Choosing your Guns and Gear, Part One

There is a ton of gear out there….firearms, support equipment, and accessories. I love it. The smorgasbord of items I can choose from is a delight to me.

Of course, “Buyer Beware” is important to remember, and you have to do your research. A certain amount of what is out there turns out to be garbage- most of us own at least one holster that seemed to be a good idea at the time, and wound up being no use at all. The same goes for flashlights, belts, slings, and even the guns themselves.

On top of the obvious junk, there is also the element of personal preference, and even the issue of body type causing a piece of equipment to be not the best for us, when it works well for others. What works for skinny people might not work for heavier people, and with some items, there is a significant difference between what works for men versus for women. How then do you invest in a firearm and associated gear, without making costly mistakes?

First, and most expensive, is the gun. And the best way to find out which gun is the right one for you is to shoot a lot of guns until you find out.

Unlike a car dealership, where you can test drive the vehicle first, most gun stores don’t let you shoot the goods. If you are lucky you have access to a variety of firearms through gun-owning friends, and they are the kind of friends who will take you shooting and let you try them all. Taking a class can also give you that opportunity, depending on who is teaching it. We bring a good assortment of firearms to every beginner class, and while it can’t cover all of the options, students at least get to try a variety of sizes, weights, grips, sights, and operating systems. There are also some ranges that, for a fee, will let you test out a huge variety of firearms. Educational….and fun too!

It is totally worth the time and money to do one or more of those things. It can save you from an expensive mistake. It is surprising how often a large man will prefer a compact or subcompact, or a tiny woman will love shooting a bulky .45. Instinct would have us assume the opposite, but instinct does not always lead correctly. The right gun for someone is the gun that they shoot well and enjoy shooting, and there is no way to know for sure until they actually shoot it. Try as many different firearms as you can. Does it fit your hands well? Do you like the kind of sights it has? Is the recoil manageable for you? Are the controls easy for you to reach, or are they in weird places? Do you have to pull the trigger to disassemble it? (Okay Glock people, relax. Just kidding. I don’t like that feature, but there are many thousands of Glock owners who love their guns and handle them well.) In short, if you don’t enjoy using the gun, it will likely linger unused in the safe, instead of being part of your life. And shooting is a perishable skill, so frequent practice is important. At this point in my life I can handle most guns well, but I gravitate back to the same model every time.

If the gun you eventually choose is a bit much for your budget, consider saving up for a while, or buying a used firearm from a reputable source. A second-hand firearm from a gun store might already have been inspected by a gunsmith, but if not (or if you get a used gun in a private sale) it is a good idea to have a gunsmith look it over. Incidentally, my favourite gun, the one I use most often and also carry, was purchased second-hand. Five years later, it continues to serve me well, at half the cost of a new one.

I can not stress enough how important it is to choose your main firearm carefully. Even if you read reviews, ask friends, and examine reputations carefully, you might still find yourself in the place of a woman at our most recent class, who had brought her own gun with her. It was a quality gun, and a model many people love. She found herself at the end of class, looking over the models we had let her shoot, and said sadly “I think I bought the wrong gun”. Take the time, do the work, and make sure you end up with a firearm that you love to shoot, that you shoot well, and that fits your carry needs if you intend to carry outside the home.