Some Advice on Buying a New Handgun

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Some Advice on Buying a New Handgun

Postby 100th Monkey » Tue Dec 21, 2004 12:07 am

I saw some posts regarding the purchase of a handgun and thought you guys might be interested to hear about the mistakes I've made and the subsequent research I did so I wouldn't make those same mistakes again.

Step One: Choose a Cartridge

Before you start looking at handguns choose a cartridge because that will greatly influence which handgun you decide to buy. This narrows the field of potential candidates which makes shopping less overwhelming.

The following cartridges are what I consider to be effective handgun self-defense rounds. I'm not going to address deep concealment handguns which would be used when your primary handgun and backup handgun have failed to solve your problem. I'm not going to address exotic, wildcat, or obsolete cartridges. The list is arranged in ascending order based on bullet diameter. I can not tell you which one is "the best" (whatever that means) because I do not know what your skill level, situation, needs, or personal inclinations are. Only you can figure this out by weighing the available information along with evaluating your situation and needs. However, avoid getting swept away by the latest high-speed whiz-bang cartridge that's so cool you just have to have a handgun chambered for it because it may be a bad match for you. Don't give your power to think critically away to some gun rag, commission-induced salesman, or anyone. The answer is inside you, you're just trying to coax it to the surface.

1. 357 SIG
Introduced in 1994 this cartridge was an attempt to achieve 357 Magnum level performance in an autoloading pistol. To get this level of performance in a pistol of manageable size the .40 S&W was necked down to accept a .355" diameter bullet (9mm in metric). The 357 SIG comes very close to 357 Magnum level performance with slightly less recoil than the 40 S&W even though they produce about the same energy at the muzzle. Think of it as a souped up 9MM Parabellum. Same bullet selection + larger case capcity = greater velocity. This round kills and incapacitates with velocity not size or mass, so a rapidly expanding modern hollowpoint bullet is a must with this round.
It will zip through stuff like car doors to kill the target, whereas the fat and slow 45 ACP would not. Due to high velocity it has an extremely flat trajectory making 50 yard head shots within the realm of possibility. The bottle-necked cartridge feeds extremely reliably compared to straight-walled cases. Feed jams caused by the ammunition are simply non-existent (assuming you are using quality factory ammo made in the USA).
The high chamber pressures cause significant muzzle blast, but with slightly less perceived recoil than the 40 S&W. Muzzle blast is LOUD. And it's relatively uncommon. Hasn't quite caught on yet; it may never see wide acceptance.

2. 9MM Parabellum (also called 9MM Luger and 9X19)
[Chambered in autoloading pistols]
This cartridge depends on a small lightweight bullet traveling at high velocity to kill. Therefore it is imperative that you use a modern hollowpoint bullet design which is pushed to velocities on the high end of the spectrum. A FMJ bullet (Full Metal Jacket, commonly called a jacketed bullet) in 9MM is simply not going to be adequete unless you can hit your target in the eye socket. It will not rapidly expand on contact with human flesh and you'll be punching small holes in your target with bullets traveling at anemic velocities when compared to rifle velocities. You need the rapid expansion of the hollow point bullet to create a large primary wound channel, thus making up for the small diameter of the .356" bullet. The velocity coupled with the rapidly expanding hollowpoint creates the hydrostatic shock needed to kill.
Ubiquitous - it's everywhere all over the world. Modern propellants and bullet design make it an effective manstopper.
Simply useless when using FMJ bullets that don't expand. You'd better aim for the head or be prepared to dump an entire magazine into one target.

