Saturday, January 3, 2009

Taking The Plunge - My First Handgun

I was exposed to firearms, like many people, as a boy. My father gave me a .22 rifle, a Remington Fieldmaster 572. I used it a few times as a kid, and then got busy with others things, went to college, started me career, got married, etc.

My family was not big into outdoor sports mostly, I believe, under the influence of my mother, who did not like camping. We never camped as a family growing up.

Fortunately I married a woman with different tastes, and over the years Evelyn has encouraged me to camp and fish. It is now a big part of our lives, and we go camping several times a year, and I have taken up fly fishing.

So, what does this have to do with firearms?

You see, to most people, camping, fishing, and guns go together like bacon, eggs, and coffee: a natural combination. While packing for a trip I would often think of that Remington pump rifle and wonder if I should bring it. And once we had a kind of tense night at Sand Bar Flat, that made even my gun-leery wife wish we had a bit of protection.

So this year I am taking the plunge and buying my first handgun. I have always enjoyed shooting, and I would like to take it up more avidly than I have in the past. And a handgun in out camp will give me some assurance that my wife and I will be safe in the remote camp sites we visit that are often as much as an hour away from a main road.

I have also resolved to get training in the safe handing and proficient shooting of a handgun. Thankfully, even though I live in California, both firearms and training are available, despite some of the more restrictive handgun laws in the state. I future blog posts I will chronicle my journey through the steps in this process.

So, you want to buy a gun, but which one should I buy?


I want a polymer frame semi-automatic pistol. I have tried steel frame pistols and find that I like the lightness of the polymer frames.

I want the pistol to be a compact form factor, with a 4" maximum barrel. In case I ever need to carry concealed, I want a pistol smaller than service size.

I want a pistol with a credible defensive caliber: 0.380, 0.40 SW, 0.45, or 9mm.

I intended to shoot this pistol a lot, so I want ammunition to be as economical as possible.


I have decided on 9 x 19mm as the caliber mostly on economic grounds. While I know that most prefer the stopping power of the 0.40 SW and 0.45 ACP cartridges, 9mm luger ammunition is more economical. With that decision, here is my short list:

Glock 19:

Pros: utterly rock solid reputation for reliable operation. Will operate on damn near any ammunition, and not fail even after abuse. Look at some of the Glock torture tests on the internet.

Cons: I am not altogether warm and fuzzy with the Glock Safe-Action mechanism. Chamber is not fully supported.

Springfield Armory XD-9:

Pros: also a striker fired pistol, but with a traditional grip angle like the classic 1911A1 pistol. Many shooters find that angle more comfortable than the Glock. Safety mechansims seem more forgiving than the Glock, but still allow for point and shoot operation. I like the loaded chamber indicator, and firing pin status indicator. Match grade barrel.

Cons: Are the safety mechanisms too complicated? Also, this is a new model pistol, so will it stand the test of time like the Glock.

Ruger SR-9:

Pros: very slim design. Rubber backstrap can be reversed to make the grip more comfortable. Fully adjustable sights included. Magazine safely may be disabled.

Cons: subject to a safety recall. Also a new pistol design, and so it is not proven, and the recall is worrying.

The next step in my process is to actually take a training class. I want to be able to competently handle the firearms at the dealer, and have some idea if the pistol will work for me. I intend to rent and shoot each of these pistols before buying, if possible, to be even more certain that the pistol will work for me.

I'll let you know on this site how it works out.

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