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Choosing a defensive handgun.

Posted By: Bill Hay - Registered User

Posts: 2780

Posted At: (2/6/03 8:20 am)

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The last couple of threads got me thinking....

So I decided to do a little something different here... Here is a list of the factors I think are important in choosing a defensive pistol. IMHO & YMMV, of course.

The popular gun press rages with articles and arguments over the features of different guns. They must write about something, to make a living, but it is all just flack in the air. You need some perspective...

The gun is only the launching platform for the bullet. The bullet does the work, not the gun. Launching the bullet is very important, however... So the gun must be 100% reliable, no exceptions. None. A gun that goes bang MOST of the time is just not acceptable. After that...

"Hitability" is #1... This means getting the gun out of the holster (presentation) the fastest, having the grip always the same, the sights are automatically looking at the target w/o adjustment, and the trigger allows the shot to break w/o disturbing the sight alignment. "Only hits count! You cannot miss fast enough to win a gun fight." The handgun that you can HIT with is the one you should rely on.

Caliber is second. Once the hits are assured (by choosing the proper platform to shoot) then the bigger the hole the better... A perfect hit with a 9 mm is superior to a miss with a .45. The caliber argument rages, but the implied assumption is always that the bullet always hits the adversary, in the right place. (HA!) For peripheral hits, or hits that just miss a vital structure, then the bigger the better, obviously. So... if you cannot hit with a .45, and can with a 9 mm... Well, refer to rule #1... Another way of saying it is, once you have determined the GUN you shoot the best, get it in the largest CALIBER you can shoot, and still get hits...

Ease of manipulations. Semi-autos with double action triggers, the safety on the slide, sharp edges, etc. belong on the used gun dealer's tables at gun shows... A dehorned 1911, or a Glock, should be your guide. Manipulations also include the ability to clear malfunctions, speed reload, etc.

Coolness factor. Appearance, finish, brand name, bragability, money spent on it, and shit like that.

On the trail I would carry my 5"- 629 in .44 rem mag in a shoulder holster with 2+ speed loaders. In an urban situation I would carry an Colt 1911, in a Milt Sparks inside waist holster with 2 extra mag.

just a thought
<img src='http://www.hoodswoods.net/IVB/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/wink.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Wink' /> There are fewer moving parts (= fewer things to go wrong) with a revolver compared to a semi-auto pistol. After the reliablility issue, the largest caliber you can handle is the choice to make. Just my .02
Good thread.

I carry a Glock 27 for many of the reason stated above. I shoots well, points easy, has a very good rep. for being reliable (as mine has been), and is in .40 Smith which is near .45 in stopping power. I chose this weapon (firearm for the pc police) because of its size and capacity. Here in the southeast it is hard to conceal anything in the middle of the summer unless you look like you are concealing something (sport jacket in 90 degree heat and sweating like a pig). With the 27 I use a Milt Sparks inside the waistband and an aloha or camp shirt, the pistol disappears. I have also shot and carried Colts for 20 years but I can't hide them like I can the Glock and the Glock is more accurate. It also makes a pretty good field gun though if I had money I would get a bigger Glock in the same caliber. Like it is said on other threads, you're gonna use what you have on hand not back at the house. My .02
I carry an old Smith+Wesson model 19, 357mag with a 4" barrel.

It can fire several .38rnds as well as 357.

Using 158 grain hollow points, It'll stop most anything that I will run into here in Maine. It's very accurate as well.
I thought it incumbent upon me to add this to the discussion. I see that many prefer to carry revolvers into the wilderness, and I generally do carry a S&W Mod 29 myself. However, the experience of Jeff Cooper gives one pause.

Back in his younger days, he formed an expedition to travel down the Rio Balsas, through some really bad country, down in Mexico. You can read all about it in his book, "Another Country".

The point I wish to make is that he carried a 1911, while a friend carried a S&W revolver.

Every evening, the Colonel would have to disassemble the revolver, because grit had frozen the works. The 1911 "could be pretty well depended on to simply drip dry".

Something to consider, if your wilderness travels take you to wet, muddy places.

