One of the most hated quotes at SEG: “it’s small and cute, so it’s perfect for her”. Not true, not true at all. Smaller firearms have less grip space, and when chambered in a high caliber, the recoil can feel much harder. Some people have small hands and actually need a smaller firearm. However, for the most part, new shooters have a much more difficult time learning on a “small and cute” platform. So how can you avoid getting caught in a cliché when you decide it’s time for your first purchase?
Find a reputable training company or individual, and take a class. You most likely did not buy a car before you learned to drive, so why buy a firearm before you know how to shoot? Talking to friends and asking questions to the salesperson helping you choose your firearm are always smart ideas. However, educating yourself and gaining valuable hands on experience are keys to finding the right fit. Taking an introduction course before buying your first firearm will help you understand the differences between a revolver and a semi-automatic, learn the safety issues surrounding proper use of a firearm, and discover the benefits and drawbacks of different firearms.
Not only will you understand the functionality of the firearm, but you will also learn how to hold the firearm for performance and comfort, why the weight and pull on the trigger are important, and what the different calibers are. You will understand why the design of the firearm matters and most importantly, you will have a better understanding of what you feel comfortable with.
Try before you buy. Often, we encounter people who bought a firearm that they were nudged into purchasing only to discover it was not the right fit for them. They don’t enjoy shooting it because it is hard to control, the recoil is excessive, or the trigger pull is too heavy. If you buy a firearm that you hate, you will hate practicing – never buy something you are not going to train with.
After you take a training class, head to a range that offers firearms rentals and test out your newly acquired skills. Work your way through the case. Experiment and try everything. First, because it’s fun, but second because you will really find out what’s right for you. We have the right to own firearms which comes with the responsibility of knowing how to properly and effectively use them. Training and practice are important, so find and buy the firearm that you really enjoy shooting. In this case, practice naturally becomes a hobby, not a burden.
Know your intended use. Are you intending to take down animals, people, or paper? Why does that matter? We’re glad you asked. In this case, size does matter. If you are carrying primarily for self-defense, you are probably after a firearm that is smaller and concealable. If you are worried about bears on the trail, caliber becomes a much bigger concern. If you just enjoy shooting on the range, find the firearm that best fits your body.
Are you after round capacity, simplicity, reliability (yes, yes you are) or versatility? Rather than picking up a subcompact, will a compact better suit your overall needs as you grow and develop as a shooter? Do you need the power of a larger caliber or can you find a balance between fun and effectiveness? If you don’t feel comfortable shooting anything larger than a .22, learn to be fast and accurate. In the end, shot placement is king. Lots of little holes are more effective than no holes at all. Maybe not on that bear, though.