3. 38 Special
Very similar to the 9mm Parabellum, but chambered in revolvers. Bullet diameter is nearly identical to the 9MM at .358". Same physics as the 9MM. This cartridge is only effective when used with modern hollowpoint bullets and loaded to +P velocities (around 1,000 fps).
Less recoil than a 357 Magnum. Cheap practice ammo available.
Usually fired out of snub-nosed airweight revolvers. Read: RECOIL, LOUD BANG, vicious FLASH signature

4. 357 Magnum
[Chambered in revovlers]
The cartridge by which all other self-defense cartridges are judged. Simply a monster. If you hit someone center mass with this round, they will go down. Your looking at a .358" diameter lead hollowpoint bullet weighing 125-grains traveling around 1450 fps (feet per second) delivering 583 fpe (foot pounds energy). The same bullet in a 38 Special loading is only moving at 1,000 fps delivering only 278 fpe. Simply devestating, if you can hit what your aiming at.
The Hammer of Thor when it hits someone.
Stout RECOIL, loud BANG, a flamethrower-like muzzle FLASH.

5. 40 Smith & Wesson (usually abbreviated to 40 S&W)
[Chambered in autoloading pistols]
The Goldylocks of autoloading pistol cartridges. Just right. Designed to fill the gap between the 9mm and 45 ACP. With a .400" diameter bullet it lays almost exactly in between. This cartridge attempts to achieve a harmonic balance between bullet diameter, weight and velocity. The one drawback is the ridiculously high chamber pressures generated by this round. This causes the recoil impulse to be swift and sharp with a lot of muzzle snap. With the profusion of self-defense pistols with a polymer frame (light) sporting a steel slide (heavy) the already sharp recoil impulse is magnified because you don't have the weight of a steel frame to soak up recoil and you have a heavy steel slide trying to twist the pistol out of your hand with every shot. I have seen people with limited experience shooting handguns who simply could not shoot this cartridge accurately in lightweight polymer framed pistols due to the sharp recoil impulse. If you can't hit with it, the increased performance over the 9MM isn't going to do you any good. I myself have small hands and find that although I can shoot the cartridge accurately, I don't have as fast a rapid follow-up shot capability as I would like.
Good compromise between velocity, bullet diameter, and bullet weight. Gaining wide acceptance with law enforcement which means cheaper pistols (police trade-ins and factory rebuilds), wider ammo selection, and more parts and mags floating around.
High chamber pressure which translates to sharp recoil and a pistol that is harder to shoot fast and accurate. You need to practice more (not necessarily a bad thing depending on who you are).

5. 10MM Auto
[Chambered in autoloading pistols]
First introduced in the now defunct Bren Ten autoloading pistol circa 1983. Developed by Jeff Cooper and associates with the intent of creating the ideal combat weapon. This cartridge generates more fpe than the 357 magnum and double the fpe generated by the 45 ACP. With this performance comes a price - RECOIL. Again, the average shooter simply can't handle the power of this cartridge. Although, it's an atom bomb when it's hits human flesh.
If it connects it'll turn someone inside out. It'll go through stuff to kill the target.
Not widely accepted. Not many autoloading pistols chambered for it. Not a wide variety of ammo available.

6. 45 ACP (also called the 45 AUTO)
[Chambered in autoloading pistols and revolvers]
Here we are at the opposite end of the ballistics spectrum - a heavy, large diameter, bullet moving at modest velocities that hits like a sledgehammer. This round kills with mass and size, not velocity. It punches large holes in people that allow a lot of blood out in a hurry. You do not need modern hollow point bullets for this round to be effective because you are not depending on rapid expansion and velocity to kill. You are using a bullet almost 1/2" in diameter weighing 200 to 230 grains to pound the snot out of someone. This is a very accurate cartridge which generates fairly substantial recoil due to the heavy bullets (generally 200 or 230 grains) loaded. But, since the chamber pressures are so low compared to the high impulse rounds like the 40 S&W and 357 SIG, the recoil impulse is more gradual rather than a sharp spike. It's more of a firm shove straight back than a sharp whack and twist. Your only looking at velocities around 800 to 900 fps, so perceived recoil isn't that bad. Thank you Mr. John Browning for developing this cartridge and the Browning Automatic Pistol to fire it. If I had to choose only one I'd rather have a 1911 chambered in 45 ACP than a wife or girlfriend. Unlike some, I'm not kidding.
Imagine hitting someone in the chest with a brick traveling at 900 fps. It doesn't need modern hollowpoints to do the job. Inherently accurate cartridge design. Very common in the USA. Lots of loads to choose from.
Will not penetrate cover to get to the target because it is moving at more modest velocities and has a larger bullet cross-section. A large round that weighs significantly more than the 9MM and 40 S&W which limits magazine capacity and causes your carry weight to increase. However, it takes less shots to do the job if you hit what you're shooting at.

