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  1. #1
    jamesf0622 is offline Junior Member
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    Complete novice with a ton of questions.

    I'm interested in buying a handgun. I thought I was overwhelmed before, but after signing up on here last night, I'm really confused now!!! There are so many different manufacturers, models, and calibers to choose from!

    How much of a difference does the brand make? Is buying a gun like the difference between buying a cadillac and a yugo? What caliber is most effective? What makes a pistol more accurate than any other?

    I'm in the army and my gun experience is limited to what the army uses. I've mainly fired M16s and M4s, but I have fired the Army's 9mm Beretta on numerous occasions. I've heard a lot of bad things about it, but I wouldn't know the difference. I have nothing to compare it to. A gun that has caught my eye is the Springfield 1911, but again, I have no real experience. I haven't even held one! I haver a friend who is a cop and he uses a Glock (I don't know the caliber), I held it and got a feel for it, but I wadn't really into it.

    I apologize for all the questions, but I have pretty much ZERO experience and I'm like a sponge right now.

    Oh yea, I don't want to spend an arm and a leg either. What could I expect to spend?

    Thanks in advance!!!!

  2. #2
    Shipwreck's Avatar
    Shipwreck is online now HGF Forum Moderator
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    I wrote this last year to be of help for people in your situation:

    Newbie to guns? Need help? Where to start?

    Try reading that first, and follow some of the tips - The rental (or meeting up with people and trying their guns) is the best idea so U can find out what you like.

    As I stated in my original post linked above - the are a variety of brands, and most are good. The price does vary - for instance, HKs are always expensive, but are great guns. U need not pay the price of an HK to get a good gun, though.

    Beretta 92s are fantastic guns. Most of the complainst U hear about them are from people still pissed that the Beretta replaced the 1911 as the service pistol. And, since the military doesn't buy factory magazines (they use cheap aftermarket ones instead) - they sometimes have issues. But, a Beretta 92 with a factory mag will be 100% reliable. I've owned several 92s over the years, and I plan to probably buy a stainless one next month.

    Now, there are certain guns and brands I won't buy - but we all have that list. Personally, I won't buy a Taurus, and I have my reasons. But U will have tons of Taurus fans here that will disagree with me.

    U will also get tons of suggestions in posts below mine. And, everyone has their fav gun - they will recommend it to you (mine is the Walther P99 A/S). But, find what works for YOU!

    Also, guns I thought were my fav 10 years ago are not my favs now. This will probably not be your only gun, if you get into handguns and enjoy shooting.

  3. #3
    Mike Barham's Avatar
    Mike Barham is offline Senior Member
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    Greetings and welcome from a fellow soldier.

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesf0622 View Post
    How much of a difference does the brand make?
    Not a whole lot in terms of quality, as long as you stick with an established, reputable manufacturer. There are many: Beretta, Glock, Heckler and Koch, Springfield Armory, Smith and Wesson, SIG-Sauer, FN/Browning, and more. The quality differences between guns like this is minimal.

    Is buying a gun like the difference between buying a cadillac and a yugo?
    It can be. At the Yugo end, you have makers like Hi-Point (under $200). At the Cadillac end, there are semi-custom houses like Wilson Combat and Les Baer ($2500 and up). Most people choose something in between, like the manufacturers above, from about $450 to $1000.

    What caliber is most effective?
    I'll assume you mean for self-defense. Opinions vary widely, and the more you read, the more confused you will become. My opinion is that, in autos, anything from 9mm up is adequate for general self-defense. So, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and some lesser-known rounds are all good. In a revolver, if your tastes go that way, .38 Special is the widely-accepted baseline.

    What makes a pistol more accurate than any other?
    There are two kinds of accuracy: mechanical and practical.

    Mechanical accuracy is primarily the result of close tolerances between parts, so they come together exactly the same way after every shot. Combined with high-quality, consistent ammunition, a well-fitted gun will normally be very mechanically accurate.

    Practical accuracy is accuracy you can use. It comes from a good "human-machine" interface. A comfortable grip that allows you to properly engage the trigger, a trigger action that is easy to use consistently, and sights that are easy to see and align - these things add up to a gun that has good practical accuracy.

    In a defense gun, practical accuracy is vastly more important than mechanical accuracy. A gun with excellent mechanical accuracy, but poor practical accuracy, is a gun that possesses accuracy you cannot use.

    I have fired the Army's 9mm Beretta on numerous occasions. I've heard a lot of bad things about it, but I wouldn't know the difference.
    Most of the bitching about the Beretta comes from people who never forgave the Army for dumping the old 1911 .45. The Beretta works fine and is very reliable. It does have an unrefined trigger system, a backwards safety lever, and a big grip. But lots of guns on today's market have similar, uhhhh, "features."

