HGR 049 - What Makes a Good Handgun?

This week, Weer’d Beard and I discuss what makes a handgun a “good” handgun and what things you can look at to choose the most appropriate handgun for your needs!

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Week in Review:

Ryan: - I found a supplier for the Colt 1903 rear and front firing pins! Hopefully I can have those ordered sometime soon!

-Saw a great article on the 9x23 Winchester! I think we are going to do another episode on Odd Cartridges very soon!

WEERD: no real shooting.   Was going to head to the range for Father’s day, but I was too sick.   I have time off this week where I hope to run some .22 through my revolvers to crank out the rust, and hopefully remove the mag disconnect on my M&P9c With a pen spring!

Main Topic: What Makes a “Good” Handgun?

Remember: we are not bashing certain brands or designs; we are just fleshing out why certain firearms are less easy to use or less effective to use in certain circumstances. Not everyone has unlimited training resources, and you must use those resources in the most efficient way possible.

Everyone has a different definition of “good”. It is very subjective. For our discussion, we will be touching upon some of the points that people use to determine whether a handgun is a “good” handgun (and whether or not those ACTUALLY determine that) and what can someone use as a yardstick to measure whether or not they’ve chosen a “good” handgun for themselves! Note, that we are primarily discussing guns that are used for self-defense and therefore need to be trained with and shot a lot. A Webley in .455 is a “good” handgun for the range, but maybe not so much for concealed carry.

What is it Good For?:   A handgun might be VERY versatile like a Springfield Armory 1911, or a Glock 17,   Good for Competition, good for carry, good for plinking, good for Home Defense, ect.

For instance, a S&W M&P 9mm can be customized for hand size, it can be used for home defense. With the right holster, a full sized duty handgun can be used for concealed carry. There are many handguns that do a lot of things pretty well, but can only excel in so many areas before you make sacrifices. See below.

Is it VERY specialized?   Say A STI 2011 in .40 S&W with 20 round magazines, a ultra-light trigger, tungsten internals and a reflex optic and compensator.   Might work OK for home Defense, but really it’s an ideal IPSC Open Class Gun.     Same With a 8” Freedom Arms in .454 Casull with a 4x Teloscopic Scope.    Not really ideal for most aplications, but an AMAZING hunting handgun!


What is the Gun’s History?:  How long has this design or similar design been around? What is it’s reputation, and history?   Example M1911 pattern, SAA, or S&W Hand Ejector.   Glock’s reputation in the 80s and 90s, vs. Today.

See: Colt 1903 Example. If that gun was introduced today as a “pocket” gun, people would laugh at you. But back in the day, pockets of overcoats were larger, and the whole concept of a small automatic pistol for personal protection was really in its infancy. Something like the Ruger LCP is nearly half the size of a 1903, and fires a more powerful round. Context makes a HUGE difference.

What is the Gun’s Popularity?:  Popular guns will have more holsters, accessories, and parts.   Also popular guns generally have a good selection of ammo that is easy to find.

How Efficiently is It’s Construction and manual of arms?: Does the gun have bizarre parts, numerous parts?  More parts means potential for more breakage or failure.   Is it easy or difficult to field strip?   Does it have an excess of safeties, and are they easy to manipulate?

Ease of Use (sounds similar, but different from Efficiency.):

How easy is the gun to shoot? An Airweight .357 is an awesome pocket gun if you can control it.   Maybe .38 Loads mark the paper better?

Things like slide bite, or narrow grips can add discomfort in shooting or make it hard to have a good firm grip on the gun.

How Easy is the Gun to Deploy for it’s Use(s)?  Is the gun light enough to carry all day every day?   Can you Conceal it well?   The above .454 Hunting revolver is a great gun, but maybe not for hunting Antelope at 300 yards on the plains.

Fun Factor:

Do you LIKE the gun?  I will be the first person to say Glocks are awesome guns, and I recommend them.   Still to me they’re ugly, boxy, and I hate the grip angle.   Nothing wrong with the gun,  but if I had a Glock I’d never shoot it.   Actually LIKING a gun is a huge and personal factor for if a gun is great to you.

Can You Afford To Care and Feed It?  A gun like the Walther PPQ is from all reports a great gun, but magazines tend to be more expensive than comparable guns.   Will your wallet be able to handle buying all the mags you need for the gun?   Will you be able to simply throw a magazine away in the event it runs it’s service life?    In Massachusetts people hang onto their pre-ban magazines like they’re gold,  but how nice are they if the feed lips are worn out, or the floor plate is badly cracked?

Will you shoot the gun regularly?   A .45 ACP 1911 or Glock 21 is pretty awesome,   but a box of even the cheapest .45 ACP isn’t very cheap.    Will you be able to find .38 Super, or 5.7x28mm at your local gun shop or Wal Mart?    You may SAY you’re going to reload that box of Brass, but maybe once that new baby goes to bed the LAST thing you want to do is crank out 500 rounds for your next range trip.

Also you might be able to afford the dirt cheap practice ammo,  but will your gun like it?   Steel case ammo is great for shooting on a budget but a few guns won’t be able to function with it.   Same goes for .22 LR (when you could find it)   maybe that cheap Anguila stuff is awesome, but will your pistol run it, or do you need a specific, and more expensive brand?


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Until next week, have fun and SAFE SHOOTING!!!