Picking A Defensive Pistol

Every media personality and writer has their opinion on what handgun is the best for concealed carry or general defensive purposes. Truth be told, you have excellent options and bad options with there being little between those two. A while ago I published the sections of my First Time Buyer’s Guide where at the end I gave my own preferences for the various topics.

In this article I won’t be going over the preferences as much as I will be going over the essentials of what makes a pistol a viable option to buy for self-defense.

When it comes to recommending handguns to new comers and those looking for a defensive handgun, I have 3 main criteria that I grade guns by.

  1. Track Record. Is this a company that’s known for producing a quality firearm? Has the handgun in particular had any recent issues? How new is the handgun?
  2. Market support. Is this a gun that the community supports in way of parts and needed accessories such as holsters? How easily can I find spare parts for this gun if something were to break?
  3. Magazines. Are the magazines for this gun insanely expensive? If they aren’t, can I find them easily?

Let’s expand a little on those three. A track record isn’t established by an individual telling you “Don’t listen to them, it’s just as good.” Firearm manufacturers like Taurus, Kel-Tec, Bersa, or generally anything significantly cheaper are not going to be of the same quality and they aren’t going to have a track record of reliability.

That isn’t to say that you can’t find gems produced by the companies above and it isn’t to say that all manufacturers don’t have their own mishaps. What I’m saying is, there’s certain brands where it’s a pleasant surprise to get a reliable, non-issue plagued gun from, and that isn’t something you should be betting your life on. As bad as this may sound, the surprise you should want is the surprise of a lemon.

Regardless of manufacture I recommend waiting at least a year before purchasing a new design. Whether it’s as revolutionary as the Sig P365 or as common as the Canik TP9 SubCompact. It takes time for weak points to come out. If you’re a novice or it’s your first handgun it’s better to avoid having to look for these. I personally avoid new releases for a year so I can see if the market is going to end up supporting it.

Market support is a must for defensive handguns. If companies aren’t producing holsters for the firearm you’re looking at, there’s no point in picking it up. As I’ve learned, holster companies are typically extremely slow at accommodating new handguns. Especially handguns that come from the lesser manufacturers (look at this as a form of self-regulating).

Beyond holsters, how easily can you track down spare parts? Can you find an ejector? What about a firing pin? Firing pin spring? If you aren’t able to easily find in-stock parts to be able to repair said handgun, it’s a paperweight, and nothing else.
Side Note: If you get more active in the community, it’ll be easier to find parts for certain guns than before.

Magazines are the least important factor to consider. If the gun has a track record and it has market support, it’s extremely unlikely that magazines aren’t easily accessible. But like holsters and parts, if you can’t find them stocked anywhere, or they’re unreasonably priced ($40+) then it’s a gun that you might want to avoid.
As a general rule, I try to have at least 5 magazines for each handgun. 2 for carry, 2 for range purposes, and 1 that can run both roles as it’s needed.

In short, this is how I decide whether or not I’m going to even consider at firearm at this point, or if I’m going to try something else. The one thing you may be left wondering after reading this is, “How can I find this information out?”
Well, a safe bet is not going into brand specific Facebook groups. Ask around in the generic gun groups/gun forums, message pages (like me), and just get a general consensus on what you’re looking at.

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