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Thread: First time handgun buyer looking for advice

  1. #1
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    First time handgun buyer looking for advice

    Hi all.. New to the forum. I am looking to purchase a handgun and have been looking for a little advice. I have owned a rifle all my life, enjoy shooting target, and hunted when I was younger. I feel comfortable with any caliber but the only handgun I've really ever been around consistently is my fathers old .22 revolver.

    I'd like something my wife would be able to handle should she have to defend herself or our home when I am at work.

    My wife and I just had twins and we've decided its probably time for us to have a gun in the house. My wife grew up in Philadelphia and was never around guns and only ever heard how guns kill people. I grew up in rural PA where guns are a pretty common part of life which is where we now live. My wife is comfortable with guns and actually suggested we purchase one to protect our home and family as well as ensure our daughters grow up in an environment where they learn how to use and respect firearms.

    Thanks for any thoughts or information!!

    Jeff

  2. #2
    Regular Member KWP's Avatar
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    Hi Jeff

    Guns are like shoes, you need to try them for yourself to really know which one fits you.

    That being said, I think that, in your case, maybe a small frame revolver could be a good option for home defense.

    Something like a Colt Cobra, or a Taurus 85...

    A few small frame revolvers also come in .22 Magnum, which is as easy to shoot as a .22 LR but has more stopping power.

    Some of them are also quite fun to shoot!
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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    A shotgun is better for home defense. If you intend on carrying open or concealed or both then those uses need to be factored into your decision. Small guns are cute, and conceal well, but are not always the best solution. Find the gun that fits your needs, there is no one pill that fits everybody, what I would suggest may not be best in your circumstances.

    You must decide how the gun will be accessible in the home. It does not good to have a gun if you or her cannot get to it when needed, but safety has to be a factor around children. I always kept my firearm on my hip in the home, the shotgun was hung high on a wall, and locked up when nobody was home. My usual recommendation for newbies is a revolver, but there is nothing wrong with a auto for first gun.
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    hi jeff. your first hand gun or any gun at the matter is going to be special to you i think every one remembers their first gun. but when it comes down to family and home defense you want something that you are comfortable with and so is your wife. shot guns are the way to go with home defense but if your like myself i use a hand gun nothing wrong with that i have a hi point 9mm. its great for my taste its easy to use real easy to take disassemble and clean and verry compact. i keep it on my through out the day but as far as when im sleeping it stays close i sometimes sleep with it between the matress and box spring unloaded or just keep it in my dresser door. as far as safety with the kids. i got kid in my house they all know i have a gun but they all have been around guns to they really never bother "looking" for it. they see it as not a big deal.

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    Thanks for the responses. We have a single shot 16 gauge shotgun I got from my father and I also have a 30/30 hunting rifle. I was definitely looking for something I could CC or OC comfortably. We have fired my brother in laws Glock. I believe its a 40. Quite a different feel compared to the old 22 revolver I've used.

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    State Researcher HankT's Avatar
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    Revos rule

    I will echo the prior suggestion of a nice revolver. But I suggest a bigger frame. Say a nice S&W 686. Comes in 2.5" And 4" barrel lengths. It's a .357 magnum, but one can load it with .38 special ammo. Comes in 6 or 7-shot versions. Lots of these in the used market at decent prices.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by HankT; 12-14-2012 at 07:02 PM.

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    Regular Member hjmoosejaw's Avatar
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    My .02? I would agree that you should try different guns at a range or gun shop, to see what you and your wife are comfortable with. If a revolver, I would go with at least, a 38 special. If an automatic, I would go with at least a 9mm. I think you and your wife would be surprised at how manageable most of your choices are to shoot. Also, you want something with some stopping power. Once you decide, you will want to have the gun accessible to you and her, but IMPOSSIBLE for your kids to get to. Once they get older, you can start taking them to the range, and teach them safe handling of the gun, if you wish to. I started teaching mine at a young age. I never really worried about them "PLAYING" with the guns. They knew that anytime they wanted to, they could ask, and as soon as we could. We would go to the range or whatever, ( I live in a rural area, so usually, that means outside) and they could shoot whatever gun they wanted to. With them knowing that, they never had a curiosity to go handle the guns without my permission. I think that without a kid being somewhat familiar with guns, along with the natural tendency to be curious, that's when you can get into trouble. IMHO. Good luck, have fun,and be safe! Let us know what you get!
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    Regular Member KWP's Avatar
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    Considering you're new to gun, I would still think of a smaller caliber. Also, smaller caliber revolvers have a better mag capacity (try reloading a revolver under stressful conditions!).

