by Tiger McKee
"I like the way it looks," he replied. "It's the newest model," another said. "When I went into the shop the guy told me this is what "they" carry," he said, using hand quotations along with a wink. "You don't see very many of them," one man told me. "This is what my father carried," the man said. These are some of the reasons I hear when asking students why they have a particular firearm, something that is out of the norm. None of them are good criteria for selecting a fighting weapon.
When it comes to selecting a pistol there are several areas to consider. Jeff Cooper's three essentials for the pistol were that it fit your hand, have a good trigger, and a set of sights you can see. Your hand size determines what size pistol is ideal. You have to be able to get the correct grip on the pistol, completely surrounding it with both hands, while at the same time able to operate the trigger properly, with the trigger centered in the first pad of the first finger. It's essential you can press the trigger smoothly, since this is critical to shooting accurately. Double action/single action pistols are more difficult to fire accurately under stress because you have to learn two presses. The first press is long and requires plenty of pressure, while subsequent shots require far less pressure. You need sights that you can see, especially under low-light conditions. As you age sights become even more important; at some point you'll need a big dot sight, like the kind XS makes.
Reliability is mandatory. Period. If your weapon doesn't function correctly then sell it or put it in the safe and get one that does. Just keep in mind that for it to run it has to have good ammo and quality magazines. Some pistols, especially smaller calibers, are ammo sensitive; find what works and stick with it.
Finally, you have to be able to carry the pistol, which is especially a concern for concealed carry, and you should train/practice with what you carry.
The main point here is if you carry a weapon for self-defense then it has to be the correct weapon for you. And you are an individual, so what works for your friends may not necessarily be right for you. It doesn't matter what it looks like, as long as it does the job. It may not be a good idea to express your unique approach to life in general when picking a weapon. And when your life depends on what you carry, it won't really matter much who else carries one just like it.
You may have to go through several pistols until you find the "one." As I've often said, don't stop until you find the idea pistol, the one that seems like it was made just for you. Finally, don't be afraid to modify it, if it's necessary and fills a true need. It takes time and money, but in this case the value far exceeds the actual costs.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama, author of The Book of Two Guns, a staff member of several firearms/tactical publications, and an adjunct instructor for the F.B.I. (256) 582-4777 www.shootrite.org