Which handgun for first time buyer/owner?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by someguy, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. someguy macrumors 68020


    Dec 4, 2005
    Still here.
    I've recently decided to keep a handgun at home. I have my reasons, as do all gun owners, but this thread is about what, not why. :)

    I'm looking for something that meets the following basic requirements:

    - Has a safety.
    - Easy to shoot/reload.
    - Inexpensive ammunition.
    - I don't plan on carrying it in public, if that matters.
    - Decent looking (I like the metal look, but not necessary I guess).

    - Cheap! My budget is $200-300. Hope that isn't unreasonable.

    So what kind of firearms are out there for someone like me?
  2. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68040


    Feb 9, 2010
    Go to your local range and ask if they have lessons or sessions where u get to shoot a bunch of different guns. That should be your first step to see what you like, what feels good to you, etc.
  3. someguy thread starter macrumors 68020


    Dec 4, 2005
    Still here.
    I've found a couple ranges in my area that I may go check out this week and see what they can tell/show me. Thanks for the idea!

    I see a lot of results in Google for handguns under $200, but I don't know anything about guns. It's like someone coming here and listening to us talking about gigahertz and whatnot.

    Any recommendations, or at least some type of specification I should be looking for, or avoiding for that matter?
  4. StruckANerve macrumors 6502

    Dec 31, 2008
    Rio Rancho, NM
    Don't get anything larger than a 9mm. The best thing to do is go to a Shop or Range and find something that feels comfortable in your hand.
  5. steve2112 macrumors 68040


    Feb 20, 2009
    East of Lyra, Northwest of Pegasus
    First of all, you really should try the range. If they have training available, you should look into that. If you have never handled a handgun before, get training if they offer it. This really isn't something you should just dive into with no training. Rent some different guns and try them. In fact, you may want to rent something small like a .22 just to get comfortable with the mechanics of handling a handgun. Something like a .22 would have cheap ammo and the recoil would not be bad.

    If you want to go straight to a "grown up" gun, a 9mm would not be a bad idea. Ammo is cheaper than something like a .40 cal or .45, and has less recoil. Honestly, you are going to have some difficulty finding a quality weapon for $200, and you will probably have to look at used guns. There is nothing wrong with a used gun, as long as it is still in good condition. I still recommend trying several models. Guns are like shoes: If they are uncomfortable, you will not enjoy them, so try on several models.
  6. rnelan7 macrumors 6502


    Nov 9, 2009
  7. 2jaded2care macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2003
    Personally, I wouldn't go smaller than 9mm... IMO .380 (different from .38) is for backups, not your main weapon.

    I also agree you should increase your budget. You want something that's reliable, which will cost a bit more. Plus you'll want a gunvault mini or something similar.

    As others have said, visit the range and try different things (and get trained). However, gun shows do tend to be cheaper than shops, there's more competition.

    Glocks are reliable, but don't have conventional safeties. Berettas usually have safeties, are smooth, but not as sturdy as some others. Sigs and HKs are expensive, but very reliable. Most Sigs don't have safeties, just decocking levers. (IMO the 1911 safety is the easiest/most ergonomic, but they tend to be expensive guns as well.)

    If you consider used, have someone who knows what to look for teach you the basics.
  8. .JahJahwarrior. macrumors 6502

    Jan 1, 2007
    9mm is a good caliber imho. Cheap to shoot, plenty strong enough for self defense, and readily available. Expect to pay a minimum of $10 for a box of 50 rounds. For home defense purposes, you might want to keep the gun loaded with a better, more expensive self defense round (some form of jacketed hollow point) but you can shoot cheaper ammo at the range.

    Guns are not cheap. Cheap guns are not reliable, or as reliable, as a quality gun. How valuable is your life? Take that into account when choosing a self defense weapon. Do you want to save $200 but face the real possibility of a gun that malfunctions and does not fire when an attacker is attempting to kill you?

    I am a big fan of polymer guns. Glocks and Springfield Armory XD or XDm models fit the bill. Glocks don't fit my hands very well, the corners are sharp and hurt my fingers.

