your life.
The amount of cartridges a gun carries depends on size and caliber. Most carry guns hold up to 10 rounds or less. I have seen people purchase a small conceal pistol that carries 6 rounds of 9mm, but then want to put a 15 round stick magazine in the gun. This sticks out of the gun like a 12 foot 2×4, just purchased at Home Depot, and put in a Prius. Again, pick a carry gun, and another for target shooting. There is nothing wrong with using a larger gun for both reasons, but it’s heavier and harder to conceal. Also most people never have to use a gun in their lifetime for self defense, but when it does happen, only 2 to 3 shots are fired on average.
Recoil does not affect accuracy of a pistol! Some argue this point, but the fact is recoil is what is felt after the bullet has left the barrel. Most people fear the sound and feel, in the recoil of the gun. This causes jerking of the trigger and anticipation, thus causing bad shots to follow. If you are scared of the sound and recoil of a gun, remember to train and shoot more. This will get you use to your gun’s sound and feel. If you put your front sight on the target and pull the trigger smoothly without jerking, you will hit your target every time regardless of recoil. Most pistols can shoot a bullet and can hit a six inch target at 100 yards, but not all shooters. With time, and “perfect practice” this can be accomplished by most shooters. This type of shooting is not practical in self defense situations. Shooting and training within 21 feet is optimal. I once watched a guy at a range shoot a 2” barreled (44 mag) revolver at 25 yards and missed every shot on a man size target. He did this for over 5 reloads of the gun! Remember that you are responsible for every round you fire, and “Ya, you stopped the bad guy with one shot, but the other five missed him, and went into the neighbor’s house and killed their little girl!”
When shopping for your gun, do your research just like you would buy a car. It is ok to listen to a friend or family member, but this is a personal choice and not every gun and person are the same. I once had a guy come in the shop and tell his wife that the 9mm handgun she liked was no good, because a 9mm would not kill a man and was only good for killing squirrels. I told the guy that millions of Jews during WWII would have to disagree if they were alive! He then gave me a blank stare and then a dirty look. Take your time and handle many guns. It’s better if you can go to a range and rent different guns and shoot different calibers. Try to buy the best gun that you can afford in your budget and do not settle or impulse buy, or you will not be happy with your purchase and once you buy a gun from a dealer it is now used, even if you never shot it.
So what is the perfect gun? A gun that feels like a good pair of shoes, that you will carry and train with on a regular basis. One that you are proud to own, well made, and has a good reputation. One that will serve your realistic needs for concealed carry or sport shooting. A gun that is chambered in a caliber that is effective and controllable. That will serve you well when the darkness of evil comes to visit, and your life and/or family’s life depends on it.