Buying a new handgun is a lot of fun, but it’s also a commitment. Unless you’re buying a range gun that you’re only going to plink with (and you know it), there are some practical considerations you need to make.
The first thing that you need to pay attention to is fitment. Not of the pistol’s parts per se (though it is important; ask a 1911 guy) but instead of the pistol to YOU. This is a critical factor, as the gun must fit you well.
Pay attention to how it sits in your hand. As you close your hand around the grip, does it fit your hand? Does the palm swell (if there is any) fit under the meat of the thumb? Does the tail of the frame sit well over the web of your hand between the thumb and index finger? Can you easily reach the trigger with your trigger finger?
These things matter. If the pistol grip takes up a good amount of real estate in the palm, this allows to grasp it firmly. A decent amount of material sitting above the web of the hand ensures a higher shooting grip and can guard against hammer or slide bite — the higher and tighter the grip, the better.
Trigger reach, of course, is also important as the distal joint of the index finger should naturally find the trigger face. If the gun is a little short, meaning your finger goes past the trigger, that’s okay; too little can be worked with but too much means you can’t adjust to shoot it well.
Lastly, does it feel good? Does it feel like it’s an extension of your arm? If so, you have a gun that fits you well. If not, you should probably pick something else.
Pick a spot somewhere in the gun store and try to pick it up with the sights. Don’t flag the clerk or any customers, of course; DUH. But find a spot that you can acquire with the sights. Raise the pistol up a few times into a shooting stance and put the sights on it.
Now, repeat the motion with your eyes closed. When the gun is up to the appropriate level, hold it there, and open your eyes. Are the sights dead on target? They should be. If they aren’t, that indicates poor fitment for you.
A growing number of people have been putting their Glock slides on an aftermarket frame, such as a Polymer 80, Grey Ghost Precision, Zev or other frame systems. If you ever pick one up, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the grip rake is not as exaggerated as the standard Glock. In fact, if you measure it, you’ll notice most of them (prepare to be angry, my tacticool amigos!) have the same grip angle as a 1911. How come? Because it works so darn well with most people’s hands and therefore makes sight acquisition easier.
Additionally, look at the sights themselves. Do you have to focus on them to get them on target consciously? If so, the sights are too small. It isn’t a deal-breaker (sights are one of the most popular aftermarket upgrades), but it does mean the sights aren’t as big as they need to be.
Tools For Tasks
Lastly, consider that a gun is a tool, and you should take pains to pick the right tool for the job. Granted, there’s significant wiggle room here, but you should consider it anyhow.
A concealed carry pistol should be light, so carrying is comfortable. Does this mean everyone should tote a 13-oz snubbie? No, but you need to find one that you can carry comfortably. Again, some wiggle room; some people think a Glock 19 is too much, and others have no issue toting a Government frame, Beretta 92 or Sig P226 on a daily basis.
The same can be said for dimensions. A gun should be small enough for you to conceal it while carrying, but you’d be surprised how big a gun can be covered up with a decent holster, gun belt and a bit of smart dressing. Again, some people draw the line at a Shield or Glock 43, but plenty of people carry full-size semi-autos and medium frame revolvers like a S&W Model 10 without issue.
You’ll have to work out what your limits are for yourself. If you decide on a compact to smallish full-size gun, invest in a good gun belt.
In other words, a small to medium gun can work well for almost any role. An N-frame revolver or competition pistol with an RMR, compensator and extended magazine? Those are better for home or range use.