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!!!

HGR 020 - Listener Roundtable

HGR 020 - Listener Roundtable

In the Twentieth episode of Handgun Radio, Ryan discusses handguns and other topics in the first Listener Roundtable!

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Brownells helps make this show possible. Selection, service, satisfaction. Find it all at Brownells. Visit www.handgunradio.com/brownells

Main Topic:

1.) What was your first handgun?

2.) Why did you get into guns?

3.) What has been your most memorable firearms experience?

4.) In your opinion, what is the best looking handgun ever made?

5.) In your opinion, what is the ugliest handgun ever made?

6.) What is your favorite caliber?

7.) Do you reload your own ammunition?

8.) Out of all the episodes of Handgun Radio that you have listened to, which is your favorite and why?


  • Be sure to check out all the great shows over at the Firearms Radio Network! The hosts of all the shows as well as the people working behind the scenes all work very hard each week to put out great content for your listening enjoyment! Any feedback on any part is always welcome. It is great to hear that people enjoy listening, and it is also great to hear constructive feedback which allows us to make our products better.
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Until next week have fun and SAFE SHOOTING!!!

HGR 017 - From Beater To Beautiful

HGR 017 - From Beater to Beautiful

In this episode, Ryan discusses some of the tools, techniques and tips that you can use to restore a beaten-up old handgun to good-looking or even beautiful condition!

Photo Credit: Turnbull Manufacturing
Photo Credit: Turnbull Manufacturing

Brought to you by the Firearms Radio Network

Brownells helps make this show possible. Selection, service, satisfaction. Find it all at Brownells. Please visit www.handgunradio.com/brownells

Week in Review:

  • Due to space limitations, I had to re-locate my reloading bench this past week.  Previously, I had a large L-shaped bench setup, but I really didn’t need that space as I didn’t have tumblers and other things working, just my press and powder measure.  I had a purpose-built reloading stand with multiple drawers and shelves that was very compact, so I re-located my setup there.  Now the setup is very space-efficient, and I have some great lighting overhead that will enhance the reloading hobby even more.  Here is a picture of the new setup:

Main Topic: How can I make my beat-up old gun look new again?

This discussion will cover some of the ways that you can take a beat-up old handgun (or for some techniques/tools, any gun) and restore it to a somewhat decent looking condition. I will be dividing the tools and techniques up into several different categories: Metal Working and Finishing Methods; Wood Working and Finishing Methods; Specialty Methods that cannot be done by your typical end-user (i.e. chrome finishes, hot bluing salts finishes, etc.)

Caution!: If you are planning on refinishing an old, beat up firearm PLEASE make sure it does not have any historical or collector value.  There have been a great number of collectable firearms that have acquired a nice, natural patina, only to have it scrubbed off by someone with a wire brush trying to make the gun look “nicer”. If you have any doubts, don’t do it and get the gun checked out.  I thoroughly checked out my Colt 1903 to the point where I felt comfortable enough before I refinished it.

Metalworking & Metal Finishing Options:

  • If you have a firearm that has some light rust, perhaps some pitting and a scratched up, dull finish you may choose to do a complete refinish of the handgun.
  • I originally tried my hand at metal refinishing with an old no-name break top .32 S&W revolver that had no collector value.  It was an old piece that had quite a bit of rust and pitting and the firing pin had fallen out of the hammer so the gun was non-functional which made it a great first test gun.
  • I had the gun sandblasted by a friend with a sandblasting setup, and left in the white (no finish). The gun had to be completely disassembled before the refinishing process could take place (this is typically the case with all refinishing methods.)
  • after the sandblasting took away most of the pitting and imperfections in the metal, I used progressively higher grits of sandpaper until I ended at 2000 grit wet sandpaper.  I must stress that this sanding action was done with a VERY light touch, to smooth out the metal. I then finished with a light polish of the metal with very fine steel wool.
  • One product I used for both the .32 S&W revolver project and the Colt 1903 project that I was very impressed with was Brownells Oxpho-Blue Creme bluing compound.  When I used it, it produced a much deeper and long lasting blue finish than the liquid blue compounds typically do.
  • One thing that is ABSOLUTELY KEY when bluing a firearm (or doing any metal prep work, really) is to wear rubber gloves so you do not contaminate the metal surface with oils and fingerprints, as these will show up in the final finish.  MAKE SURE THE ENTIRE METAL SURFACE IS CLEAR OF ANY OIL.  Use some sort of degreaser to ensure there is no oil that could ruin the finish.
  • If you are someone who refinishes firearms often, you may be interested in the Benchtop Parkerizing Kit from Brownells.  This kit allows you to add a durable parkerized finish to handguns and small parts. The parkerizing absorbs oil quite well and helps with corrosion resistance, and can provide a great replacement finish for a firearm that may not look great cosmetically with a traditional bluing job.
  • One other option for a firearm that may not look great with a cold-blue job is using the Duracoat Painting System. The Duracoat painting system allows you to apply a painted on finish in a variety of colors on firearms and firearms parts. Then you simply bake the part in the oven to allow the paint to cure and let it sit for the time allotted in the instruction manual.  This can be a great alternative.

