One of the biggest things we hear from new shooters after spending some time with us is that they wished they had know more about what gear, especially guns, that they should have bought. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this one and I really believe that the best gun for someone is the one they like and can use well. But to break this down a little further I want to discuss some pretty common things we see. First, the guy at the gun store usually does not have your best interests in mind. Now as always there are exceptions but experience has shown us that most of the counter help is more interested in selling you the newest whiz bang boom stick than actually taking time and helping you find something that works with your experience level and ability. As we all know, the fundamentals of marksmanship–particularly with a pistol–are a rather steep learning curve for a new shooter. But then add in trying to master the physical skills such as working slides or safeties or getting a solid grip on a huge-or minimal- pistol frame and that learning curve turns into a mountain.
Two popular trends we’ve noticed are small petite pistols, and ones with multiple fire control devices such as safeties or very difficult triggers. In the first group, learning to shoot and safely manipulate a “pocket” pistol or smaller system is proving to be a challenge to training time. Pistols are made to be operated with big, strong muscle groups like hands and arms, and should be simple to manipulate. But many of today’s popular choices have small controls, placed close together and requiring a magnitude of dexterity to successfully operate. What we see is that much of our training time goes to figuring out how to work the nuances of that specific pistol rather than perfecting the fundamentals of pistol shooting. The second group includes those pistols which, probably for safety sake, have multiple and complicated safeties or inconsistent trigger pulls, namely double action to single action triggers. Again, what we are experiencing is that much training time is burned simply trying to overcome the mechanics of the pistol itself.
Now, before you commence to telling me how important or cool or functional many of those options are, let me agree with you. Each and every one of them has their place and their fan club. But remember, we are talking about learning to shoot and to be safe and a lot of pistol designs and features tend to be so overwhelming to the new shooter that they really become detrimental to the process. Additionally, we see shooters with pistols that are a very poor fit for them. It would make sense that most of the problems come from pistols which are too big for a shooter, especially smaller in stature shooters such as women. But experience is showing us different, many times we see better results with “regular size” pistols. This really holds true with most women. Once the basics of a correct grip are understood, most women are more than capable of handling a full-size pistol and in fact struggle with a smaller system…again, taking away from precious training resources.
So how does a new shooter choose a good pistol? Well this is obviously the elephant in the room, because no one seems to be able to find a “one size fits all” solution. Again, experience is showing us that most new shooters will change pistols more than once before they decide on a system which works for them. Also as you can imagine as a shooter gains skill and confidence they will make different decisions about which pistol works best for them and what they like. Our recommendation is to do a lot of research. Ask friends, read articles, check out the internet and yes even listen to the gun store guy. But remember, as a new shooter your goal is to be able to be safe and learn to shoot correctly. Once you have mastered that anything else will follow, your first pistol doesn’t have to be super concealable, or able to stop an attacking zombie or requiring a second mortgage to buy. It needs to be simple to operate, safe and something you will be comfortable using for a while. We tend to see the most success with pretty basic, full-size pistols in smaller calibers.
Something we do at most basic classes is bring several pistols to the range for students to shoot. After they have gained some confidence in their ability to be safe and manipulate a pistol, we give them a chance to shoot a variety of different pistols and revolvers. Many students report that experience as being a huge benefit to them as they make future decisions about what to buy. Unfortunately, buying a gun is seldom like buying a vehicle where you can test drive several models and options. Most of us kinda know what we like in a vehicle anyway, so we have an educated idea of what we want while we are shopping. But as a new shooter we don’t usually have that luxury and many times have to rely on the advice and likes of others. That’s ok, do the best you can and ask a lot of questions. Your first pistol doesn’t have to be the one you keep forever and in fact rarely ever is and as your experience and skill grows you will gain the knowledge you need to get what you like and what works for you.
As always we are here to help you with any questions you might run into, please don’t hesitate to ask.