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How do I Choose a Firearm?

January 30, 2018 3 min read

Over the years as an instructor, I get asked questions a lot about buying a first gun. The questions range from “How do I choose a gun?” “What gun do you recommend?” or “What’s the best gun?”

Those are questions that require a little discussion rather than a one or two-word answer, so I developed a process of sorts for when you’re ready to purchase your first (or second or third…) handgun.


The first thing you need to decide about the gun you’re shopping for right now is what its purpose will be.

For women, in particular, there is not a one size fits all kind of firearm. I tell my students that guns are like shoes. There’s not one that is suitable for every occasion. So decide if you’re shopping for a gun you want to carry concealed, when size might be a consideration OR do you want a gun for home defense, where a full-size firearm might be a better choice.

Other considerations with regards to purpose may be if you want to use it for competition or taking classes or just plinking at the range. Once you have decided on a purpose, it’s time to go shopping.

Shopping (NOT to be confused with Buying….Yet!)

Now, head to your favorite gun store or if you have them in your area, a gun show! But choose a venue where you can fondle multiple handguns. Bring pen and paper or use your smartphone to take notes. Remember your safety rules and watch where you point that muzzle while you’re shopping.

Pick up as many handguns as you want, get a good grip on it. Manipulate the slide if you are allowed. You are looking for something that feels wonderful in your hand and allows you to reach the trigger without twisting your hand around to do so. Somewhat in jest, I tell my students that they should hear angels sing when it feels right.

The bottom line is, if it doesn’t feel right, you’re not going to practice with it. (We’ll bring this up again later.) When it does feel right, jot down the make and model of the firearm but don’t buy it just yet. When you have about five or six on your list, the shopping phase is over, although you may come back to it later.

Test Drive

Find a gun range that will let you rent handguns. I know that depending on your area it may not be possible, but find a way to try the firearms on your list. Many firearms look and feel great but are uncomfortable to shoot. Here’s that “rule” again…if you don’t like the way it shoots, you will not take it to the range and practice with it. So out of your five or six listed, you are looking for one where again, when it feels right to shoot, you will KNOW!

Once you know you have THE GUN, you are ready to make your purchase. If you find after shooting all on the list, there’s not one that you like, simply start the process again.

Other Considerations

Thinking about make and model, sometimes it’s good to stick with the more well-known models. Why, you ask? Because for one, they didn’t get popular without a reason. Perhaps because they are known to be more dependable, but also because it will be easier to find holsters, extra magazines and other accessories for the more popular brands.

It can be confusing if you’re a new shooter and ready to buy a gun. Perhaps you already have one that was given to you and now you’re ready to choose your own. Following this process will make the choice a bit easier and less daunting!

Because shopping should be fun, right?

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