    Glocks and XD pistols both have a safety built in to the trigger. The XD line also has a 1911 style grip safety. On an XD, the gun will not fire until the gun is being held, so you cannot discharge it by catching a string in the trigger area as you can with a Glock. However, the primary safety on any pistol one of the HUGE rules of gun safety: 1. Never point a gun at anything you do not wish to destroy. 2. Never put your finger on the trigger unless you want to destroy the object you are pointing at. If you keep your finger off the trigger, it is virtually impossible to fire a gun (some guns will fire if dropped from a sufficient height right on the muzzle, but it is my understanding that neither the Glock nor the SA suffer from this design flaw) and if you never point it at anything you do not wish to destroy, it's hard to cause any damage.

    Glock 26 and Springfield XD9SC are both 9mm guns small enough for concealed carry. Please remember you typically need a special permit to carry a concealed weapon. I believe the Glock 17 and 19 are both 9mm pistols with longer barrels, and the SA XD9 comes in other sizes as well.

    Save money by going with the black slide option, over the shiny stainless steel.

    Whatever you do, or buy, go take a gun safety course. Then, go to the range and shoot your gun. I'd recommend shooting 500 or more rounds to ensure it functions flawlessly. Learn how to deal with problems with the gun. Then, go back to the range and shoot as often as you can. I am a firm supporter of gun control. If you are going to shoot a gun, control it well so you hit what you need to hit and nothing else, and nothing less. :) Guns are dangerous weapons but so are cars and fire. Learn to respect it an dhandle it safely, and enjoy exercising your 2nd amendment rights.
  9. adk macrumors 68000


    Nov 11, 2005
    Stuck in the middle with you
    If you just want something cheap to plink around with, start with a .22 handgun. You won't be dirty harry, but a box of ammo is $20 for 500.
  10. alecmcmahon macrumors regular

    May 18, 2007
    Woodbridge, NJ
    If i were you i'd at least double my budget.

    This is a firearm we are talking about, not a toy. You dont want to buy some cheaply made gun that will blow up in your face the first time you go to shoot it.

    Im going with a beretta 92 for my first hand gun.

    Remember, you will also need accessories to go with your purchase, such as cleaning supplies, transportation gear such as lock boxes, ear muffs, bullets, etc etc.
  11. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    1) Squirt gun
    2) Nerf gun
    3) Soldering gun

    All are within your budget, have cheap ammo. You can probably get the soldering gun in a metallic finish.
  12. 2jaded2care macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2003
    Soldering guns are dangerous!

    BTW, when shopping, don't dry fire a new gun without asking first. Some people get touchy about that.
  13. kmaute macrumors 6502


    Oct 5, 2008
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_2_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8C148 Safari/6533.18.5)

    I would seriously recommend looking at some revolvers. You could probably find a S&W 66 for $300-350. I have a couple 686's which are a bi larger and they are my favorites to carry and shoot. Autoloaders are great but 6 .357 mags in a 2,3,4" pistol would be hard to beat. Durable as hell and dead reliable.
  14. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    Here's a link to Cabela's pistol library. You can sort by price. As others have said, you need a higher budget for a decent gun. I got a .22 at a pawn shop in the '80s for $200 and it lasted less than a year. I replaced it with a .22 revolver that lasted until it was stolen. The second came from a gun shop. My thoughts on guns in the home are this: Decide why you think you need it and if you will really be willing to use it. Don't go cheap if you answer yes to the previous. A pistol that doesn't fire won't do you any good.


    Cabela's Sporting Goods
  15. fivepoint macrumors 65816


    Sep 28, 2007

    Seems pretty simple.
    • You're going to want a pistol if it's for home protection.
    • You're going to want a 9mm if you want inexpensive ammunition (I question this requisite though if you're not going to be using it for entertainment purposes at a range, etc. I mean, if you're never going to shoot it, what do you care if the bullets are $0.10 a piece or $5.00 a piece?)
    • You're going to want an affordable gun which once again suggests 9mm.

    I think you might end up spending more like $300-$500 if you buy new... but you should be able to find something nice that fits your needs.

    BTW, you'll have the choice between revolver and pistol. A revolver will be more reliable and less likely to misfire. However, they only hold 6-7 shots usually. My cousin just got a new Smith and Wesson 9mm pistol and he really likes it. It holds 19 shots in the clip + 1 in the chamber, so yeah, plenty of ammo to dispatch multiple foes. ;) Or hopefully targets instead.
  16. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    May 7, 2004
    Sod off
    If you are shopping for home defense, and your budget is capped at $300, you are going to have to look at used weapons.

    I suggest choosing a weapon in either 9mm or .38 Special calibers. Both are cheap, proven, and widely available. They are the best balance between cost and performance.