    A gun that has caught my eye is the Springfield 1911, but again, I have no real experience.
    1911s can be nice pistols. I carried one for many years. However, it is generally less reliable than more modern designs. Conversely, it is easier to shoot well than most modern designs - it has practical accuracy in spades. If you are looking for a defense gun, it can work, but you have to be patient with it and REALLY want it. My opinion is that the 1911 is best left to relatively experienced enthusiasts.

    I haver a friend who is a cop and he uses a Glock (I don't know the caliber), I held it and got a feel for it, but I wadn't really into it.
    I changed from the 1911 to Glock a few years ago (though I carry an M9 here in theater, of course). In my opinion, the Glock is the best defensive pistol on the market. It has a low bore axis (sits low in the hand), the trigger action allows very fast shooting, it is extremely reliable and durable, and light and easy to carry.

    I apologize for all the questions, but I have pretty much ZERO experience and I'm like a sponge right now.
    Don't apologize. We were all beginners once.

    Oh yea, I don't want to spend an arm and a leg either. What could I expect to spend?
    Depends on what you select. In some cases, you pay a premium for a name (cough....HK...cough). For a good mid-tier pistol that is reliable and reasonably easy to shoot well, expect to pay $500 and up.

    If economics are a consideration - and on Army pay they probably are - also remember to check into the cost of ammo. 9mm is generally the least expensive to shoot. Shooting a lot is important to building skill, especially for a beginner.

    Also look into training. The NRA Basic Pistol course is a good start, and there are more advanced courses available at many schools around the country.
    Last edited by Mike Barham; 07-10-2007 at 01:24 AM.
    Employed by Galco Gunleather - www.galcogunleather.com / Veteran OEF VIII

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  4. #4
    Baldy's Avatar
    Baldy is offline Senior Member
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    The only thing I can add is it's a lot of fun to go out in the woods or to the local range with friends or family and shoot. Good shooting.
    Last edited by Baldy; 07-09-2007 at 03:37 PM.

  5. #5
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    Wandering Man is offline GM HGF Gold Member
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    Good advice above from Shipwreck and Mike.

    My two cents is to consider the cost of ammo in your decision about caliber. As Mike pointed out 9mm seems to be the most available and cheapest. You may want to avoid the exotic calibers for now.

    And probably the most important thing to consider:

    Quote Originally Posted by Shipwreck View Post
    This will probably not be your only gun, if you get into handguns and enjoy shooting.
    Don't get so worried about what your going to buy that you end up not buying anything. This will be your FIRST gun. Not your only. You'll have plenty of time to develop expertise and preferences as you go along. Whatever you buy, it will not be a mistake, just your first purchase.

    Good luck and have fun!

    WM
    Never argue with drunks or crazy people.

  6. #6
    Snowman's Avatar
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    Very solid advice. I'd like to emphasize that ergonomics, reliablity, accuracy, suitablity for your purpose, and "cool factor" are what makes a gun good for you. Reliablity and accuracy are virtually assured with the more established gun makers - such as those which have sections of this forum devoted to them. It will also depend on your purpose (i.e. home defense, concealed carry, etc.) whether you want a semi-auto or revolver for example, or full size/compact, single-action(SA)/double-action(DA)/double-action only (DAO), caliber of choice, etc. Ergonomics is a huge factor that will really narrow your choices for you. For example, I find that Glocks are about as ergonomic as a 2x4...but I have smaller hands; you might find they fit you like a glove. Finally, you need to like the gun you choose. If you don't you won't shoot it, you'll feel like you wasted your money, and generally be sorry. If you like it you'll form sort of an attachment to it, which is a good thing.

    As far as calibers for self defense, it's a decision one must make for himself. There are those that "have a .45 because they don't make a .46" (this is an outdated argument, of course) as well as those that figure anything is better than nothing. I post these links all the time, but they're a good read and may help your decision.

    http://www.chuckhawks.com/ammo_by_anonymous.htm
    http://internetarmory.com/handgunammo.htm

    Good Luck
    Last edited by Snowman; 07-09-2007 at 03:56 PM.

  7. #7
    Shipwreck's Avatar
    Shipwreck is online now HGF Forum Moderator
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    If you look, research, contemplate, and decide on your next purchase, and it ISN'T a Walther P99, I'll be very disappointed

  8. #8
    jamesf0622 is offline Junior Member
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    I just found out there is a gun show this weekend in Dothan, AL. I live about 30 minutes away and will probably go to that. I've never been to a gun show, so what should I expect? Also I obviously know how to fire a gun, but what are some things I should look for?

    For example, I play the guitar, so when I go buy a guitar there are certain things I look for. I can pretty much tell (regardless of the brand name) within the first minute of handling the guitar whether or not I like it.

