AHHH…The age old question. One would think that anyone reading this, is of course interested in their families and their own personal survival and protection. We hope our worst fears are never realized, but we all know that, it certainly could happen, HERE! It seems that the volume of bad news concerning our future well-being is coming at a unstopable and ever-increasing pace.
With the financial/debt crisis, environmental disasters, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and earthquakes seemingly happening on an almost on a daily basis, I dare say the domino’s are falling at a more rapid pace. Our futures are, at best, in doubt. We all know, that in order to have any sort of chance to survive any future calamity depends on our preparedness, determination and our own wits.
I am sad and ashamed to say, I do not believe that the American people will exhibit the same level of calm and civility that the Japanese have in face of the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.It will be many years, if ever, they get that area back to normal. My heart goes out to them.
In the event of an American national or even local catastrophe, we may get lucky and survive the initial shock wave, but what’s next? The strongest instinct humans have is the will to survive. In the event of a disaster, those not prepared will quickly resort to any means necessary to survive. Therefore we have no choice and must prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
With that being said, the potential need for personal defense becomes more important than ever before. So, which handgun should I get, or, what handgun do I need? Which one is best? The truth is, there is no such thing, however, your choice should depend on a number of factors, such as, what model or type can I shoot the best?
The answer is simple.
The best handgun is one which you can HIT the best with. Any hit is better than no hit at all. However, if one does not or cannot HIT the target, does it really matter? No one has ever been subdued with a loud noise, which is what a complete miss actually is. A miss with a .44 magnum is worthless, a hit in the eye socket with a .22 rimfire is golden.
Equally important, given that the target is hit, in the right place (center of mass), is that the target is hit with enough power to stop or prevent your adversary from continuing to do whatever it was that caused you to shoot in the first place. A hit with an inadequately powerful round will not immediately solve the issue and will most likely only serve to enrage your adversary.
Equally, a hit must be accomplished quickly enough for you to keep from becoming a victim yourself, in other words, do unto him before he does unto you, because, if you don’t, he will. Simply put, it is about accuracy, power and speed. A balance of the three has proven to be the most effective defense strategy.
Even more important, one must be willing to do whatever is necessary to protect one’s own life or their family’s. Guns are inanimate objects, they do not kill by themselves, they require a humans’, express direction and manipulation to do that. If you are not willing to pull the trigger when it becomes vitally necessary, you WILL become a victim. Therefore,
ATTEMPTING to use a firearm for self-defense is really, after all, a moot point, one MUST do, or die. One must have the WILL to survive and be willing to do whatever becomes necessary to save ones life should the moment of truth present itself. You have to be able to actually pull the trigger if it becomes a matter of life or death.
OK, I see the need, now, what handgun should I get? Just a minute there pilgrim….. you ain’t there yet. The closest we can come to determining what is the best handgun choice for any given individual, is, what will best for THEM, everyone is different, we have different size hands, skill levels, perceived needs and, for most of us, there is a cost factor to consider.
We are very fortunate that today, our current choices are vast and varied. Handguns come in all shapes, sizes, cost and power levels. By definition, handguns are defensive in nature, purpose designed tools for defense. They truly are a “last-ditch” defensive. There are much better choices for any type of “offensive” use or hunting (though some do hunt with handguns).
Being relatively small and light, they are highly portable, quickly employed and are, of course, even concealable, hence their close range superiority for personal defense.
Ok,OK… I get it. So, what should I buy? Well, to put it simply, one that you can hit well with, quickly and has enough power to get the job done.
What works for one person may not work well for another. First and most important to consider, is reliability. The weapon MUST be absolutely reliable, function properly, all the time, every time, without fail. There is nothing worse than a weapon that fails just when you need it the most, Murphy’s Law. “Fit” is very important.
A grip surface area that is too large for your hand affects controllability and shootability. Too small a grip is just as bad as it increases the perceived recoil impulse, also adversely affecting controlability. Any handgun must fit you comfortably in order for you to effectively employ it. High visibility sights are very important as well. Sights are the steering mechanism of any firearm.
