Guns are like tools—they each serve a purpose. It’s important to find the right gun for the job or you could find yourself frustrated, fast. In my last article, I gave you some tips on how to buy your first handgun. Here I’ll talk about different styles of handguns and their uses.
A range gun is a good first gun with which to start learning, or for the seasoned enthusiast looking for a little higher performance from their favorite handgun model. Usually, a range gun will be larger than other styles, with barrel lengths of four inches or more (although, there are always exceptions here and there). As far as grip goes, it should be comfortable to hold with both hands and feel natural without a pinky or two “hanging off” the bottom edge. In most cases, a range gun will be heavier than its smaller conceal carry counterparts. It will have a long barrel and sight radius, which help to improve accuracy. For a firearm of this type, you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you use it for shooting at the range, namely for practice, or for precision (as well as precision-type shooting sports, such as NRA Bullseye). Range guns are generally pleasant to shoot (the added weight and longer barrel often make the recoil experience gentler) and highly accurate.
Range pistols also typically include other accuracy-enhancing features. They’re more likely to be equipped with target sights, match grade barrels, and/or light triggers.
Range guns may perform well for precision shooting, but can also serve just as excellent plinking guns. Should you find yourself in the wilderness or on a farm, you may just see a varmint or two you may want to scare away! My first range gun I started with is my Ruger SR22, and I enjoy it for target practice as well as just some good range fun.
Unlike range guns, concealed carry guns are not always pleasant to shoot (in fact, some are downright snappy). Typically, this style of handgun will be smaller and lighter—around two pounds or less—to easier accommodate being concealed. They usually feature shorter barrels, four inches or less, and, therefore shorter sight radii, which can make precision shooting more challenging. Concealed carry guns may not be as much fun to shoot at the range on a regular basis, but it’s important to be practiced with a pistol you plan to use in case of self defense.
In addition to the general size, or lack thereof, concealed carry pistols also often include a few features to better serve as personal defense handguns. They may have night sights, short accessory rails (for lights or lasers). They also are more likely to have long, heavy trigger pulls. Many CCW guns also feature smooth profiles with controls of reduced size, to make them “snag free” for draw and reholster.
Beware—a concealed carry gun may not serve a new shooter as well as some other handgun styles. Due to their reduced weight, smaller grip, and shorter barrel length, concealed carry guns often make for a snappy, higher recoil experience—not so fun. When choosing a gun, many first time gun buyers make the mistake of buying a concealed carry gun for their first handgun in the interest of trying to “kill two birds with one stone,” seeking to make their lightweight CCW serve as both range fun, and self defense. One recommendation I have for these new shooters is to consider learning with a gun they find more comfortable to shoot, regardless of how carry-friendly it may be. That way, during this early stage, beginners can avoid becoming discouraged with a gun they don’t enjoy shooting, only to tuck it away in the gun safe, never to be used again.
Like any style handgun, comfortable or not, CCW guns have their purpose. Used properly, a concealed carry gun can be an ideal tool for self defense. While it’s certainly possible to concealed carry a full size pistol, these reduced styles are notably more convenient to tuck away for every day carry. Since I prefer revolvers, the Smith & Wesson Model 642 J-Frame is my conceal carry gun of choice.
Whether or not a handgun is ideal for home defense is a subject of much debate, but that’s a subject for another article—and a decision you’ll need to make for yourself. Like a range gun, a home defense gun is less limited by size. Often, home defense pistols will have a long barrel and sight radius, improving accuracy. The biggest difference between a range gun and a home defense gun is the importance of capacity size and caliber. If your main goal is to shoot at the range, the need to stretch out time between reloads is merely a convenience. Home defense, as with concealed carry, makes each round more significant, as it could represent one chance to defend your loved ones at home. Home defense has one additional consideration with regard to ammo: over-penetration, such as, the ability to shoot through a wall, becomes as big a threat as an intruder. However, you must still find a caliber you are confident will fend off an attacker. The S&W Governor offers a unique solution in this instance—the ability to shoot .45 ACP, .45 LC, or .410 shot. The walls of your home present another obstacle for defense, and is the reason some opt for a pistol for home defense: you are limited in motion by the width of the halls in your home. As with a range gun, it’s important to find something with which you feel comfortable shooting, and can shoot well. What handgun fits that bill is entirely up to you.
Stay tuned for more handgun styles coming up in Part 2!
Featured image courtesy of contributor gabe9000c via istockphoto.com