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Old 07-24-2011, 19:02   #1
Berto
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Best first handgun

Wanted to buy one for 2 main reasons, protection and something fun to shoot on the weekends at my local range. Also, this will NOT be a ccw gun....

Questions like this are somewhat common in the general firearms forum, often denigrating to 'revolver vs auto' type pissing matches.

Which would be the most advisable choice for someone new to handguns for the above mentioned intended use?
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Old 07-25-2011, 21:36   #2
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I had same questions when I started researching which gun to buy that would be fun for both target and good home gun. I ended up buying a glock 21sf which has been very fun to shoot, and provides peace of mind while at home. Good luck with your search!
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Old 07-26-2011, 07:37   #3
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You're going to find almost as many opinions on this as there are gun owners, and if you search the forums you will find many of them.

My short answer to what you have given is, "A decent used .357 magnum revolver, 4" barrel." Revolvers are as easy as it gets for new shooters. Reliable, fun to shoot, and easy to learn, load, and manage. The semi-autos, for a first-time shooter, are just more complex- More to learn it things go wrong, etc. Also, while I love the G21SF, I'd never recommend it for a first-time shooter. If I were recommending an auto for a first timer, it would be one of the many competent .22's, and those don't meet the dual-purpose (protection) goal very well. It someone were dead-set on a "do it all" auto pistol, I'd probably try and guide them to a G17.

One of the joys of a .357 revolver is you can use everything from full house .357's on down to lightly loaded .38 specials, and it will still operate just fine. The light .38's make an easy load to get started with so you don't learn bad habits early. As you get more comfortable you can move up to the heavier loads. With .357 magnums loaded, it's a very capable defensive handgun. With heavy .357's, it will even work as a woods/hiking gun, if you do any of that, or a whitetail handgun. (I'm talking 180 grain JSP's, for that.)

Point being, you'll never really "go wrong" with a nice .357 with a 3.5" to 5.5" barrel.... It'll do a reasonably competent job at just about anything a handgun has ever been meant to do, so it's great as an "only gun." But, it also always makes a nice backup gun even when someone gets a semi-auto for carry, then another for the house, etc. So you never feel like you've wasted your investment in it.

A decent used S&W would be my first recommendation: Model 19 or 66 with a 4" barrel. Stainless is easier to maintain, which is nice. There are a bunch of model numbers that would fit the bill, actually. You want a K or L frame, though, not a J frame (the little S&W snubbies.) You should be able to find something decent for about $400-$450 I'd imagine.

Ruger's GP100 is nice, as long as it's got a decent trigger. Some Ruger DA revolvers are downright gritty, and others are heavy, but smooth. A GP100 with a trigger job is better, but then you're putting more money into it, which defeats the purpose of a "value" buy like the Ruger.

That's my two cents.
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Old 07-26-2011, 13:45   #4
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Thank you for the reply, it makes sense to me.
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Old 07-26-2011, 18:24   #5
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I always wonder how these posts would turn out if in addition to posting their recommendation the poster also had to post (truthfully) how long they have been shooting, how many new shooters they have taught and with what guns...
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Old 07-26-2011, 20:22   #6
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20-some years, half a dozen, S&W model 19 and buck-mark .22.


Was there something in my post that suggested I was being anything other than myself?
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Old 07-26-2011, 20:53   #7
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I enjoy shooting my snubby more than my K frame with 4" barrel and adjustable sights. And I only loose one round, and 38+p is a nothing to laugh at. So, for revolver I'd recommend a snubbie.
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Old 07-26-2011, 21:23   #8
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I would suggest a Glock 17 or similar type handgun with training!
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Old 07-26-2011, 21:51   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Berto View Post
Wanted to buy one for 2 main reasons, protection and something fun to shoot on the weekends at my local range. Also, this will NOT be a ccw gun....

Questions like this are somewhat common in the general firearms forum, often denigrating to 'revolver vs auto' type pissing matches.

Which would be the most advisable choice for someone new to handguns for the above mentioned intended use?
In my humble opinion I'd recommend a brand new Gen 3 Glock pistol.