    I once shot a 22 magnum at a course I took last year in Easter Europe. It was a Taurus 941 (8 round 22 Mag mag) and came loaded with 22 Mag jacketed HP... it was almost as bad as the 9mm and it was more accurate. I always say: better to hit with a smaller caliber than to miss with a larger one!
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    Regular Member hermannr's Avatar
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    The "right" gun for you, to carry, or for home defense, is the one that you can be most accurate with. The same goes for your wife. My wife and girls seem to prefer smaller caliber pistols...IMHO the ultimate in small caliber carry pistols is the FN five-seven...if you can afford it. If you can't afford $1000, there are lots of others that will do just fine.

    Try several. Remember, used guns are normally just as good as new ones...just stay away from abused guns.

    Look for what you can point and shoot quickly accurately and are most comfortable with. If this is mostly for home defense, keep your practice targets at about 1/2 the maximum distance you could possibly be using the weapon at in your house. Like, my longest clear area in my house is 32'...very unlikely I would ever have to shoot, in self defence, in the house, at over about 16', so most of my practice is at 5m and 7m.

    BTW: heavier (to a point) pistols are easier to shoot accurately than lighter ones. Lighter pistols are easier to carry. Balance means a lot too, it needs to feel good in your hand.

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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    Jeff -

    Welcome to OCDO. We should be honored that you chose us to give you advice.

    The best advice there is for chosing a handgun is to find out what "feels right" for you. This usually is done by heading for the gun store with the biggest selection, so you can "window shop" as many models as possible. Ask if they have the same model but with different grips as those can drastically alter how a gun feels in your hand and how recoil is controlled. Bring a notebook and write down what feels good, what does not, and why. Remember the 4 Rules and you will avoid a lot of grief from the sales staff and other customers. (It is polite to ask if you may before dry-firing someone else's handgun.)

    (PS - gun shows are also great places to handle guns to check how they "feel" in your hand.)

    Remember that you are window shopping and do not let anybody pressure you into buying something at this time, because you have another step to go through.

    Find a shooting range that rents guns. Go there with your list and tell them you are shopping for a handgun and ask if they will give you a discount for renting a number of handguns. Discount or no discount, shoot as many from your list as you are able. Getting the "feel" is more important now than bullseye accuracy, but it is nice if you can stay on the paper at 3 yards. Once you have narrowed down your list to a managable number (less than 6?) go do your research - find out if there are any known "peculiarities" such as only accepting one brand of magazine or excessive muzzle flash (yes, even for .357 Magnums there is a point where it becomes excessive) or the like.

    Now you are ready for step three. Go back to the gun store and try out your short list again. Ask to see a selection of holsters for the handguns on your short list. (It can be frustrating to find that you cannot find a holster except by commissioning a custom-made one for several hundred dollars.) This should narrow your list down to 2 or 3.

    Now you are ready to decise which handgun you want to buy.

    Or, you could go to the nearest gun store with a wad of bills in your hand and say "What can I get for this much?" There are some folks that must have done that, considering what they came away with. There is no other way I can figure out how a blue-haired old lady in a walker ended up with a S&W 500.

    stay safe.
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    Regular Member Motofixxer's Avatar
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    First of all welcome aboard, I can't really add much more than what has already been said. But I would encourage you to get your hands on as many models as you can, then decide what size or style you want. Then read and watch reviews. You can gain lots of info by searching Youtube for something like your desired model then " vs" and you should get lots of reviews comparing similar models.

    I have also compiled lots of useful info at http://tinyurl.com/New-To-Guns
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    Regular Member jt59's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImShero View Post
    Hi all.. New to the forum. I am looking to purchase a handgun and have been looking for a little advice. I have owned a rifle all my life, enjoy shooting target, and hunted when I was younger. I feel comfortable with any caliber but the only handgun I've really ever been around consistently is my fathers old .22 revolver.

    I'd like something my wife would be able to handle should she have to defend herself or our home when I am at work.

    My wife and I just had twins and we've decided its probably time for us to have a gun in the house. My wife grew up in Philadelphia and was never around guns and only ever heard how guns kill people. I grew up in rural PA where guns are a pretty common part of life which is where we now live. My wife is comfortable with guns and actually suggested we purchase one to protect our home and family as well as ensure our daughters grow up in an environment where they learn how to use and respect firearms.

    Thanks for any thoughts or information!!

    Jeff
    Well.... you're likely going to end up with several.... your idea that you and your wife will feel comfortable shooting the same gun is small IMHO.

