Selecting a Handgun for Self-defense

Posted on June 4, 2012


The first thing you should do is assess your needs.  Why are you purchasing a handgun, and what functions does it need to serve?  Only consider handguns that fulfill your needs.  Note that a handgun (vs. a long gun) is your first line of defense because it is small, light, portable, and concealable; it can always be with you.  Here’s what to look for in a general self-defensive handgun:

1. A size that you can realistically carry concealed

            Full size guns are easier to shoot and operate; smaller guns are easier to conceal.  Select a realistic compromise, but err on the side of larger rather than smaller unless you are an expert.

2. A design that will be easy to handle under stress

            Simple and minimal controls.  Examples: Glock, Springfield XD, Snubby revolver

            Gun handling must become instinctive; you will not be able to think under stress.

                  There is no substitute for competence.  Train realistically and regularly.

            Train yourself to be “habitually safe” with your gun handling (ex., finger off trigger).

3. The gun must fit your hand, including trigger reach.  See pages 37-42, Martial Art of the Gun (MAG)

           Kent Turnipseed rates this as the most important factor in choosing your handgun.

                  After market or custom stocks (grips) can significantly improve fit.

            Your pinky finger must have a place on the grip.  Under stress you will grip (squeeze) with your entire hand.  If there is nothing but air for your pinky to squeeze under stress, it will curl up under the grip and bend your wrist downward, thus pulling your shot low.  See page 42, MAG

4. Check the trigger pull.  You want a good trigger pull of approximately 5 pounds, or more.

            This is for defense, not target shooting.  Under stress, 5 pounds will be very light, and you do not want the gun to fire unless you intend for it to fire.

                  A good gunsmith can improve your handgun’s trigger.

5. Check the trigger reset.  You want one that is short and distint.  See pages 76-78, MAG

            Train yourself to habitually reset the trigger with minimal movement after every round you fire.

6. Choose a defensive cartridge of adequate power.

            The 9mm and .38 Special are generally considered to be the minimum.  However, there are many exceptions depending on the circumstances.  A .22 rimfire is better than no gun at all (for example, for an older woman who cannot handle anything else).

7. You will also need a good concealed carry holster, gun belt, and magazine carriers. 

            Or, a good pocket holster.

            Your holster should completely cover the trigger guard so nothing can touch the trigger.

            Speed strips or speed loaders for a revolver.

Note: Even if you live in a jurisdiction in which you cannot get a concealed carry permit, you should be prepared to carry concealed in emergency circumstances (riots, civil unrest, natural disaster).  These circumstances may be rare, but you need to be prepared if and when they occur.

Posted in: Handgun