Since you're going to rely on the pistol for personal self-defense it must fire each and every time you pull the trigger. There are many good choices available, but the Gen 3 Glock reputation for reliability and durability are as good as any other maker's offerings. And the simplicity of design is legendary.
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Old 07-27-2011, 06:13   #10
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I enjoy shooting my snubby more than my K frame with 4" barrel and adjustable sights. And I only loose one round, and 38+p is a nothing to laugh at. So, for revolver I'd recommend a snubbie.
I don't disagree for carry- In fact, my first CCW was a Model 19 with a 2.5 barrel. That was before there were so many cartridges optimized for a short barrel, and with good .357 loads it really got your attention, esp. shooting in low light. So I like a snubbie revolver fine for certain things.

But for a first gun, I wouldn't suggest a J frame in part because they aren't so versatile. They are harder to shoot well, and they are often not as comfortable to shoot. That all adds up to less fun, and therefore less range time, for a new shooter. And, if you decide later in life that you don't want to use it for CCW, it's a paperweight. It can't handle anything like the range of loads and variety of applications that a full size .357 can.
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Old 07-27-2011, 10:43   #11
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Originally Posted by RottnJP View Post
20-some years, half a dozen, S&W model 19 and buck-mark .22.


Was there something in my post that suggested I was being anything other than myself?

No not at all. And my humblest apologies if I seemed to imply that. But I suspect (and this is probably just a wild unsubstantiated guess on my part) that revolvers and .22s might appear more frequently from those that own several to many revolvers And pistols. And I wonder how many people who have successfully trained new shooters on both revolvers and pistols might choose one over the other. Finally a few guys I have met who consistently recommended starting with a full power gun either pistol or revolver, seem to regularly reach into the big five gallon pails of contract ammunition as opposed to personally purchased ammunition. (Not that I have a problem with the five gallon bucket of ammo that was purchased for us - I try to shoot as much of it as I can.)
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Old 07-27-2011, 11:12   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce M View Post
I always wonder how these posts would turn out if in addition to posting their recommendation the poster also had to post (truthfully) how long they have been shooting, how many new shooters they have taught and with what guns...
They should also include what they learned on and how that turned out.
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Old 07-27-2011, 11:43   #13
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I was basically self taught. I did my learning on private property and looking back I am amazed I didn't hurt myself. My first handgun was a 1858 Remington. This was probably not the best first choice. It did teach me how to load and fire the gun safely.

I have taught more than 20 and less than 50 people how to shoot rifles and pistols. When I was dating, and had access to a range, I would take the women there after I had been dating a while. I also seemed to find a lot of parents at the range frustrating their kids trying to learn how to shoot. I am by no means a fast light tactical operator type.

Recommendations....
If you are looking for a pure training tool. I suggest a 22LR revolver as the first pistol to put into someone's hands. It is simple to understand, load, aim, ...... This is what I used to train most people. I would start them off on a 22LR rifle and then go to the the 22LR pistol. (I think the pistol I used was a S&W K17, target trigger, target grip, target sights.)

Now here is the interesting point. After learning how to shoot many people found that they liked shooting the semi-auto better. Many liked the Glock17. One like the 1911. 2 or 3 decided they liked the 92FS better. I have several 22LR kits for Glocks and the 92FS, which may have influenced the decision process.

But you are looking for something more than just a training tool. I would then suggest a large 357mag revolver (8 inch barrel if you can find one) with target sights and target hammer. This will allow you to shoot 38Special and 357mag ammo. This is not going to be a cheap gun to shoot the way the 22LR was. This should be easy on the body, but good for home defense.

Note: I do not own a 357mag revolver. It is on my wish list, but not high on the list.
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Old 07-27-2011, 14:12   #14
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I've taught a handful of people how to shoot, usually starting with both .22autos and revolvers before moving them up to the mid frame .38sp revolver and 9mm pistol.

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Preferences seem to be split in terms of which of the centerfires they preferred, but I found most shoot the .38 better and have no trouble learning to handle the weapon competently whereas the pistol was a little more intimidating.

