Congratulations on having the courage to defend yourself and your home. It is the right decision and you are your first line of defense. Remember, police come after the crime has been committed so being able to defend yourself is important and it will save your life.
But how do you go about getting your first gun? And what do you buy?
There are a couple of ways to approach buying a gun. The goal is to get a gun, within your budget, that you can shoot well. Let’s talk about guns.
Most likely you want a handgun. They are small, easy to have in a place where you can get it quickly and easy to operate. Rifles can be very good for home defense but they are unwieldy and can be stronger than what you need and more difficult to operate. Shotguns are great for home defense. They are powerful, reliable, incredibly effective and relatively easy to use. On the down side they have considerable recoil, and if you are a new shooter it may be more difficult to get used to shooting it comfortably and you may be restricted on where you can practice shooting. Many ranges are handgun only.
A Handgun Primer
Handguns come in many types but there are two basic forms for you, semiautomatics and revolvers.
There is a lot of variety in semiautomatic handguns. Here is where it gets sticky. Single action, double action, double action only, decocking levers, safety and no safety models and that can cause you to be confused. Each type of semiautomatic will have evangelists. My recommendation is to keep it simple. Why? In a stressful situation you want to be able to point your gun and shoot an attacker. If you have to fumble with a safety or cock back a hammer your frame of mind might not be in the place that will allow you to remember to take steps before the gun will fire. The simplest guns to use are Glock, Kahr, Springfield XD, Kel-Tec and Ruger. This is just a partial list because there are many easy to use semiautomatics but these are the brands you will commonly see in a gun store.
A semiautomatic holds the rounds in a magazine. The magazine is removed from the gun and loaded then inserted back into the gun. To get the gun ready to fire a round must be chambered (you have to get a round into the barrel so it will fire). To chamber a round you pull back the slide and let it go forward. The magazine will push the round up so the slide can carry it to the chamber. Important note: Some people may have trouble pulling the slide back. One trick to make it easier is to have the gun in your shooting hand, put it close to your chest and parallel to your body. Grip the slide at the top and hold tightly while pushing the gun. With a little practice you will be fine. Be sure you can work the gun before buying it.
Advantages to a semiautomatic are: they fit your hand nicely, they often hold a lot of ammunition – or at least more than revolvers, and they come in a variety of different power levels. Prices are from $400 or so to over a thousand dollars.
Revolvers are reliable and easy to use. They hold the rounds in a cylinder that is attached to the gun so there is no magazine to lose or malfunction. They are very easy to load. Revolvers are just about fool proof and they come in a wide variety of weights and sizes. They are usually not as comfortable to hold as a semiautomatic. They are a little more difficult to shoot accurately but they sure are accurate enough for a beginner defending against a home intruder. When in doubt a .38 Special with a 4” barrel will work just fine. Yes, there are stronger guns but if you are a new shooter a .38 will be easy to shoot and ammunition is readily available. There is a wide variety of ammunition available for a .38 – so you start out with a lower power practice load and guard the homestead with a stronger round.