With all the latest political controversy and looming legislation over gun ownership and Second Amendment rights, it is no wonder many Americans are making the important decision to invest in a gun. In fact, there have been 72,005,482 background checks for gun purchases since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, according to FBI data.
The Daily Caller decided to send this reporter to gun stores in the D.C.-Metro area to document purchasing a handgun from a female’s perspective, recording what recommendations I received and why, as well as how I was treated.
My proposal was simple: I am a young female looking for a handgun for home defense, with the ability to be used for concealed carry down the road, and willing to spend $500 to $600.
There were a few things every gun store recommended. First, each gun store discussed the basic factors one should consider when purchasing a handgun: functionality, reliability, ease of use and weight. Based upon these factors, the recommendation by every gun store for a weapon compatible for both home defense and concealed carry was 9mm caliber handguns. The overall consensus was that 9mm handguns are superior for personal defense because there is less recoil, they allow for accurate follow-up shots and the ammunition is equal to the effectiveness of that of a .45 or .40 caliber pistol. It is also a compact pistol, so it is easily able to be used for concealed carry.
Additionally, the larger the gun, the more velocity of the round. This equates to a more deadly projectile and that is particularly important for home defense purposes.
As you would expect with a larger gun, the magazine holds more ammunition – usually between 10 and 18 rounds – as compared to a .380, which while easier to conceal, typically holds fewer rounds. As one employee stated to me, “For home defense purposes, it’s not worth it. It’s a gun you buy in order to scare people, but unless you have just the right shot, it will not be deadly.”
Put another way, an employee urged me to consider my end game.
“It’s all about your end game. If your end game is to conceal carry, go smaller to begin with it. Otherwise, you’ll end up buying two,” an employee at Nova Armament, LLC. advised.
Gun Store Experience
The more gun stores I went to, the more I noticed a pattern beginning to develop: the employees that were truly customer-oriented would take me through a similar process when showing me handguns. First, they would have me grip the gun so I could see how it fit with my hand, as well as try to ascertain how secure my grip was. A gun for the purposes of home or personal defense will be used in high-stress situations and it is crucial that you are able to quickly, securely and comfortably grip the handgun. Secondly, they would see how I handled the slide-spring stiffness. This is obviously critical in the operation of a handgun, so it is important that one feels comfortable with the effort needed to exert to cycle the slide of the handgun. Additionally, particularly with many 9mm pistols, the size of the slides is relatively small and so there is less gripping area. This is something to consider especially if you have larger hands.
All of these are simple actions you can take within a gun store when deciding which handgun is best for you. One store I went to did not even bother to have me go through these routines though, so it is important you are proactive or chose another gun store.
The frequent suggestion was to keep things simple – choose a gun that is simple to operate and maintain.
“For home defense, it’s about rack and bang. Keep it simple.”
The Recommended Guns
Glocks were the most frequent recommendation – particularly Glock 17, 19 and 26 models. They are all 9mm and marketed as purpose built, highly reliable and accurate guns. Employees tout the fact that the pistols have been put through a range of torture tests and remain unaffected. They are also low maintenance and do not require frequent cleanings. The Glock 17, 19, and 26 have magazine capacities of 17, 15 and 10 rounds, respectively. For any of these three models of Glocks, the price ranged from $525 to $599.
One store recommended the Walther PPQ M2 (Police Pistol Quick Defense) 9mm or Walther PPS (Police Pistol Slim) 9mm over the Glock models. I am a petite female, so these two guns were specifically recommended to me because they are slightly smaller, slimmer and weigh less than most Glock models. The suggestion was that for concealed carry – especially in a holster – it would be less bulky. The features specifically touted to me about these Walther models were an ambidextrous magazine release button and the three-dot combat sights. The PPQ model comes with a magazine that holds 15 rounds, while the PPS model can only hold magazines of 6, 7 or 8 rounds. The PPS model offers considerably less rounds than the Glock models, but is easier to conceal. The price ranged from $599 to $699 for these two models.
As an alternative to the Glock, multiple stores showed me the Smith & Wesson M&P9. This gun holds 17 rounds and has a longer sight radius than the Glock 19. It is also marketed as simple to operate and maintain. But overall, if asked to compare to the Glock models, most employees use the old adage, “It’s Chevy versus Ford.” I was advised that it really boils down to the grip and which gun I felt more comfortable with.
The Ruger LC9-LM received an honorable mention from one store. If your end game is concealed carry, it is a perfect size and can easily be carried in a holster or purse. It has a magazine capacity of 7, plus one in the chamber. And its biggest feature is a laser sight, which makes it that much easier to accurately shoot with, particularly if you are a beginner. Its worth noting that the Glock and Walther models offer accessory rails, so mounting a flashlight or laser is a future possibility with those guns as well. The Ruger LC9 runs for about $515.
Whether the gun will be used for home defense or concealed carry, every store recommended that I invest in hollow-point bullets. These bullets expand as they penetrate a target, thus maximizing tissue damage while decreasing collateral damage. They are expensive, so it is not advisable to use frequently at the range. Instead, one expert suggested you have at least one magazine always loaded with these bullets and that is your designated defense magazine. Keeping magazines loaded will not cause any harm to the springs, as it is frequent decompression – unloading and loading – that causes wear and tear to magazines. Most guns come with a minimum of two magazines, but it is often recommended that one invests in multiple magazines and designate them for either training or defense purposes. Finally, another piece of advice to consider is that the commonality of your handgun is going to work in your favor, particularly for service and accessories.
Making the decision to purchase a gun is the first step in a long but rewarding process. It is both an important and expensive investment, so it is well worth your time to visit a few gun stores, do your own research, compare prices and visit a range before making that final purchase. Particularly if you are a female, most gun stores will be very accommodating and helpful in explaining guns and answering questions. When recommending local gun ranges, one store even went as far as to advise me what ranges had better reputations for treating females more professionally! And though a trip to the range can be expensive, especially with the current ammunition shortages, it is better to spend the money at the range than purchasing an incompatible handgun. Gun stores are overwhelming not inclined to pressure you into making any immediate purchase – in fact, quite the opposite, as I was consistently advised to weigh my options, test out the guns at a range and return with any questions or when I was ready to make a purchase. This is a device that may ultimately save your life, so choose wisely and take your time.
Editor’s note: I was surprised that not one revolver was mentioned as an option for home-defense. The .38 Special was typically the recommendation for a first gun but Jessica wasn’t presented with that option.