Sooner or later, most of us gun people will be asked (usually by someone new to carrying a firearm for personal protection), “What’s the best gun for concealed carry?” I typically have at least one or two novice gun owners in a carry class of a dozen people, and this question nearly always comes up.
When you are asked for firearms advice, you may be tempted to recommend the firearm you yourself carry. Hey, it’s only natural. Just don’t be like those “true believers” who worship at the altar of only one brand. There are a lot of good guns out there.
Instead, diagnose the patient before recommending treatment. What is his (or her) experience level? Is he totally new to firearms? Does he have considerable experience with rifles or shotguns but is now contemplating getting a gun for carry? Go over the differences between revolvers and auto-pistols. Explain how even auto-pistols can vary in ease of takedown and cleaning.
What is his lifestyle? Does he typically dress in jeans and T-shirts or formal business attire? Either could affect method of carry. And of course, consider the individual’s budget. Showing someone guns he cannot afford is pointless. Focus specifically on the person’s needs.
What are his physical characteristics, and how will those attributes affect his gun of choice? For example, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 220-pound male and a 5-foot-nothing, 100-pound female may not have the exact same tolerance for recoil. True, they might, but you need to find out.
As a long-time instructor, I like to have a new student handle a variety of firearms. Then, once he finds a gun that feels right in his hands, I strongly recommend actual firing on the range. If you do not own the kind of gun the individual wants to test, check out local ranges. Thankfully, many now offer rental guns.
Don’t get hung up on caliber; the most important element, especially for a novice, is how well he can shoot his chosen weapon. In reality, just about any modern caliber from .380 Auto to .38 Special to .40 S&W to .45 Auto will do the job. And a fast and accurate man or woman with a little .22 Magnum revolver will stop an assailant quicker than an untrained fool wildly flinging lead with a .45 auto-pistol.
Today, lighter guns, both revolvers and auto-pistols, are all the rage. But the problem of harsh recoil from a super-lightweight gun is not what concerns a person during a gunfight; he will be so pumped with adrenaline that he will not even notice. The real issue is that if the gun is extremely unpleasant to shoot, the individual simply will not practice as often as he should. It’s human nature. Be sure to explain this.
Thanks to Hollywood, too many people think lasers are a magic substitute for shooting skill. They aren’t. Make sure a new shooter understands the limitations of lasers and that frequent training and practice are mandatory, with or without a laser. Speed and skill, not gadgets, win gunfights.
Finally, a new shooter will often seem obsessed with manual safeties, primarily because he does not understand their real purpose. Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of manual safeties. In general, I suggest double-action-only revolvers or auto-pistols with longer trigger pulls without manual safeties. But that’s just my approach. Just be sure you explain the pros and cons of manual safeties clearly.
No matter who asks, always try to give solid, unbiased advice. In the long run, the individual will appreciate it.