    My wife started with a Colt .22 target to get comfortable shooting and to build confidence and keep it fun. When she was ready I had her go to this website and read...and then read some more. http://www.corneredcat.com/

    She then went to an all womens shooting class (without me), shot revolvers and semi's from .22 to .45's, and settled on her own gun... I said, pick out what you want, just keep it under $1,500.... For now, she settled on a Sig p238 rainbow with crimson trace laser....but she shoots the .22 to keep her skills up. No kick, cheap...

    Good luck and welcome.
    Last edited by jt59; 12-16-2012 at 03:47 AM.
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    Regular Member ncwabbit's Avatar
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    gentle greetings to the forum...

    while everyone is espousing their favorite firearm of choice pls remember to put their choices into the perspective of:

    my ford f150 is better than your chevy ....whatever!!!

    while some tout rev others spout off about pistols...

    everyone's comments, including this one, should be taken at face value and critically weighed against your own situation of rational for the firearm, -recreation, SD, competitive, hunting, etc., your living situation, working situation, financial assets, your physical structure & hand size your partners structure, ad nausm...

    however, nobody has told you that you and your partner need to seek out a NRA basic pistol course (not first steps) where you will discern the basic instruction on safe pistol, rev & pistols, handling and shooting skills!! now you have learned about pistols from someone who should have no biases (chevy vs ford) in material instructed. go http://www.nrainstructors.org/searchcourse.aspx to find NRA's Basic Pistol classes to find a course close to home...

    then and only then should you do you research from the internet, gun shows, establishments, etc., then expend the $$$$$ on a suitable handgun for you and your partner. don't forget lots of practice!!

    welcome to the world of shooting sports.

    wabbit

    PS: while you might have gleaned your sex education while in the locker room from your friends...approach your beginning sojourn into handgun ownership from a professional as shooting sports activities continue after the sex drive wanes...
    Last edited by ncwabbit; 12-16-2012 at 11:19 AM.
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    Thanks for all the responses everyone. I guess I have a little work to do. I'll keep you posted when we decide on what to buy or if I have any more questions.

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    Regular Member Superlite27's Avatar
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    Whoops! Sorry. I reposted.
    Last edited by Superlite27; 12-17-2012 at 11:24 AM.

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    Regular Member Superlite27's Avatar
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    Good luck with your first purchase. My only suggestions are to be wary of those advising smaller framed guns like .38 snubbies, "for the lil' lady". This reflects outdated and,IMO, stereotypical "make me a sandwich" sexist view. In reality, smaller framed guns have less weight to counter felt recoil. (I personally hate my titanium .38sp I use as my BUG [back up gun]. It hurts my hand, and they're made of granite.)

    In the end, I would recommend anything larger than .380 (too many examples of bad guys being shot multiple times with .380's and still going, running away, or returning fire before incapacitated). Other than that, I'd stick to manufacturers with reliable reputations, and guns that feel good in both you and your wife's hand.

    Many gun ranges have rental programs that allow you to try different models. Great opportunity to test before a purchase to see if you both like a particular model.

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    Short answer: Get a full size "service" Glock 19 or S&W M&P. Both of those firearms are exceedingly popular and dominate action shooting competition as well as the LEO market for a reason. They are exceptionally reliable. They have great ergonomics including reversible controls for lefties and adjustable backstraps for smaller hands. If you later decide you want or need to CCW, both have "little brothers" (compact versions) with identical ergonomics that take the same mags.

    All pistol ballistics are inferior so you might as well get a 9mm (cheaper ammo, adequete with modern premium bullet designs) -- and I say that as a guy who owns and shoots 40 SW. But whatever, caliber isn't worth arguing over -- any modern caliber above, say, 38 sp/380 ACP will do.

    I challenge anyone to say that a Glock or an M&P is a BAD choice. There may be a better choice for you personally, but I think most serious shooters would agree that a Glock or M&P would be at least "adequate" for defensive purposes. You cannot go wrong with either.

    Long answer: Try out some firearms at the range or with rental programs. However, realize that handgun shooting is more about your training than the specific tool. With marginal training you may not be aware of what features you really value in a defensive sidearm. If you are not that familiar with sidearms don't expect to learn a ton in a test drive. Imagine that you'd never driven a car before -- just motorcycles -- and you started test driving. How useful would it be?

    For example, if you do not know how to clear a type three malfunction in a handgun, then how do you evaluate the design of a handgun? If you can't put all your shots into an index card at 3-25 yards under time pressure, then how relevant is some gun rag's review of a pistol's reputed accuracy? If you're not sure what that "reset" thing is, then how do you evaluate a handgun's trigger? You're ahead of the game when it comes to shooting based on rifle experience but, I went the other way (started with handguns, later went to rifles) and there is a learning curve.