If the sights are not visible, not aligned properly with the target, you will never hit anything. Fiber optic sights are highly visible, even in poor light, but are not very durable. Lasers are NOT a good idea in my opinion. Should there be any dust or smoke in the air, such as from firing your weapon, the laser beam can be seen and traced back to its origin. NOT a good thing when someone is trying to do you bodily harm.
In a hurry up, do or die situation, I do not want to waste time looking for some little red or green dot on the target. With just a little practice, normal iron sights are MUCH quicker to see, find, and align. Any sort of optic on a fighting handgun is simply impractical. Also, anything that is electronic is failure prone and requires a power source, another negative one might not be able to deal with long-term in a survival situation.
A quality trigger is a must for good shooting. A long, heavy, gritty, creepy trigger is NOT conducive to accuracy. A 3 to 3-1/2 pound trigger pull weight is ideal, if you are skilled enough to use it. More on that later.
More verbage has been written regarding which cartridge/caliber is best for defensive use than you can shake a bunch of sticks at. The debate rages to this day. Everyone, knowledgable (or not) on the subject has his or her opinion as to what does, could or should work best.
I think it is safe to say this: ANY bullet that instantaneously interrupts the central nervous system is going to end the confrontation, instantaneously. Unfortunately, this is a hit or miss situation, no pun intended.
Very few people are good enough, accurate enough, quick enough, or are presented the opportunity to do so in street scenarios to be able to hit the CNS, reliably, on a moving, live target and make a one shot stop. Variables, variables!!! There is no pat answer.
The only thing we can say is to use the handgun that you can shoot well with, that has the most power you can direct multiple shots quickly with and PRACTICE. Practice makes perfect, ok, that’s a lie, but it does make you a MUCH better marksman and GREATLY increases your chances of survival.
Studying this subject for over 40 years, having had to employ a handgun in combat and competing in practical pistol competition for many years has taught me a thing or two. First rule of a gunfight, “Bring a gun”, ” There are NO second place winners”, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing.” “Use enough gun”. None of these axioms can I claim, they were all said by people more knowledgeable than I, some of you may recognize who said these words of wisdom, nevertheless, they are all true and are very good advise. We would all do well to take heed.
No one can tell you which handgun for defensive purposes is best for you. We can make recommendations but the final decision is yours. I will tell you my personal favorite. If I were to have only one handgun for defensive use, it would be a 1911 pattern .45 Automatic Colt Pistol.
I can hear all the cries and groans of protest already, everyone has their favorite. I realize I have just opened a VERY big can of worms here. However, the problem with all objections with my choice pretty much boils down to this. The John Browning designed Model 1911, IS, the premier fighting pistol ever designed.
It’s reliability, ergonomic excellence, power and sheer shootability in a close range social encounter simply can not be beaten. Proof? OK, how about the fact that EVERY single practical pistol match of any consequence since about 1975 has been won using a 1911 or clone or extrapolation of this design. There may be an exception here and there, but these are very rare, can be counted on one hand and was a function of the winners skill rather than a function of the basic design.
It has been in constant production for 100 years and is currently being copied by at least a dozen manufacturers. There really isn’t much left to discuss. When it comes to the raw ability to put rounds on target, reliably, quickly, accurately, and powerfully, nothing surpasses the combined excellence of the 1911 and the .45 ACP cartridge. Nothing is perfect, but as an instrument for self-defense, the 1911 seems to come pretty close.
One last thing before I go down in history as the world’s bigest blowhard. Get the very best quality handgun that you can afford, one you feel very comfortable and confident with, make sure it works every time, maintain it properly and learn safe handling (THE one safety rule that will always keep you out of serious trouble is this: “NEVER point a weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy”).
Most important of all, practice with it until shooting and hitting becomes second nature. Your personal handgun is nothing more than a tool, it is a poor craftsman who blames his tool for failure. A weapon can be considered as only an insurance policy, it cannot prevent social discourse or prevent someone trying to harm you and yours, that is totally up to you.
One other word of advice, once you have chosen your piece, seek professional instruction and practice as much as you can afford. Only then will you have an even chance of surviving when SHTF.
What do you think? Which handgun is best for you? Let us know in the comments below…
by Michael K
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