When selecting a firearm, there are several questions that need to be answered:
Firearms come in a variety of sizes and calibers. A firearm intended to be used for target shooting may have a lighter trigger, a smaller caliber, and a larger frame than one used for self-defense. A firearm intended to be concealed carry may be smaller and lighter than one intended to be kept in the nightstand. A firearm intended for hunting will likely have a heavier frame, a larger caliber, and may be fitted for a scope. The number of rounds that can be stored in the magazine and cylinder is another consideration
The best self-defense firearm is one that the shooter can shoot accurately and reliably.
In general for defensive purposes; it is recommend nothing smaller than a 9mm is used. The more rounds that can be carried in a defensive firearm are often times seen as a positive. Of critical importance is the quality of the firearm. It is unwise to depend on a low-cost and unreliable firearm to protect one’s life.
For target shooting, the .22LR is an inexpensive caliber letting the shooter shoot a lot more rounds and spend a lot less money.
There are a lot of benefits to a semi-automatic firearms, in that they hold more rounds of ammunition, are easier to conceal, and typically have less recoil (all things considered). However, there are more parts in a semi-automatic handgun and therefore are more prone to problems (feeds, jams, etc.).
Revolvers also have a lot of benefits. They tend to be fairly reliable, can sit in a drawer for a long time without problems. With a revolver, the process is as simple as pulling the trigger and it goes bang. There tends to be less mechanical training required to use a revolver, however this should not be construde that training isn't needed. One downside of a revolver is that when it stops functioning, likely it cannot be fixed in the short period of time that a gunfight takes place. Therefore a person should own more than 1 revolver if that is their preferred handgun.
In general for someone who is going to be very familiar with their firearm and is going to regularly train with it, we recommend a semi-automatic handgun as their primary firearm. For people who only plan to use their firearm a few times a year, we recommend a revolver.
Recoil is one of the primary fears that people have around guns. Felt recoil is the amount of perceived recoil that the shooter feels after they pull the trigger. The three largest influencers on felt recoil are the size, weight, and caliber of the firearm. The larger the frame, the heavier the gun, and the smaller the caliber all reduce felt recoil.
Almost everyone is impacted by recoil, it is called flinch. We anticipate the recoil and try to compensate for it before pulling the trigger and that makes us miss the target. The only way to overcome recoil is to train with that firearm and get used to it. That may not be the person's goal and if not, why have a gun that you can't shoot well?
It is often common for newer shooters who don't understand the components of felt recoil to see a small handgun and believe that is no so intimindating, so they want to start with it. Actually the smaller and lighterweight firearm will significantly increase the felt recoil. Many times a very small and lightweight .380 caliber pistol will be more uncomfortable to shoot than a large .45 caliber pistol.
For a handgun that is kept in the house, we recommend at least a 4" barrel. The larger the caliber the more metal and less polymer we recommend. A Smith & Wesson or Ruger 357 revolver with a 4" barrel is a great option. A Glock, Smith & Wesson, or Springfield Armory in 9mm is another great option; especially for newer shooters or those who don't plant to shoot frequently.
Handguns that are in .40S&W or .45ACP will have more felt recoil and while they are useful and effective firearms, may not be best for newer shooters.
Personally we find no enjoyment in giving a large caliber / lightweight firearm to a newer shooter and see them pull the trigger and get scared. Therefore we encourage macho men to not give their most powerful handgun to their wife or girlfriend if they want that person to ever shoot a firearm in the future.
/The smaller the firearm and the larger the caliber the more felt recoil the shooter will notice. While many people believe that smaller firearms are cuter and less intimidating they are actual-ly much more difficult to shoot.
Similarly, many shooters want a large caliber so that it has a higher chance of stopping a threat quickly, but the recoil is so great that they can’t shoot it well and either build a considerable flinch or take much longer getting back on target for a second shot.
From a concealed carry perspective, the best handgun to be selected is the one that you will carry. If it is too big, too heavy, makes you walk funny, etc. it will more than likely be left at home. However, a firearm that is carried should be trained with on a regular basis. That means that felt-recoil is an important aspect (see #3 above).
A concealed carry firearm needs to find the right balance between concealability & comfort (so that you carry it) and functionality. Typically the smaller the firearm, the easier it is to conceal it.
If the firearm won’t be concealed, then it makes more sense for a larger firearm. There is nothing more intimidating to a burglar than to see a 6” revolver (except for the sound of a 12 gauge pump shotgun being racked) in the hands of a homeowner, whereas the burglar may never see a mini or snub nose firearm.
Firearms fit different people in different ways. Some larger guns won’t fit well in small hands. Others with large hands aren’t comfortable with compact firearms. The angle of some grips don’t provide for a natural point of aim, so the shooter has to constantly adjust. There are a few techniques that can be used to see if a gun has a natural point of aim without actually shooting it, but the ultimate best way is to shoot it.
We recommend that people who are looking to purchase a new firearm, try several different ones to see what works best for them. It is impossible and lazy for anyone to tell another person that they should buy a certain firearm. There are a lot of quality firearms out there, that should be considered.