    As for the weapon itself, since you are looking at used guns you are going to have to do your research so you know what you are looking at. Revolvers are less expensive; your best bet for a simple, effective home defense weapon would probably be a Ruger, Smith & Wesson, or perhaps a Taurus revolver in .38 Special. They are common, cheap, easy to use. Alternately, Choosing a .357 Magnum revolver would give you the option of using either .357 Magnum or .38 Special ammunition.

    Semi-automatics are more expensive than revolvers, so finding a good one in your budget will be more difficult. A safe choice would be the Glock 17 or 19. This is a reasonably priced, standard 9mm service weapon used by a large number of military and police units worldwide. Smith & Wesson semiautos are popular in the USA as well.

    Most gun owners have extremely strong opinions about which weapons are good for home defense. The general reality is that just about any handgun of .38/9mm caliber or better is perfectly adequate - assuming that the weapon is in good shape, the ammo is good quality, and (most importantly) the shooter is skilled.

    Finally, I would avoid any guns made by Hi-Point.
  17. tunerX Suspended


    Nov 5, 2009
    Why the need for inexpensive ammunition? If it is for home defense I don't think you will need to fire a whole box of ammunition.

    Also, as others said. Going cheap, usually isn't good if you want reliability.

    My current handgun of choice is the Kimber Ultra Carry II. Little and lethal.
  18. iJohnHenry, Dec 6, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010

    iJohnHenry macrumors P6


    Mar 22, 2008
    On tenterhooks
    Because it allows for plenty of "cheap" practice, and practice makes perfect, and allows some measure of confidence that the weapon will not fail, when need for it's primary purpose.

    As stated, it can be loaded with jacketed rounds, when kept in the home.
  19. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    May 7, 2004
    Sod off
    If you are familiarizing yourself with a firearm with which you intend to defend your life, you ought to be firing off quite a few boxes of ammunition for practice. Far too many people assume they are better than they actually are in handling their weapon. You can never be too prepared.

    Depends on what you call "cheap". Just because a handgun cost a lot of money doesn't mean it won't fail due to factory defects, wear or user error. There are plenty of $1000+ Kimbers (among other expensive guns)that come from the factory with issues. As always, have a gunsmith look over any used (or even new) weapon you intend to use in self-defense roles to make sure it is in good working order.

    Cheap, in my mind, would be a bargain brand pocket pistol or a 9mm Hi-Point. Those are weapons I cannot recommend. But there's nothing cheap about a decent Ruger or S&W revolver, even though many of them are reasonably priced.

    The 9mm is a proven round. Enthusiasts have produced reams and reams of arguments as to why you MUST by .40 S&W, or .357 Mag, or .45 ACP, or anything else you can think of. And yes, I would not hesitate to recommend most of those as solid home defense calibers. However, when speaking to someone purchasing their first weapon for home defense, I suggest keeping things simple. The 9mm and .38 Special need no introduction for home defense use, their reputation is proven.

    In terms of buying ammunition, never buy bargain ammo for home defense. Buy and shoot a quality cartridge specifically designed for the job. Practice (often) with the same cartridges you intend to use in a home defense scenario.
  20. glocke12 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2008
    Unless your buying something used, you should budget around $400-$500. This price range will allow you to get a gun from a reputable manufacturer with a rock solid warranty.

    Im assuming that you have never shot before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with guns. Before you rush out and by something, Id suggest doing any of the following:

    1) Find a friend that is into guns, has a different handguns in different calibers and ask him to take you shooting.

    2) Find a website that caters to handgun shooting, there are many state specific and regional specific sites like this. Sign up, introduce yourself and ask advice there, Im betting some members will reply to you with an invitation to a trip to the range.

    3) Go and visit several different gunstores, browse their selection, ask questions and rent guns.

    Once you've tried as many as possible, and informed yourself, than make a decision.

    As for caliber, Id stick with 9mm or 45. Both are readily available in commercial loads and also as surplus. Just an FYI, if you go with 45 get a full size frame as the recoil can be overpowering in smaller frame designs.

    As far as suggestions, here are a few:

    Springfield 1911 based models
    Beretta 92 series
    S&W M&P pistols
    Spingfield XDM series

    There are a few others, but these are the top ones Id personally recommend to someone (in order of preference).

    Don't rule out used either. There is very little that can go wrong with a well maintained weapon, and deals can be had, like this one:


    I have one of these (it was my Dads), and it is a great, reliable compact weapon.

