Choosing the Right Firearm for You

How to Choose a Firearm for Personal or Home Defense

Selecting a weapon for defensive purposes is a crucial and daunting decision. Generally speaking, there are two types of guns: handguns and long guns. Handguns are designed for one handed use and portability, but generally lack the stopping power of long guns, which range from shotguns to rifles to submachine guns. Keep reading for help in choosing which type you need.


While the size, weight, and design of the handgun makes them the most common choice for personal defense (they’re carried with minimal discomfort or exposure), this forces them to use a weaker cartridge for repeated shots with relative ease. The ability to easily conceal a handgun lends them to be the most used gunfight weapon. If you aren’t expecting trouble, you bring something easy to manage.

Selecting a Caliber
Pistol caliber cartridge assortment display-8

The .38 Special and .357 Magnum are both 38-caliber, but the bullet is actually 357-thousandths of an inch in diameter. The .30-30, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .308 are all different, non-interchangeable rounds that are all 30-caliber. However, 30-caliber bullets are .308-inches in diameter.

Caliber selection in pistols is a hot source of debate amongst tactics-minded handgun users. While the general stopping power of a pistol is measurably low compared to almost any long gun, you want to make an informed choice to give you the best advantage. Smaller calibers, such as .380, 9mm, etc, generally result in a higher bullet velocity, reduced recoil which allows for fast follow-up shots, higher capacity magazines (or smaller framed guns), and higher velocity bullets. Large calibers, such as the venerable .45 feature slower bullets that have increased overall diameter, allowing for a wider initial wound channel (which gives you a slightly increased chance of hitting something vital). The heavier bullets and generally high muzzle energies increase recoil, resulting in slower follow-up shots and the larger diameter of the cartridges means lower capacity magazines.

The most crucial factor in determining what caliber you will choose is how accurate and comfortable you are with any particular caliber. Most U.S. self-defense experts consider .380 ACP (9 x 17 mm Browning Short) or 9mm as the minimum for adequate defense, while European Police believe that .32 ACP (7.65 x 17 mm Browning) as adequate. Making an informed decision about what caliber you will use requires experience. Shoot many different calibers and choose the biggest caliber that you can comfortably shoot and make fast, accurate followup shots with.

Don’t completely disregard a .22 if your objective is home defense. A semi-automatic .22 pistol or Ruger 10/22 carbine with a high-capacity magazine is easy to control when shooting fast and can be very effective at close range (most home-defense shots occur at less than 7 yards), and .22 ammunition is very cheap. Furthermore, a .22 won’t penetrate as many walls, thus reducing property damage and risk to your neighbors if you miss.

Frame Size of your firearm

Handguns come in all shapes and sizes. From derringers that are only two or three inches long, to what are jokingly called “hand cannons” that can be 12 or more inches long. For those who are expecting to carry a concealed handgun, a lighter, polymer framed firearm is often preferred over a heavier metal framed firearm because the weight of the firearm can become burdensome over time. Heavier belts are available, however, to mitigate the effect of weight. Smaller handguns also aid concealment as they are easier to hide under clothing.


Pistols represent newer handgun technology than revolvers (though John Browning invented the idea of a slide enclosed barrel around 1900). Many law enforcement and militaries around the world rely on pistols for their sidearms. A pistol usually keeps its ammunition in a spring loaded box of metal called a magazine (not a clip as is commonly misunderstood). The pistol primes itself for the next shot through the action of a slide – a piece of metal that covers the barrel. The forces of the gasses propelling the bullet from the barrel after it is fired push backwards on the slide, causing it to travel to the rear and pulling/ejecting the spent shell from the gun, at which time a spring compressed by the rearward action pushes the slide forward, which causes the slide to catch the rear of another cartridge from the magazine, pushing it into the barrel.

The best way to choose the best firearm for you is to go to a gun range that rents firearms. You can choose from a wide range of guns to try out on the range and see which one works best for you. My personal firearm of choice is a .40cal. I find that the easiest for me to shoot. Take your time choosing and enjoy the range time.

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