top of page

Buying a Handgun for Self-Defense

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Buying a Handgun for Self-Defense

Before buying a handgun, you should try as many different types as possible and find a model with which you are comfortable. You should choose a handgun that fits comfortably in your hand and points naturally at your target. By this, I mean you want to pick up a handgun (check that it is unloaded) and see if it feels comfortable in your hand, then point the gun at target or object, then check the sights to see where the gun is pointed. If the sights are on the target at which you pointed, then the gun should work for you.

Be careful not to be sold a gun that is not right for you and your needs, do your research. Just because someone works in a gun shop it does not make them an expert. I have had people come through my classes with gun’s that were in no way right for them or their needs. Common things I see are people who have been sold .40 caliber handguns and they can’t handle the guns recoil. Also, females being sold .38 ultra-light snub nose revolvers that have no grip, a hard trigger pull and again to much recoil. Most of these people buy these guns without shooting them first at the bad advice of those working in gun shops. The main things to consider when looking for in a defensive handgun in addition to it being comfortable in your hand are simplicity, reliability, accuracy, caliber and capacity.

  • Simplicity: A defensive handgun should be a simple handgun. The design needs to be as simple as possible, because the more working parts that there are, the more there is to go wrong. Also, make sure you can easily work the slide if it’s a semi-automatic, pull the trigger and disassemble the gun; these things are important for shooting and cleaning purposes.

  • Reliability: You want a handgun that is going to work when you need it and there are many handguns on the market that are simply not reliable. The best way to find out about a handgun is to look at reviews in magazines and ask reputable professional firearms instructors and dealers for their opinions. Additionally, look to see what handguns law enforcement and military forces use. These days, law enforcement units and the military put their handguns through strenuous tests for reliability, accuracy and stopping power before issuing them to their personnel. I generally do not buy or recommend guns that have not been on the market for at least two years, this is usually enough time for all faults in the guns to be discovered and hopefully rectified. If you stick to the main makes for handguns, you shouldn’t have many problems; if you do the manufacturers will usually fix them.

  • Accuracy: You need a handgun which will hit what you are aiming at; most quality handguns are tested for accuracy, before they leave the factory. If you buy a second hand gun, make sure you check the barrel to be sure it is clean and there are no dents or imperfections. One of the primary reasons guns do not shoot straight is because the barrels have not been cleaned properly, especially if the shooter has been using cheap unjacketed lead ammunition. If you think the sights on your weapon are off then get a second opinion, it may just be the way you’re shooting. The sights on new guns will be set at the factories; I tend to go for handguns with fixed sights for defensive purposes, at close quarters we do not use the sights anyway. If the handgun you own does not shoot straight, make sure it’s not the way you’re shooting and then get the gun fixed if necessary.

  • Caliber: There are many opinions on what is the best caliber for defensive purposes. Remember, others’ opinions are nothing more than hot air! You want to choose a caliber that you can shoot accurately and comfortably. .357 magnums have excellent stopping power but also have a lot of recoil, especially when fired from a snub-nosed revolver. If someone is not use to shooting this type of firearm, they could easily miss their target, even at close quarters, and a powerful .357 bullet can travel a long distance. .22s are considered too small for defensive purposes by many but they are light on recoil, accurate, and a favored assassin’s weapon. A .22 in the brain will kill a person immediately. You need to find a caliber that works for you and then learn how to use the gun. The general rule is to buy the largest caliber you are most comfortable with and can shoot accurately.

  • Capacity: You will need to consider how many rounds you want to carry in your handgun. Revolvers have capacities of 5 to 8 rounds and semiautomatics have capacities or anywhere from 5 to 32 rounds before they need re-loading. Where you live and what you do will influence how many rounds you will need to carry, we will talk more about this later.

You will also need to consider what you are going to be using the handgun for: Home defense, to keep in your car or to carry with you all the time. You also want to think about what threats you are likely to encounter, for example street criminals, burglars or organized criminals and terrorists.

If you live in a nice area and want a handgun to keep in a drawer next to your bed, you will not need to spend $800 (U.S. Gun Prices) ; however, if you own, say, a jewelry shop in a not-so-nice area, you may consider spending $800 on a handgun a good investment. Buying a handgun is not all there is to personal security. A handgun is a useful tool that can be implemented in your security program. The best defense against criminals and terrorists is to make yourself a hard target; avoid getting into potentially dangerous situations and don’t make yourself, home or business appear easy pickings for criminals. There are many things you can do to improve your security, in addition to buying a handgun, but we’ll leave that for another manual.

Orlando Wilson - Risks Inc. -

Books on Amazon

Shoot First & Shoot Last: The Real World Guide To Pistol Craft

Handgun safety, shooting, concealed carry & tactical applications

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page