In terms of the specific question, I asked because it seems like many folks throw their asses in the air when the suggestion of a mid frame revolver is offered.
Seemed like a no-brainer, esp for the above posted reasons of simplicity, reliability and forgiveness.
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Old 07-27-2011, 17:10   #15
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No not at all. And my humblest apologies if I seemed to imply that. But I suspect (and this is probably just a wild unsubstantiated guess on my part) that revolvers and .22s might appear more frequently from those that own several to many revolvers And pistols. And I wonder how many people who have successfully trained new shooters on both revolvers and pistols might choose one over the other. Finally a few guys I have met who consistently recommended starting with a full power gun either pistol or revolver, seem to regularly reach into the big five gallon pails of contract ammunition as opposed to personally purchased ammunition. (Not that I have a problem with the five gallon bucket of ammo that was purchased for us - I try to shoot as much of it as I can.)
Fair enough. I'm definitely a "crossover." Started with semi-auto .22's, then my future pistol coach said one day, "Son, you need to be making bigger holes..." (He could tell I was a little bored with the .22) Next day he brings his 1911 for me... And I was hooked. Not specifically on 1911's, though. Next pistol was a revolver, then a semi-auto .45, and then a Gen 2 glock 23...

These days I'm definitely a semi-auto guy, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for the wheel-guns. The semi-s are the pistols with more practical utility to me, however, and they do comprise most of my collection.

I like the K22 suggestion someone made for a training gun, I just don't happen to have a .22 revolver.
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Old 07-27-2011, 17:24   #16
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If you happen to go Glock. Don't forget the .22 conversion slides for the Glocks. Makes shooting fun and CHEAPER! But, if you are looking for something other than Glock, the Beretta/Stoeger Cougar is a nice pistol. Solid performer, DA/SA, decocker. The Stoeger can be had for around $400 brand new. Used ones can be found but for the most part owners have a tendency to keep these guys. Chambered in 9mm, .40 & .45.
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Old 07-28-2011, 03:10   #17
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My opinion, FWIW, is that, in general, the revolver has a slight edge in terms of a new shooter learning the fundamentals and applying them in the long-term. However, I think the best choice will depend on the student. Some students may gravitate towards revolvers while others may gravitate towards semi-autos. I think that they should be exposed to several different models to see what fits them best as well as what they like best. I think that a student who is able to learn with a gun they choose and find enjoyable to shoot is more likely to practice with it and want to learn as much as they can.

Of course, common sense should be applied. I seriously doubt that a new shooter would be best served by a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum or a NAA mini-revolver even if it is the gun they like best.

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Old 07-28-2011, 06:51   #18
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Pretty good advice here for the average person: http://www.keepandbeararms.com/Puckett/firstgun.pdf

Don't get anything to big. After years of gun collecting, I realize that except for the occasional trip to the range, all my large frame/long barreled handguns just sit in the safe! That means any revolver with a barrel longer than 2.5", and any auto larger than a G23.

Something like a Ruger SP101. 3" if you wish.

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Old 07-29-2011, 18:20   #19
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Pretty good advice here for the average person: http://www.keepandbeararms.com/Puckett/firstgun.pdf

Don't get anything to big. After years of gun collecting, I realize that except for the occasional trip to the range, all my large frame/long barreled handguns just sit in the safe! That means any revolver with a barrel longer than 2.5", and any auto larger than a G23.

Something like a Ruger SP101. 3" if you wish.
I agree with this, too, but I put the cutoff at more like 4 or 5 inches, so it makes a nice truck gun or backup house pistol. I suppose a 6"' might do double duty as a house/truck gun and pin shooter. But I definitely agree that the long hunting barrels aren't really handy enough for anything else, and tend to be safe queens if you don't get out handgun hunting.

A 3" SP101 is a nice handy little revolver- for a while my LGS had a nice one that had a trigger job, polished trigger and hammer, and nice satin nickel finish, but I just couldn't come up with an excuse to buy it... I like my semi-auto's too much now.
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