Any of the self-defense loads from Remington (Golden Sabre), Winchester (Silver Tip), Federal (Hydra-Shok), Speer (Gold Dot), or Hornady (XTP) will do. Find out which one your gun feeds with stone-cold reliability (most important), and secondly, which one you and your pistol shoot most accurately. As far as which bullet weight to go with in a particular caliber, I find I like the middle-of-the-road bullet weights. It gives you slightly more velocity with less perceived recoil. For example, I like the 115 grain 9MM, the 165 grain 40 S&W, and the 200 grain 45 ACP. Shoot all these cartridges in a variety of bullet weights to decide which one suits you.

Modern Reloading (2nd edition) by Richard Lee of Lee Precision
Cartridges of the World by Frank C. Barnes
School of Hard Knocks

Hope this helps. I hope to continue with handgun selection at a later date. If you think I'm wasting bandwidth just politely tell me to bugger off.

Catch you on the flip-side.
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Postby Romeo247 » Tue Dec 21, 2004 11:44 pm

I own a beretta M9......

a whole alother arsenal of guns but of larger and smaller caliber guns...

EVERYONE who owns a glock and shoot my beretta is shocked and amazed at the balance of the gun (important for long engagements) as well as the VERY low recoil the ONLY mods i have are hogue grips and a laser site which replaces the recoil pin and if u can hold a gun right and breathe proper... you will never miss a shot... i tried to do that whole mel gibson smiley face like in lethal weapon but startin laughing way to hard cause everyone was watching me and doing the same so i quit for the day..

get anything but a glock .40 my friend has one and it kicks like a donkey and if u have large hands it will pinch your thumb area
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Postby Stiv » Wed Dec 22, 2004 1:16 pm

Stick with ammo you know there'll always be plenty of and easy to find.

So all I own or carry is:

9mm-9mm+p 9mm+p+

I like to have a variety of grains and brands.

Speer gold dot.

Federal hydrashok

Winchester silver tip

Black talons

Golden sabre


I always find my best ammo deals at gun shows.

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Postby Romeo247 » Fri Dec 24, 2004 3:09 am

A hint.... Use Brake Cleaner when you have dissambled the gun and are in cleaning mood.... the cleaner strips the oils so make sure u re lub it....

For my m9 when im cleaning it i blast the bore out and SOME of the trigger assemly that i can control where it goes like i said removes all oil....

another MUST own is a damn bore snake... what a blessing....
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Postby yorick » Fri Dec 24, 2004 9:28 am

Is there a handgun that shoots 7.62x39??

Ammo cheapskate here who likes to fire couple hundred rounds through my cheap SKS on every trip to the range, buying ammo in bulk at less than $.08 per round.

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Postby Romeo247 » Fri Dec 24, 2004 7:46 pm

Best Deals Ive seen bought my fal there

keep us posted on what u purchase please!...

..... CIAO .....

Last edited by Romeo247 on Fri Jan 07, 2005 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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New handgun purchase

Postby theJesusHorse » Fri Dec 31, 2004 11:37 pm

I just bought a Sprinfield Armory Custom Loaded 1911. Its a nice gun right out of the box, but I'm still going to make a couple of modifications to it.

1. Nowlin, Les Baer or Wilson Combat match barrel. The original barrel is good, and damn accurate, but I dont really trust its two piece construction.
2. Wilson extractor.
3. Wilson 8 rd magazine(I already purchased one)
4. New recoil spring(probably a Wolff)

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Postby The Settle » Thu Jan 06, 2005 7:30 pm

I have a Sig pro 2009 my only regret is going with the 9mm not gettin the 40 s&w. it preforms nicley for a popgun.
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