4-Step Guide to Handgun Selection

Handgun selection for the first-time buyer can be a daunting task.

The sheer number of gun brands in a store makes choosing the best one a hard decision to make. Gun buyers should not feel pressured or rushed when purchasing a handgun. A sale predicated on speed, without much thought, may lead to a wrong purchase and buyer's remorse. 

handgun selection

This article aims to serve as a guide for people who wish to buy a handgun for the first time to protect themselves from crime trends


There are several considerations to keep in mind when selecting a handgun. Gun buyers should be aware of all community and state laws about firearms, including: 

• Purchase

• Possession

• Ownership

• Transport

The laws on firearms vary and may be different for each state, county, or community. It is up to the gun owner or buyer to obey these laws. Ignorance of the law, especially those that govern firearms, is inexcusable and not a defense. Violations of firearm laws often carry severe legal punishments and fines. 

Gun owners and buyers need to make an effort to know and obey the laws in their state or community to avoid punishment.


Handgun Safety Rules and Training

In the United States, there are more than 393 million guns in circulation, and 1.7 million children live with unlocked, loaded guns at home. Gun ownership may be a right and a privilege, but it is also a significant responsibility. 99.99% of gun accidents are due to human error, and gun owners need to take extra precautions to stay safe.   

First-time gun buyers need to understand that going to a store and buying a gun is not enough to own one. They must undergo handgun safety training and handling, before even considering what type of gun to purchase.  

According to Jeff Cooper, an influential figure in modern firearms training, there are four basic rules in gun safety:

1. All guns are always loaded

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it

gun safety

The United States Marine Corps has a similar set of rules, adding a useful tip at number four

5. Treat every weapon as if it were loaded

6. Never point the weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot

7. Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you're ready to fire

8. Keep the weapon on safe until you intend to fire

The National Rifle Association has a similar set of rules, also adding "ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use." which is important, especially for gun owners with families. It is the responsibility of all gun owners to keep their firearms secure and locked away from children or people who have no business holding a gun

Steps on Selecting a Handgun

The following is a step-by-step guide to help gun buyers select the best firearm for the job. 

Step 1: Evaluating the Purpose and Use of the Firearm

The first step in selecting a firearm is determining its use. Many first-time buyers want a gun as a form of self-defense for their family and home. Others buy guns for competitive sports shooting or as a concealed carry for personal self-defense. Handgun types and sizes vary, based on the intended use. 

Sub-compact handguns are great as concealed carry weapons, while regular-sized guns work both for sport and home defense. Most experts advise getting a shotgun or sporting rifle for home protection, however storing them remains an issue. Handguns are easier to secure and store around the home.  

Step 2: Setting a Budget 

Next, buyers should set a budget on how much they are willing to spend on a handgun. For regular shooting range use and home protection, choosing an inexpensive 9mm handgun is the most logical option. Gun prices range from $150 for basic handguns to several thousand dollars for custom competition shooters. 

However, prices are often a good indicator of a gun's performance, reliability, and longevity. First-time buyers should look for guns in the $400 - $800 range from well-known manufacturers. Buyers should also consider looking at used handguns, usually costing 25% to 50% less than their normal retail price. 

handgun ownership

Step 3: Determining the Size of the Handgun

This step ties into step one. The size of the handgun is dependent on its intended use. Buyers need to choose a handgun that they can hold straight and firm, with no weight issues. All fingers need to grip the handle, including the pinky finger. If the handgun is for home defense, a full-sized machine pistol will do. For concealed carry, buyers should get a sub-compact. A full-sized gun is more natural to shoot, while a compact pistol chambered with the same caliber has more recoil. 

Step 4: Deciding on the Caliber

Most buyers will find this step the hardest when selecting a handgun. Choosing the right caliber is a sensitive and debated topic in the firearms community. There are many different opinions on what caliber is best, and all have their merits. Buyers must find what works best for them.

The FBI recently switched to using 9mm rounds as standard, as opposed to the more powerful .45 caliber. Handguns using 9mm or other small caliber bullets have less recoil and more rounds than a typical .45 caliber pistol. 45s have raw stopping power but lack the ammunition capacity needed in an extended firefight. 

For home defense, most experts agree that having a 9mm handgun is the best choice. The gun is easy to handle, with less recoil than a gun chambered with a large caliber round. 9mm bullets are also cheaper and easier to find. 


By following these guidelines, new shooters will not make the critical mistake of rushing to buy a handgun. Regret often comes after the purchase, when an owner fires his or her gun for the first time. These steps will ensure that first-time buyers end up with a handgun that is easy to use, fun to shoot and reliable.