    Another tip: Take the price of the gun and multiply by four.

    1/4 = Gun
    1/4 = Ammo, including at least 100 rounds of premium ammo to function test for reliable feeding and another 50-100 rounds of premium for the house along with a case of bulk ammo for practice. Even if you go through one 50 round box per month each, that's 1200 rounds a year. Ammo doesn't go bad and its cheaper to buy in bulk.
    1/4 = Gear, including a box of holsters until you find a comfortable design (it is inevitable), a few spare mags, etc.
    1/4 = Training. WHy get a $500 combat handgun then not learn how to use it? That's like getting a $2000 tweaked out High Power rifle and not going to a marksmanship clinic. A two day defensive handgun class should run about $200 and is well worth the money. $500 gets you and the wife in the door.

    That is a more realistic estimate of what you will end up spending... Sorry!

  18. #18
    Regular Member tomrkba's Avatar
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    I suggest that you do not buy a handgun first. Instead, attend a training course. Most instructors are enthusiasts and will have a variety of guns available. Take your wife too because she needs to learn gun safety and self-defense techniques.

    skidmark's comment of "The best advice there is for chosing a handgun is to find out what "feels right" for you" is well intentioned, but erroneous, advice. The reason it is not correct is because you have no idea what features you need in a defensive handgun. NRA Basic Pistol is a good start, but will not help you very much with regard to the features you need in a defensive handgun. Attend a two day course. Jay Cunningham runs courses out at Beaver Valley Rifle and Pistol Club in Pennsylvania. Look around for similar courses (check the syllabus) in your area if that is too far away. You will have a much better idea of what will and will not work for you at the end of the training. This will be an evolution; what you think works for you now will change in several years, especially if you continue training.

    I can tell you that it took me several years, many rounds fired, and at least three courses to settle on what I really like. For example, take the Browning Hi-Power MK III. It's a nice gun and the 9x19mm version carries very well. It shoots well and is very reliable. The magazines are well made and withstand use. But, the gun needs tons of work out of the box. A fourteen pound trigger pull is unacceptable (yes, I took one to class with the trigger like that). The edges are very, very sharp and I sliced open all the fingers on my support hand multiple times. The magazine well needs beveling to facilitate reloads; I had to figure out the trick to getting the magazine quickly into the well during the course. All those modifications require cash and the gun must be refinished after the work. There are so many guns on the market today that require minimal work out of the box that I just moved on.

    Do not be lulled into the notion that revolvers are "simple and easy"; the operational manipulations can get quite complex. Revolvers require quite a bit of training to learn to operate at speed. Semi-automatics are easier to shoot and operate. This does not make the revolver ineffective defensive tool. You will need to spend extra time perfecting your trigger control. Reloads are more complex and require diligent practice. Remember, I am talking about operating a revolver in a defensive situation at speed, not on the square range shooting for tiny groups.

    Do not fall for the "grip angle" and "feels good in the hand" arguments. They are not really relevant unless the grip angle causes some sort of physical problem from recoil or the grip. What you think is a good feel may actually not be what you need for managing recoil during rapid fire. Some say grip angle is necessary for creating a "natural point". One would think one needs that for aiming the gun, but it's absolutely not true. There are many ways to shoot and are generally divided into "aimed fire" and "point shooting". Aimed fire uses the sights, which is a method to overcome the natural point of the gun. Point shooting is all about figuring out what horizontal means and developing confidence in your point shooting at different distances. Both styles have their place and require the shooter to learn the gun. You will never shoot well if you fail to develop proper trigger control and do not learn the gun you are shooting. There is no substitute for practice and the number of posts you have on a forum does not count.

    I'll use myself as an example. SIG P-Series pistols point perfectly for me. They tend to point right on target. 1911's point low if they have a flat mainspring housing and point just a little low with an arched mainspring housing. S&W revolvers are about right, but the Ruger GP100 is a tad off with the grips installed on the gun. Glocks point very high for me. Yet, somehow, I can shoot every one of these guns well using aimed or point shooting. I even do the vast majority of my shooting through Glocks. The reason is that I know all these platforms. I know how all of them will shoot and I know how to use sights. I focus my practice upon mastering trigger control. Sights are sights; they all work the same (except for red dots, but I'm excluding those from the discussion.). Triggers, however, are all over the place. If you can master trigger control, you will do very well with just about any pistol. You'll still have to learn the other skills such as recoil management, reloading and so forth.
    Last edited by tomrkba; 01-23-2013 at 09:09 PM.

