Magnum Research Inc., Desert Eagle .44 Magnum (hint: this isn’t one of them)
My cousin in Key West tells me that she recently completed a concealed carry class, and is now in the market for a gun. Her background, as far as I know, was that she was not raised in a culture of guns, and shooting, as my brother Ken and I were. She has asked me for a recommendation for a gun to purchase. I assume that this gun will be used for home defense, occasional carry, and maybe some recreational shooting. Having that in mind, I will pick out a couple guns I think might work for her.
As I thought about this, I realized it is not as simple as I thought it would be to choose a few guns to recommend. I have been around guns since about age 9. I have shot them recreationally, hunted with them, and carried one on and off-duty as a police officer for just shy of 25 years. They are as normal and common to me as a hammer and saw are to a carpenter. In fact, a carpenter would envy Ken and I that he could only have as many hammers and saws as we have guns. Like a carpenter, we look at guns as tools to accomplish a task. We have work guns, target shooting guns, competition shooting guns, cheap guns, expensive guns…well, you get the idea.
So I have to place myself in the mind of someone who has not handled guns extensively, and to which they might seem mysterious, confusing, scary, dangerous and intimidating. They need something simple, concealable, reliable, relatively inexpensive, and accurate at self-defense distances. Is there any one gun that meets these needs? There are several, in my view.
The trainers recommended she get a Lady Smith, in .38 caliber,otherwise known as a Smith and Wesson 642LS. It is a snub-nosed, 5 shot revolver. I don’t know what makes this one any more “lady” friendly than the two 5 shot snubbies I own, except it is available with pink grips and has :Lady Smith” engraved on the side. My cousin said she did not like it; I would say, ultimately even if this were the perfect gun for her based on her requirements, but she doesn’t like it, then pass. Having said that, I do think a short barreled 4” or less, 5 or 6 shot revolver in .38 is quite possibly the best choice for a home defense handgun. It has no safety to worry about under stress, it hold enough shots to do the job, it comes in a proven combat caliber, it is small enough to conceal, and it always, always goes bang when you pull the trigger. They are plenty accurate out to 15 yds or so; if you are shooting at someone past this range you probably should have considered other options than using a gun.
Lady Smith Smith and Wesson 442
The LS is stainless, and it is heavy for it’s size; I recommend any similar revolver in lightweight alloys such as this SW 442. Much easier to carry in a purse or bag. I also like the shrouded hammer, that won’t get snagged on things. For anyone seriously considering a small revolver, I recommend looking at Taurus. They are essentially a company that makes high quality knock offs of other companies guns, at a much better price. They are hard to beat for price and selection, especially in revolvers.
I am a huge fane of Ruger: I have had several and find them to be solid, reliable, and a good value. Here is their lightweight revolver, the LCR
The other option is a semi-automatic pistol in 9mm. I assume my cousin shot these in her class; and maybe liked them better than revolver. If so, I agree with her. My concern is that these guns are not idiot proof, no offense intended, like revolvers ( load, point, pull trigger,bang). There is a dizzying number of models, styles, variations and configurations available, so much so that it can be overwhelming. Therefore, I will simplify it by ruling out 1911’s ( don’t even think about it), anything with a double/single action trigger, and anything by any off-brand manufacturers ( including Taurus for semi-autos) due to reliability issues. That leaves the following: a Ruger LC9, a Glock 26, Springfield Armory XD Compact and the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield. Undoubtedly someone will say well what about this one, or that one, I have one and it is great. This article is geared to beginners; it must be kept simple and straightforward.
RUGER LC9 9mm. Like all the guns listed here, this one is reliable, small enough to conceal, and simple to use. It has a safety, a longish trigger pull, which is good for beginners and is fun to shoot. Very accurate out to 15 yards. it holds 8 shots when loaded. I have one and have carried it off-duty daily for over a year. This is a good, all around gun at a very reasonable price.
Smith and Wesson M&P Shield in 9mm. I really liked this gun when I saw it a week or so ago. It is the same size as the Ruger LC9, and also carries 8 shots when loaded. It has a shorter, crisper, more Glocklike trigger pull, which I also like, but may be trickier for a new shooter until you fire several boxes of ammo through it. The Shield also has a safety.
Springfield Armory XD Compact in 9mm. Essentially a Glock clone at least in terms of how it functions. The mechanical differences that some knowledgeable folks will point out that make it different than a Glock are of no interest to a new shooter. Suffice to say that this excellent gun has been proven to be as reliable, sturdy and accurate as Glock.
Glock 26 In my view, the best all around concealed carry gun out there. It holds 11 loaded, but can carry up to 18 if you want to use a magazine from a Glock 17. It is definitely thicker and a little heavier than the other two, but not to the point of being too heavy for concealed carry. I love the trigger, and I also love the fact that there is no safety. Once it is loaded with a round chambered, just pull the trigger and it goes bang. I have had mine for about 7 years. Never once has it ever malfunctioned. The finish simply will not wear off, no matter what you do to it. It is very accurate, and due to the design, felt recoil is lower than other guns of the same size and caliber. This gun has been around awhile, and there are tons of holsters and pouches for carrying it in just about any manner you can think of.
My thoughts on gun safeties. I have had many non-gun folks question how I could carry a gun with no safety, referring to my Glocks. It is a cliché but your index finger is your safety. Keep it off the trigger and nothing happens. My thought is that a safety is false security. Would you play with the trigger of a gun with a safety? No? Why not? It has a safety, right? You don’t because that is dumb, and unsafe, and defies common sense. So why have the safety at all then? What is it accomplishing? If you are so unsafe with guns that you need a safety, maybe guns aren’t for you. And if the moment ever comes, at 2:00am when you hear someone coming in the back window, or if someone demands your car keys at knifepoint in a parking lot, will you, the person who has not shot thousand of rounds of ammo over the last 35 years, remember to take the safety off? Are you really going to practice enough to get that secure in your abilities? Of course, this assumes you will carry your gun in a proper holster and not simply drop it loose into a purse or gym bag or dresser drawer. That is asking for an accidental discharge.
Those are my choices. If I had to pick an auto, it would be the Glock. Simple, foolproof, reliable, and accurate. You can’t ask for more in a gun. Second pick- any short barreled revolver, for the same reasons. All of these guns can be had for under $500, used maybe less. What are your thoughts, gunnuts out there? Have I left anything out?