The first thing that you need to do when selecting your handgun is to think of why you want to carry a personal defense firearm. Is it because you think there is a possibility that you can be attacked by a criminal who may try to take your life?
Think about the down, dirty, and bloody aspects of a real gunfight. Is this life or death situation one in which you want a small-caliber gun in your hand, or do you want a larger caliber fighting handgun? Keep this in mind when choosing your firearm.
The firearm you choose must not only be effective in a gunfight, but it should also fit you so that it can be reliably effective and functional when you need it the most. There are many aspects that you should consider when choosing your handgun.
* Is the gun appropriate size?
You must be able to carry the gun with a certain amount of conceal-ability, but at the same time, you want it large enough to be effective.
* Does the gun’s grip fit your hand?
You should be able to wrap all five of your fingers around the gun’s grip comfortably, without any fingers hanging off the bottom. If the grip is so
short that your pinky finger is hanging off the end, you may wish to select something else.
At the same time, you should not have much excess grip below your hand. If you have ½” to 1” of the grip down below the bottom of your
grasped hand, then it is possible that the gun may be too big for you.
An accurate fit is an important aspect of controlling recoil. The middle finger, ring finger and pinky finger all work in concert with one another to keep the muzzle pointed towards the target and to control recoil.
* Does the gun fit your arm?
The gun needs to fit into the web of your hand and extend in a straight line with your forearm. When the arm is extended, the muzzle of the gun should be an exact extension of our forearm.
* Does the gun length fit your trigger finger?
When you trigger finger extends down the side of the gun, there should be an exact extension of your forearm.
When you trigger finger extends down the side of the gun, there should be a slight gap between the side of the gun and your finger. The trigger finger should not be plastered against the side of the gun frame. This small gap will allow the finger to bend and press the trigger to the rear independently of the rest of the hand. If the trigger finger is flat against the side of the grip in order to reach the trigger, the gun is too big for you.
* Can you press the trigger correctly?
You should then be able to reach forward and engage the face of the trigger
somewhere around the first joint.
On a short-stroke single-action pistol, the center of the pad of the trigger finger may be all that is necessary to press the trigger to the rear.
On longer double-action triggers, the finger needs more engagement space. The trigger should hit closer to your first knuckle joint, in order to have the strength needed to press the trigger straight to the rear.
* Is the gun too big for your hand?
If reaching the proper trigger engagement point requires you to roll your hand around the gun, breaking the straight line between the gun and the
Plane of your forearm, the gun is too big for you.
A gun that is too big will cause two problems: first, the force of the recoil will be forced back on the thumb, which is painful. Second, you will never be able to properly press the trigger straight to the rear, which will affect your ability to aim accurately.
* Is the gun too small for your hand?
If the proper position on the trigger is found and the knuckle joint of your trigger finger goes too far beyond the trigger face area, the gun is probably too small. If the gun is too small, it will affect the power the proper trigger press to the same extent as if the gun were too big.
Once you have gotten the proper grip and trigger reach dimensions, the gun should fit comfortably in your hand like a solid handshake. If the gun feels good in the hand, it is probably correct. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably is not. Trust your intuition and instincts.
* Does the gun have a smooth trigger pull?
A smooth trigger can be felt when the trigger is pressed and is more important than people realize. A smooth trigger pull does not necessarily mean that the trigger must be light. It is more important than the trigger pull has no glitches. If a glitch or a rough spot is felt when pressing the trigger, it will allow the gun’s muzzle to go off target.
* Can you work the slide with one hand?
It is important to be able to work the slide with both your strong hand and the supporting hand. It is equally important to be able to release the slide lock lever with both the strong
hand and the support hand. If you were unable to do this with each hand you may want to choose a different weapon.
* Does the gun have high visibility?
High visibility sights that can be picked up quickly and seen when needed are also Important. However, make sure the sights are not so large they will snag on clothing when being drawn.
* How much does the gun weigh?
You should choose a gun that is made of a material that is light enough to carry around Regularly, but heavy enough that you can control the recoil.
* What caliber is the gun?
Another thing one has to deal with when selecting the proper pistol is the weapon’s caliber. Think back to when you decided to carry a personal defense handgun, and considered the possibility of engaging in a gunfight. Would you rather have a small-caliber gun in your hand, or do you want a larger caliber fighting handgun?
For the most part, the larger the caliber the more recoil is felt. However, felt recoil can easily be tamed with proper shooting technique. It is important to keep in mind, however, that such technique is only developed and mastered with repeated proper practice. So be honest with yourself- How often are you going to practice?
It is my feeling that for personal defense calibers, it is good to start at the 38 special or 9mm threshold. Remember that with proper shooting technique and with the training you can overcome all recoil problems.
* Are you willing to put in the time needed to become proficient?
Sgt. Greg A Birkland
Smithton Borough Police Department
Smithton Borough, PA