    Last but not least, have you thought about investing in a 22 caliber handgun? This would be a great way to get introduced to firearms handling, marksmanship, etc. while giving you an economical way to shoot.
  21. tunerX Suspended


    Nov 5, 2009
    Where are all these bad Kimbers? I have been shooting at gun clubs all over the country and Kimber is pretty damn high on the list of quality from every shooter I know.

    By cheap, I mean cheap quality and cheap price. Normally a lower price kind of hints at lower quality.

    Also you really do not need to shoot boxes and boxes of ammunition to be familiar with a weapon. I am quite familiar with my 338 rifle but I shoot 6 rounds a year for zero and 1 for an elk kill. My handgun gets fired one magazine every quarter.

    Initially a box of Ammo to get familiar. And keep a full magazine at home. When you go to the range get some more. You don't need to stock 1000 rounds.
  22. steve2112 macrumors 68040


    Feb 20, 2009
    East of Lyra, Northwest of Pegasus
    Wow, I can go through 100 rounds in my Sig or Beretta in one range session. :) I buy stock up on ammo because the range is too expensive. I can get it much cheaper at Academy or Bass Pro than at the range. Some ranges require you to buy there, though. When I talk about cheap ammo, I am talking about different calibers. 9mm is cheaper than .40 or .45 ammo. I always shoot name brand ammo in all my guns.

    BTW, my brother had to send his Kimber Ultra Carry II back to the factory twice. He later sold it and now has a Dan Wesson bobtail. I think Kimbers are great, but probably not worth the premium they charge.
  23. Lord Blackadder, Dec 6, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010

    Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    May 7, 2004
    Sod off
    I'm certainly not trying to bad-mouth Kimber, they have a deservedly high reputation. But Kimbers are just like any gun - subject to defects, wear and user error, as I said before. Just because a new Glock 19 or Springfield XD series costs half as much as a Kimber does not mean it's not a suitable weapon for self-defense.

    Cheap is a relative term. I know quite a few people who swear they'd never trust their life to any gun beside the high-dollar custom piece they own. And that's rubbish. Plently of standard production, reasonably priced handguns represent absolutely reliable home-defense options. I don't want the OP to assume he has to spend $1000 on a gun for self defense, because that is certainly not the case.

    As an aside, one of the best home defense guns you can buy is a simple, inexpensive shotgun like the Remington 870. Obviously less manuverable than a handgun indoors but more versatile in ammo choice, and at any rate a good second option. Very popular with many who keep guns for home defense.

    Without knowing how much firearms experience the OP had I wasn't going to assume anything. If you are already familiar with fireams then yes, you may not need to practice as much. But some people keep only one or two guns for self defense and are neither regular hunters or target shooters. For these people in particular, it is wise to maintain proficiency through practice

    Police and military personnel undergo regular qualification to ensure they stay proficient. There's no reason private individuals shouldn't do the same. Ultimately it's a decision left up to the individual. But as I said, you can never be too prepared.

    Suffice it to say, there are many good-quality inexpensive handguns on the market that shoot inexpensive ammunition and are not cheap in the sense of lacking in quality.
  24. tunerX Suspended


    Nov 5, 2009
    100 rounds a session. If you love the shooting then yeah, the more the better. I really prefer not to shoot a handgun at the range. I travel to different gun clubs to shoot the weapons I am not allowed to own.

    I have a Dan Wesson Commander, I got feed failures on that one. I have also had feed failures on my Glock 22 and also my Kimber Ultra Carry. If you shoot enough rounds in different environments you are going to get a feed failure. The Dan Wesson is a little too long in the barrel for a good CCW. But the commander does intimidate. That is the one my wife brings to the range, because she can fire fast and accurate with it.

    But back to the OP. Don't think of the ammunition cost as a driving factor. Unless you plan on using this thing in a video game where there are bad guys around every corner.
  25. tunerX Suspended


    Nov 5, 2009
    I agree on that point. Initially, you will spend some money on ammuntion to get familiar. But once you are familiar then the amount of ammunition you need to keep at home should not be that great. You should still do quarterly training. If it is only for home protection and not for a law enforcement job then you should be more time maintaining it then you are shooting it.

    In the Army I fired 49 rounds every 6 months. 9 for zero and 40 for qualification. Did that every year I was in. All other training was with blanks and a blank adapter.

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