What Type of Gun Should I Buy?
Everyone has asked this question at one point. WIth all the good and bad advice out there - how do you decide?
Question: What kind of pistol should I buy?
Answer: This is very much a "it depends" answer.  There is no one right gun for anyone. Here is my decision guide to help you make a wise choice.

FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT: What is the purpose? (Home Defense, Concealed Carry, Collecting, Practice, etc.). I will focus only on the first two.
  • Concealed Carry options usually sacrifice magazine capacity AND/OR calibers in favor of a smaller and lighter pistol. Most people will look at either a compact or sub-compact for everyday carry.  Micro-Compacts should be considered only when a larger gun is not concealable.
  • Home Defense allows for virtually any size weapon including full size pistols, rifles and shotguns.

There are a number of factors to consider when buying any firearm.   Capacity, Caliber, and Size.
  • Capacity:  How Many rounds of ammunition will the magazine or cylinder hold.
  • Caliber: The size of the bullet measured in millimeters (mm) or fractions of an inch.
See next blog about ammo.
  • Size: Larger pistols will be able to carry more ammo but will also be more difficult to conceal.

Pistols generally fall into four size categories:  Full, Compact, SUB-Compact and Micro-Compact.
RULE OF THUMB #1:  Carry the LARGEST pistol with the highest capacity you can.  (Based on your skill and concealment requirements)
RULE OF THUMB #2: ANY Gun (size, capacity, caliber) is better than no gun at all if you need it.

Here are some options to consider based on size:
Full Size
Sig Sauer (P229,P320)
Glock (17,22)
S&W M&P M2.0
FN 509
Walther (PDP,PPQ)
Ruger SP101,GP100
S&W Revolvers 4-6"

Sig Sauer (P226,P320,P365XL)
Glock (19,19X, 48)
S&W M&P M2.0 Compact
FN 509C
CZ 75
Ruger SR9
Walther (PDP,PPQ Compact)
Springfield XDs
Ruger 3-4" Revolver
S&W 3-4" Revolver

Sig Sauer P365
Glock (43,43X)
S&W M&P M2.0 (Sub-Compact)
FN 503
H&K P2000
Walther PPK
Springfield Hellcat
Snub-Nose Revolver (2")

Micro (Pocket)
Sig Sauer (P938/P238)
Glock (26,27,42)
S&W M&P Shield
Ruger LCP
S&W Bodyguard

SECOND CONSIDERATION, what is your skill level depending on the use?
Generally speaking, there are two types of pistols: Semi-Automatics and Revolvers. We will discuss pros/cons of each:
  • CAPACITY: The design of a semi-auto will generally allow for considerably more ammunition to be carried.  Particularly in Full and Compact sized frames.  There are new sub-compacts like the P365 that can carry up to 12 rounds of 9mm!  This is twice as much as a full-size revolver!
  • SPEED: Reloading a semi-auto can be done in 1 second or less with practice.  This is much faster than reloading a revolver even with a speed loader.
  • SIZE:  Semi-Autos are typically much thinner and often much lighter when available in a polymer frame.  This makes it much preferred when carried.
  • COMPLEXITY:  Semi-Autos are more complex in design. While a modern version from a trusted manufacturer is extremely reliable there is always the possibility of a malfunction.  It is IMPERATIVE that anyone using one for self-defense train on how to operate the gun including how to fix any malfunctions.
  • OPERATION: In order for a semi-auto to work, it requires the operator to chamber a round by pulling back the slide.  The slide is held forward by a spring and some people have a hard time pulling the slide back far enough for it to load a round.  For this reason alone, a revolver may be a better option for people with weak grip strength.   

Note:  Smith and Wesson (S&W) have produced a new line of pistols that have reduced the strength required to operate.  They are under the M&P® SHIELD EZ SERIES and available in 9mm and .380 Auto.
  • SIMPLICITY: Revolvers are of very simple design and require the least amount of skill to operate.  Because it is simpler there is less of a need to know skills such as how to clear a jam, loading and unloading magazines and chambering a round.   For the most part a revolver is a point and shoot pistol that only requires the squeezing of the trigger.
  • LOW CAPACITY: Because of their design most revolvers hold only 5 or 6 rounds.  While this is sufficient in over 90% of self-defense situations, it is far less than an equivalent sized semi-auto can hold.
  • RELOADING: While the process of reloading is very easy - it is not as quick as a semi-auto w/a magazine.  Speed loaders ARE available but require PRACTICE to become proficient at using. 
  • WEIGHT/SIZE: Due to how they are constructed - they tend to heavier and wider and not ideal for concealed carry.

CONCLUSION: (This is all you wanted right?)
In short, you should always choose a gun that has the highest capacity AND that you can shoot well - in a caliber that is most effective for the purpose it is used for.  (see ammo blog)

For HOME DEFENSE I would recommend a full size semi-automatic with a weapon mounted light in 9mm, .357, .40 or .45.  However, if the person is INEXPERIENCED and does not practice often - I would recommend a full-size Revolver in .38 Special or .357 Magnum that offers 6 or more rounds capacity instead.

For CONCEALED CARRY I would recommend a Compact or Sub-Compact Semi-Auto. The new Sig P365, Springfield Hellcat, Glock 43x are amazing innovations that offer high capacity in a very small size using a "full size" round (9mm).  The reason we "only" recommend the semi-auto is because an INEXPERIENCED shooter should not be carrying concealed and thus the need for capacity outweighs the need for simplicity.   Anyone that carries a concealed weapon should have training and practice regularly.  
If you are shopping for a new gun - find a range that will let you rent the ones that you are considering. Shoot at least 50 rounds through it and compare your results.  The one you shoot best is always the best choice!

Warning:  Too often people will recommend a smaller and cute snub-nose revolver for women. This is actually the opposite of what we would recommend. Smaller guns, and especially revolvers, will have the most "kick" and a lot of people find them uncomfortable to shoot which results in less frequent practice and subsequently poor accuracy and skill.  The design and weight of a compact or full-size semi-auto will result in less felt recoil.  Furthermore, they are available in many different effective caliber options which may be more comfortable to the shooter. Because most women will be carrying a weapon in a purse, they can afford to carry a larger semi-auto pistol.