There is no doubt that the 1911 action was made to function well in the dirty environment of combat. The conditions that Col. Cooper encountered while in Mexico may or may not be found elsewhere.

I would use what you feel most comfortable with. I believe a good flap holster would go a long way to protect a revolver. I have a friend who obtained a Mernickle flap holster for a Ruger Redhawk. I haven't seen it but he assures me it is well made and offers good protection for the gun.


I am asked almost daily by officers and military personnel what they should carry and how they should carry it. First of all you have to ask yourself if you will carry your defensive hand gun all of the time? The gun you carry is always better than the one you leave under the seat of your vehicle, on the dresser or some other unreachable location.

If you will not carry it religiously do not buy it. I have had several individuals come up to me and tell me how much better there 44 mag is than my Kimber 45 ACP. Then I ask them if I can see it? They proceed to tell me it is in the car or at home. My response is always then I guess mine is better than yours because I have mine with me and you do not.

What ever weapon you choose you have to be able to get solid hits. Peripheral hits and misses do not do you any good at all. You have to purchase a weapon which you can afford to shoot, and practice with it to become proficient. If the rounds cost you 5 bucks a piece and you are not rich, or you are scared of the recoil etc, then you will not practice with it and insure the weapon is reliable and accurate. Even the best gun makers manufacture duds from time to time. The only way you will find out if there is a problem with your chosen firearm is by using it over and over again.

One gun can not do it all. When I was working in the mountains of Idaho and Montana in thick Grizzly bear and moose country I carried my 4 inch Stainless Smith & Wesson 44 mag loaded with Garrett hammerhead ammo and my 1911 in a shoulder rig since I was on the job. I also took along a rifle or shotgun depending on terrain, line of sight etc.

Even though I had a long gun I carried the 44 mag because of Mr. Murphy, never failed to rear his ugly head. When you went to perform a task and your long gun was next to a tree, that is when Mr. Grizzly or Mr. Moose could be seen coming in from a distance, we also used horses a good deal of the time and when an horse gets wind of a bear, other predatory or large animal they freak out. You may get thrown or have to jump off to calm the knot head downand may not have time to get your long gun from the saddle scabbard. It happens, remember the one that is with you rule? No matter what you always had a decent means of self defense on your hip come what may. I had a friend who was working in Alaska and decided all he needed for bear defense was a Taurus 9MM. Until he came face to face with a Polar Bear and he fired two shot in the direction of the bear, the gun double fed and the bear kept coming. Lucky for him his snow machine was near by and he was able to beat feet.

When working around water and in swampy areas I carried a Smith & Wesson Stainless Steel 357, because it always functioned and if it did get gunked up a swish in the water would clean it off very rapidly and then I would immediately clean it. I could have probably done that with another type of firearm but at the time we were told it was the best gun for that type of assignment.

You may also find that if you carry a gun on duty or in a heavy duty belt rig, that it can not be concealed or carried comfortably in a concealment off duty rig, and is true to form a lot of guys leave them behind. One of my current deputies switches when he is off duty because he has a really hard time concealing just about anything. It is just the way he is built and found that his duty gun was so uncomfortable he had a bad habit of not putting it on.

Along with the gun you must select gun leather that fits your frame, again one holster does not do it all for everyone it is just like a gun if it bothers you, you will not put it on and leave it on.

There are holster my buddies carry I would never consider because they do not fit my frame, rub me raw or whatever, and likewise mine does not work for them. You have to be able to get the gun out quickly (Remember there are the quick and the dead) if you can not get the gun out on target then it does you no good at all.

So that means that you always want to carry your main gun in the same place all of the time so under stress there are no guessing games, and you have to be able to get it out of the holster. You may want to carry two guns as I do.

My main gun is always in the same place and my spare or hideout is typically carried in my weak side front pocket. However I have my pants altered so that the gun can be retrieved quickly if I am forced to use it. I chose a revolver for that function. I have been carrying a snubbie 5 shot smith that way for over 20 years. If I drop my gun belt for some reason I have another right there with me ready to go.

