In part one of the series, we looked at the benefit of having a professional instructor guide a new shooter through their options when selecting a firearm for self defense.  A class like InSights Basic Handgun, where a shooter can try a multitude of different firearms is a huge benefit, as it allows them to experience and learn what different action types are like.

However, most new shooters interested in selecting a gun for self-defense won’t take advantage of classes like that, or NSSF’s First Shots program.  So how can we recommend a new gun to someone that doesn’t have a good mental framework of what makes a gun good or bad?  Here are a few handy guidelines to help someone select a good firearm for self-defense if that person is unable or unwilling to attend a class.

  • What are law enforcement officers carrying?  By and large, law enforcement agencies are going to be carrying reliable, well made firearms.  Examples include Sig P226 and P229 pistols, Glocks of all shapes and sizes, S&W M&Ps, etc.  As a general rule, selecting the same firearm used by local and federal law enforcement will likely insure that the new shooter gets a reliable firearm.

If possible, make a list of those guns.  For example, one of the local PDs in this area carries HK P30s, the state agency carries M&Ps, and another local agency carries Glocks.  With that list of guns assembled, try and get to a local range and try those guns out – indoor ranges that rent guns will also generally be able to provide some basic instruction to go with the rental, but it will be very, very basic.

  • Avoid “gimmick” guns.  There is an unfortunate market right now for firearms that are sold as “self-defense” guns, but are unfortunately not able to compete with a simple Glock 19 in terms of utility and durability.  Again, this goes back to example one – if cops and the military aren’t carrying it, there’s probably a reason for that.  Derringers and snake-shot revolvers do a great job of blowing up watermelons, but are not optimal for defending your life.

The final piece of advice should be obvious, but it’s often missed – once you’ve selected that new gun, you’ve got to shoot it.  More importantly, shoot it with people who are better at shooting than you are, because those shooters whether they’re professional instructors or IDPA Master Class shooters will be able to help you improve your shooting as well.