    The only thing I can think of to do is to hold the gun like my intent is to shoot and look down the sights. Are there certain things I should be inspecting? I'm very familiar with rifles....at least the army's rifles, but I'm really pretty much clueless with a handgun. I'm not even that familiar with the M9.

    I don't want to go there and look like a complete tool, you know?

    I perused those other websites. Good reading. I still get the feeling I just opened up a LARGE can of worms, but like anything new, I think I will get the gist of it.

    I'm pretty sure I want to go the route of a semi-auto handgun. I like the way they look better, and I'm already somewhat familiar with the feel. Plus I think they will be more fun to shoot.

  9. #9
    Anxiety.'s Avatar
    Anxiety. is offline Member
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    First off welcome to the forum. I too didn't know a lot about guns when I came here, hence the reason I came here. But I knew a little mostly about revolvers. Which are great guns but not really my bag, its just what I grew up around. That and the fact the only gun I own is a revolver. Anyway enough rambling.

    My wife bought me an encyclopedia called The Complete Encyclopedia of Pistols and Revolvers, what a hell of a book. I read almost all of it in the first few days. It has all sorts of information that would be very helpful to you. I admit it will be confusing at first, if you read it that is. After I read what I wanted to know I felt pretty confident about my new knowledge, not that I compare to anyone here. But anyway if you can pick up that book.

  10. #10
    jamesf0622 is offline Junior Member
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    This gun really tickles my fancy.








    I'm really looking forward to the gun show this weekend and getting an idea of what's out there. And I will see if i can find that book and check it out.

  11. #11
    SuckLead's Avatar
    SuckLead is offline Senior Member
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    The gun you linked to is a pretty good choice.

    All I can say is to research like mad. I went a little overboard with mine and spent 8 months shooting rental guns and researching on the internet before I found my first gun, which was great for what I needed it for and then got sick and died a few years later, but it put up with a lot in those few years, and that's a lot to ask of a firearm. My second gun was an impulse and it's the best in the group. Both are well known companies, which is good to stick to. So some things in gun hunting are good research, others are pure luck.

    Coming here is a good move. One thing I always tell my customers who are researching and shopping around is to avoid those gun rags for new gun buying research and ask real people who aren't getting any company perks. And, in my honest opinion, this is one of the best forums to start at. Also, hang around at the gun shop and become a regular. Sales people turn it off a bit for people they know well. And the customers in the store will no doubt chime in sometimes as well.

    If you are going to a gunshow and may be buying, try not to go alone. Try to find someone who knows what they are talking about, and use them at the show. My mom does that with me; she has not, so far, even bought ammo without asking me or one of the range officers where she shoots about it. And it has saved her some grief especially at gun shows where some of those dealers thought they could unload something on her.

    Other than that, you got some great advise in here so far.

  12. #12
    tony pasley's Avatar
    tony pasley is online now Senior Member
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    First welcome aboard, next round you're buying. Advise on going to the gun show first leave you're money and credit cards at home, second if you can take some one you know and trust who knows about guns to help you learn.
    Gunshows can be a great learning tool but also a way to waste a lot of money( the boothes are filled with "salespeople" not your friends) for you and money made for them. Go enjoy and learn by seeing, feeling, pick up literture, and have a good time. Leave Money At Home!!!!

  13. #13
    jamesf0622 is offline Junior Member
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    I'm taking my friend with me. He know a little about handguns but has been out of the game for awhile.. Either way he knows WAY more than I do about it. I don't plan on buying anything. I just want to look around and maybe get a feel for the different kind of guns. See what "fits" me. I also want to get an idea of prices too. Nobody chimed in yet about what to look for...anybody?

    I'll have to look around for ranges where I can rent the guns. I think that's a pretty good idea.

    What got me to finally decide for sure that I want to get a gun was the news story about the group of teens that broke into a woman's house and gang-raped her and beat her and her 12 y/o son up, then forced the boy to have sex with his mom. This world is getting uglier by the day and I don't think it's a good idea for me to not be able to protect myself anymore. My bare hands can only do so much, but they are pretty useless against another guy with a gun 50 ft. from me.

    Anybody in Alabama planning on going to the gun show in Dothan this weekend?

  14. #14
    jamesf0622 is offline Junior Member
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    My friend was also explaining to me about stopping power and caliber sizes. e said the 45 is good, but it has a tendency of just going through. Whereas a 9mm or 40 are better choices with the 40 or 10mm being the best compromise. Any truth to that?