Any good solid brand name holster with a thumb break and closed bottom will keep the gun free of most debris, I have been covered in muck and filth, and the only dirty part of my weapon was the butt and back of the trigger guard. I have time and again tested the gun before cleaning it to insure it functions right out of the holster and they have never failed me to date.

I have had to literally wash the but of the gun in water to get the crap off, but the gun worked just fine, revolver or semi-auto.

I have never liked flaps only because I can not get to the gun fast enough there is to much screwing around for me. That is my personal choice. However I have a buddy who is a retired MSP Trooper who is lightning fast with a flap worn in a cross draw position.

But he has practiced with it for years and he has mastered his movements in getting the thing out, he actually has off duty rigs made for his gun in the cross draw flap configuration because they suit his particular need and the area in which he now lives and works and he is comfortable with it.

Regardless of the area you are in, you have to perform a weapons check every day to insure that you weapon is clear of debris and loaded, yes I said loaded. I do not know how many persons I have dealt with over the years who have carried an unloaded gun for literally weeks because they unloaded it, put it back in the holster and forgot to do a weapons check before going back on duty, or they carry it so long it goes dry and seizes up after the first shot, or rusts inside the holster.

Ever hear the true story of the policeman’s x-wife who super glued her husbands duty gun in his holster? It happened and he did not discover it for 3 month after she moved out and he had to qualify. He had to cut the gun from the holster. Crazier stuff has happened.

Regular maintenance is a must. Again that is why I carry two in the field. When I am PM’ing one the other is ready to go, until the first can be properly cleaned and oiled. I live by the rule that before I end my day, and begin my time off, my personal weapons are checked and cleaned before I do anything else. We use to have a rule in the military that we took care of the company equipment first, then our personal gear then yourself. Sorry but it was one rule I disobeyed. My personal carry weapons were on the top of the list followed by the company stuff, then I would take care of my personnel needs.

Carrying a gun is hard work, and you are better off not caring it if you do not make the commitment to do it right because all it will do is give you a false sense of security and cause more problems that it corrects.
Quote:Something I hate to say but I will---if you feel justified in shooting, shoot to kill! None of this disabling garbage. You want only one liar in court and that's you.

I don't know the laws concerning Use of Force in New Mexico for non-law enforcement people, but I do know that for many, many parts of this country, that is really, really bad advice.

If you shoot someone, and state in court that you shot to kill, you will be raked over the coals.

If you intend to lie in court, you lose any and all safeguards the law may have provided to you. And rightly so. Never, never, never lie in court. If you were justified in your shooting, and get caught in a lie, you lose. Your entire story & justification will be under the shadow of suspicion.

If your justification isn't sufficient to present in court and to stand on it's own, you should not have shot.

If you carry, you need PROFESSIONAL training in the legalities, as well as in gun handling, shoot-no shoot training, safety, etc. That way you will KNOW when you shoot what your justification is. Your fear of death must be justifiable. "Bare Fear" is not a justification to use force.




I agree with Bill ... there is never a justification for lying.

And you always are shooting to stop the attack ... that's it. The threat ends and the conflict ends.

Been down the legal road a couple of times in my former profession....never, ever, did I shoot to kill...and never, ever did I lie in court...my reports and the reports of my staff were accurate, to the point and a description of the events. Doing otherwise would have been a direct affront to our integrity.

Are you guys recomending to shoot to wound to end the threat such as right shoulder and left hip? I went to Front Site a few months back and they taught two to the thoracic and one to the ocular cavities. In the unlikely and unfortunate event when I must justifiably use deadly force to end an imminent threat, I respond as I train. So, am I wrong to train two to the center mass and if the threat is still present one to the ocular, or should I train right shoulder left hip?

Nope...center mass......my point was that I was firing to stop the threat and regain control.....in doing so my aim, if you will, was not "shoot to kill" but to end the threat...period.

Hope this clarifies my comments.

Ok, So technicly the agressor might be dead but but my object was to stop the threat. I'm a defender / protector and not a killer. Right?

You gots it Batman!!! <img src='http://www.hoodswoods.net/IVB/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/thumbsup.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':thumbsup:' />

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