Wood Finishing Products & Techniques:

  • Much of what will be discussed in this category can be applied to handgun grips as well as rifle stocks that you are refinishing. The same rules apply here: Make sure it isn’t a collectable!
  • I’ve worked quite a bit on smooth handgun grips, but on checkered handgun grips proper wood refinishing can sometimes be a problem. It can be difficult to use many wood refinishing techniques without damaging the profile of the checkering somewhat.  I would caution you to leave the checkering alone when doing wood refinishing unless you have the means & tools to recut the checkering.
  • For grips & stocks that have been dented, scratched and otherwise damaged, there are many techniques you can use to return them to decent looking condition.  First, use some sort of wood stripping compound to remove all of the old finish off the rifle.  Wear thick rubber gloves and safety goggles, and do this outside.  You will use a lot of paper towels while wiping my preferred compound, Citri-Strip, off the wood stock.  This will remove much of the oil that has seeped into the stock over the years.
  • After the majority of the finish is stripped away, but before the stock dries too much, use a hairdryer on the LOWEST heat setting and slowly run it over the wood a safe distance away. Only do this for about 30 seconds at a time.  This will bring out some of the oil that has permeated the wood over the years.  Be careful doing this on thin handgun stocks.  Don’t do it too much as you don’t want to dry the wood out.
  • To raise dents and scratches, soak a cloth towel in hot water, and then using a standard iron, place the wet towel over the dent or scratch on the wood, and press down with the iron for only 2 or 3 seconds. Any longer and you can burn the wood.  This will raise the dent somewhat which will then allow you to sand it and make it less noticeable.  This technique works better on larger and thicker pieces of wood.
  • To finish the wood, use progressively higher and higher grits of sandpaper, I would start at 240 grit and head up to 320 and perhaps a few steps higher after that.  When you reach the feel you want, make sure the wood is free of any sawdust from the sanding, and apply the stain you want to achieve the color you want.
  • To finish & seal the wood, you have a couple options. You can go the traditional route and use a product such as Brownells Tru-Oil Stock Finish or you can use a modern Polyurethane sealer that can be purchased at any hardware store. The Tru-Oil offers that classic, hand-rubbed oil finish look, while the polyurethane offers a glossy, modern look that is quite resistant to the elements.  I have used both, and my choice depends upon the purpose & character of the firearm.

Specialty Methods:

  • These methods typically cannot be done by the end-user, and require that the gun be shipped off to the shop of your choosing to have the metal work done.
  • If I had a lot of extra money laying around, I would send my Colt 1903 to Turnbull's Mfg. to have it completely refinished and reblued. Turnbull’s shop has done so many AMAZING firearms and I hope one day that I get to own a firearm that they have refinished.  They do truly astounding work and they are one of the few shops who can do that classic blue to old Colt firearms and make it look right. I hope to have the money to send my 1903 in for at least a simple hot blue job sometime soon.
  • If hard chrome or other plating is what you’d like to have on your firearm, then Mahovsky's Metalife is a great option for you. They offer many different services including Hard Chrome metal plating, electroless nickel plating, and many more firearms finishes.
  • Another great option if maximum finish durability and easy cleaning is what you desire is the NP3 Finish from Robar. The NP3 finish is an electroless nickel based finish that is similar to Teflon. It is a very durable and very slick finish which allows for easier cleaning as dirt and fouling cannot stick as well to the surface.


  • I’m really looking forward to the Listener Roundtable, make sure you look out for the live link to be posted.  I will get back to you all with a date very soon.
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Thanks for listening and SAFE SHOOTING!!!!