A lot of people ask me on input on their first firearms. I am always incredibly uncomfortable answering this question for a variety of reasons. Your first firearm is a very personal choice and needs to be based on your own needs, not mine. My needs have been shaped by years carrying a gun for work and personal protection. Below are my thoughts on what you should consider when buying your first firearm, or frankly any firearm.
First and foremost, what is the intent of the firearm? Is this a home protection only handgun? Plinking, competition, or every day personal protection? The intent of the firearm will really shape a lot of your choices. For instance, if I am going to get a gun for home protection only, meaning I won’t be trying to conceal carry it, then I would want a gun that fully fits my hand and has the most amount of ammo that I feel comfortable with. There is no reason to get a sub-compact because many times you won’t be able to get a full grip on the pistol.
Second is cost. I will always caution people not to buy a firearm that is over $1,000 for your first purchase. There are a huge range of great options for a lot less and if it’s your first one, you may not know if this is the right gun for you. You may find later that a backstrap safety doesn’t feel good to you, or that the slide release is just a hair out of reach. I would also caution against the cheapest options! Many times, the cheapest guns are that way for a reason. Either because of reliability, cumbersome controls, or difficult maintenance. Pick a cost you are comfortable with and know that you may not love the very first pistol you buy.
Next is features. Do you want a manual safety, de-cocker, or options for replaceable sights, etc.? These can narrow down your search dramatically to help make the first choice less daunting. Many people will tell you that you MUST have a safety, or ALWAYS buy a gun that you can change the trigger in, or NEVER whatever-other-sage-wisdom-they-have. Ignore them. What MUST ALWAYS matter to you is what you feel comfortable with. If you won’t feel comfortable with a pistol that doesn’t have a safety, that’s what matters. One feature that most people don’t think about and may be important to you is the availability of aftermarket parts. Some people love to customize the look and feel of their firearm.
Finally, and I’ve mentioned it a couple times now, is your comfort. If you aren’t comfortable with the gun, you won’t use it. Plain and simple. Hold the gun, rent one and test it out, talk to friends and read reviews, but be comfortable in your choice. I love revolvers and they feel good in my hands. Many new shooters find revolvers strange and awkward… and that’s ok! You need to be ok with the gun because you are the one that is going to own it. No one else knows how it feels in your hands or how it feels when you fire the gun. I caution you to take a safety course. You need to know how your newly purchased gun operates and how to do so safely.
Some of us were issued our first firearm and didn’t have the option early on, but for those of you who can make that choice of your first firearm, don’t make that purchase lightly. I’ve bought a lot of pistols over the years and I still remember fondly the first pistol I purchased. Remember to make sure it feels good in your hand, meets your needs, and has features that you want on it. And again, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking a safety course. You can never have too much safety or training.