  15. #15
    SuckLead's Avatar
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    It's tough for those who don't know you to advise on what to buy. We all have our favorites and must haves, but what's right for me may not be right for you. Shooting a bunch of different calibers and a bunch of different brands is the best way to decide. 9MM with the right loads is a great defence round, as is a .45. We can (and have) spend a lot of time debating the merits of both and everything in between. But in the end it depends on what round you feel most comfortable with in the gun that feels best and shoots best for you. Maybe a .45 is too much to handle, in which case the stopping power drops because you'd hesitate with a .45. Or maybe a 9MM isn't enough, in which case you have less faith in it and fire more shots than needed. Best advice: touch everything they let you touch, and shoot the ones that feel best in your hands. When you're on the range, you'll know what is the gun for you.

    My first gun, my Sig, wasn't even in the running for things to buy until I shot one to get a feel for a .40 when they didn't have the Ruger I was going to buy for rent. And the Glock 21, good lord, it felt like heck in my hand, but they don't have the SF version to rent so I rented the normal 21 and it felt completely different in my hands while shooting than just holding it. So really, make it a priority to find a range with a wide variety of rentals and rent like crazy.
    Last edited by SuckLead; 07-09-2007 at 11:26 PM.

  16. #16
    Mike Barham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesf0622 View Post
    My friend was also explaining to me about stopping power and caliber sizes. e said the 45 is good, but it has a tendency of just going through. Whereas a 9mm or 40 are better choices with the 40 or 10mm being the best compromise. Any truth to that?
    With modern hollow point ammo, none of them is likely to pass through a human torso. With hardball (military-type full metal jacket), all are likely to go through a human body. 9mm is more likely to do so than .45, when using hardball.

    You do not want a 10mm as a new shooter. It kicks hard, is hard to find, and is expensive to shoot.

    .45 is a good caliber, and has been putting bad guys down for a hundred years. However, with modern ammunition, it isn't a great deal better than good 9mm loadings, and no better at all than .40.

    From the defensive perspective, the hardware is the least important thing. Gunnies get all tied in knots over one-millimeter differences in calibers, but in the end, it barely matters. Defensively, what does matter is mindset (coolness under pressure, a resolute attitude), marksmanship (hitting the target, and fast), gunhandling (safety and competence), tactics (not getting hurt while you shoot the bad guy), and avoidance (preventing the need to shoot at all).
    Employed by Galco Gunleather - www.galcogunleather.com / Veteran OEF VIII

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  17. #17
    jamesf0622 is offline Junior Member
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    This website is great. I have learned more in one day than I would have imagined. I think I will end up going with a .40 or .45 just for that warm fuzzy.

    But who knows...I looked up ranges in my local area and there are a couple. And considering I'm in the army, it shouldn't be too difficult to link up with a gun enthusiast to help me out too. And the upcoming gun show will help a lot too.

    I think it will really end up coming down to ergonomics and sadly, price. Budget is most likely going to be a pretty big deal.

  18. #18
    VegasEgo's Avatar
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    advice

    The biggest think that helped make my decision, was not only the internet, but just going to the range and rent guns, most gun owners(at least in my area) will trade guns with you, to shoot. Just go to the range shoot some different ones, try a few out. Dont listen to wat anyone says about how 'badass' a gun will make u to own it, by something reasonable, but yet something that u feel safe in buying. Anything that anyone mentions is a good choice, for the person who mentioned them. Just try different guns, and see wat you like. I would stay away from a 1911 style frame, for your first purchase, they are alittle difficult to field strip at first, but after awhile they are awesome!

    If budget is a big deal there are a ton of companies that make great pistols, for low prices, Springfield, Smith and Wesson, Glock, Kahr, FNP series, and walther are all great guns for a lower budget...

  19. #19
    SuckLead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesf0622 View Post
    I think it will really end up coming down to ergonomics and sadly, price. Budget is most likely going to be a pretty big deal.
    Nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you don't get tempted by the great prices of things like Hi-Point and Jennings. Check out the Rugers for a decent gun with a good price tag as well as Kahr and Springfield. Taurus has a few good ones out now, too, but I'm not a fan myself. And if you look hard enough you can usually get a good deal on a Glock, too.

  20. #20
    Madmardigan's Avatar
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    Welcome to the world of opinions, Mr. f0622. There is no more confusing, confounding, frustrating and downright biased place to seek an opinion than a firearms forum.

    Fortunately, if you have the stomach to make your own opinion, there is also no more informative of a place than such a forum to research. There are some people out there who actually know the "skinny", as my Grandad used to say and these knowledgable people will not give you an easy answer like, "Oh yeah, you should buy X brand because it's (insert gunzine slogan here)" or "Y brand is junk because of (place second-hand opinion here)." They will tell you to decide what your weapon is for and go from there.

    Not being one of these people, I would say to look at everything, shoot what you can, have fun and welcome to the club.

    P.S.

    One pistol is merely the beginning of a collection.
    Last edited by Madmardigan; 07-10-2007 at 02:52 AM.

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