  19. #19
    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    [pops popcorn and makes a picture of iced tea]

    This could get entertaining.
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    Regular Member Freedom1Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImShero View Post

    Thanks for any thoughts or information!!

    Jeff
    You ask a room full of gun owners and you will get a room full different of answers.

    Find a good in door range that does gun rentals. See if they offer a case rental.

    Then try out all the different models in the Caliber(s) you wish to use. I personally suggest .357 either mag or sig, 10mm, .454 Casull (if you're a revolver guy).

    I personally carry a .40 for the ease of a .357sig conversion and a .45ACP on a 10mm frame also for an easy conversion. Both are GLOCKs.

    First choose a caliber and then the gun that works best for you in that caliber. Look at all the factors, comfort, cost, reliability, maintenance needed, etc.

    For some the Sig work great, others like Ruger, S&W, Magnum Research, CZ, Glock, and more.
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    Regular Member Freedom1Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ncwabbit View Post
    gentle greetings to the forum...

    while everyone is espousing their favorite firearm of choice pls remember to put their choices into the perspective of:

    my ford f150 is better than your chevy ....whatever!!!

    while some tout rev others spout off about pistols...

    everyone's comments, including this one, should be taken at face value and critically weighed against your own situation of rational for the firearm, -recreation, SD, competitive, hunting, etc., your living situation, working situation, financial assets, your physical structure & hand size your partners structure, ad nausm...

    however, nobody has told you that you and your partner need to seek out a NRA basic pistol course (not first steps) where you will discern the basic instruction on safe pistol, rev & pistols, handling and shooting skills!! now you have learned about pistols from someone who should have no biases (chevy vs ford) in material instructed. go http://www.nrainstructors.org/searchcourse.aspx to find NRA's Basic Pistol classes to find a course close to home...

    Snip
    My truck is better than yours.

    "Front sight" has a good reputation too.

    NCWabbit makes a great point. That is why I do my best to be unbiased when giving 'advice' about firearms selection.
    Provision for free medical attendance and nursing, for clothing, for food, for housing, for the education of children, and a hundred other matters, might with equal propriety be proposed as tending to relieve the employee of mental strain and worry. --- These matters obviously lie outside the orbit of congressional power. (Railroad Retirement Board v Alton Railroad)

  22. #22
    Regular Member MrJPort's Avatar
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    I am fairly new to owning my own guns as well. About a year ago, a co worker who knew i was looking came across a Ruger P345 and i swooped on it, because he only wanted $200. That is definitely not the way you should do it. Like everyone says, try to do as much hands on research as you can before making your choice.

    I am lucky, as the Ruger is the perfect choice as far as my preferences go. DA/SA, decocker, fits perfectly in my hand, perfect weight, great accuracy, its got good looks, i mean i literally cant find a thing i dont like about it.. alot of people seem to frown upon mag disconnect safety, and i can see why.. point is I didnt know i had these preferences until AFTER i bought the gun... Ive only been able to compare it to a few others, but none compare. So many i would love to get my hands on though

    Thank god it wasnt a glock

  23. #23
    Regular Member Freedom1Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrJPort View Post

    Thank god it wasnt a glock
    Glock haters are not welcome. :P

    If you like the Ruger than carry it. I prefer the Glock, might go with an XD in the future.
    Provision for free medical attendance and nursing, for clothing, for food, for housing, for the education of children, and a hundred other matters, might with equal propriety be proposed as tending to relieve the employee of mental strain and worry. --- These matters obviously lie outside the orbit of congressional power. (Railroad Retirement Board v Alton Railroad)

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    Regular Member BobDobbs's Avatar
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    i honestly did not read many of the posts before replying, i know, shame on me.

    But find a dealer that will let you try several out. I do not mean firing them.

    attach a holster to your hip and draw it. do this with at least 10 guns. a mix of pistols and revolvers. pay special attention to how fast you can pick up a sight line. The ones you can pick up a sight line fastest with and feel most comfortable in your hand are the ones you should look at. I say this because your body has a somewhat natural feel for them. you may or may not understand why i say this but once you do what i have said you will see what i mean. You can certianly learn to use any firearm, but the one that is easiest to use off that bat and most comfortable from the get go will prove more reliable than one you are initally uncomfortable with.

    just my 2 cents.

  25. #25
    Campaign Veteran MAC702's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobDobbs View Post
    ...attach a holster to your hip and draw it. do this with at least 10 guns. a mix of pistols and revolvers. pay special attention to how fast you can pick up a sight line. ...
    This really only helps if you have training on how to draw, which is not as intuitive as people like to think.
    "It's not important how many people I've killed. What's important is how I get along with the people who are still alive" - Jimmy the Tulip

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