Firearms Instruction Research and Education

Handgun Recommendations

Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions and are not to be construed as an official endorsement by the F.I.R.E. Institute of any particular brand or model. --Tony

Regarding the semi-auto pistol, there are several design features deemed desirable in a handgun that will be used for self defense. Reliability is paramount but another very important consideration is a consistent shot-to-shot trigger press, an example of which is the Browning designed 1911 Government model. However, several handguns of more recent vintage that are of striker fired design also possess consistent triggers and are exemplified by the Glock, the Springfield Armory XD and the Smith & Wesson M&P. These all exhibit a consistent trigger press with each shot fired and are models with which I have some personal experience.

In contrast is the DA / SA (double action / single action) autoloading design where the first trigger press is both long and heavy. Two common examples are the SIG P226 and the Beretta 92FS. The trigger press on the first shot is long and heavy due to the fact that stroking the trigger also cocks the hammer. Thereafter, each subsequent trigger press is single action and much shorter and lighter. There is nothing inherently wrong with a DA / SA autoloader. It is however beyond argument that mastering that first long and heavy trigger press involves a much steeper learning curve.

If you happen to own a DA / SA or DAO (double action only) autoloader this brief overview is not intended to discourage you from using it in class or to persuade you to trade it in for another design. In fact we encourage you to use it in this course whereby you will be afforded an opportunity to try other designs and can then decide for yourself the advantages and disadvantages of both.

A word about ergonomics as it relates to the size of one's hand relative to the size of the handgun. An often overlooked aspect of selecting a firearm is the ability to manipulate it under stress and duress. A firearm that is too large or too small impedes our ability to reliably operate its controls (e.g. the safety, magazine release and slide stop, etc.). In the context of the limited time available in a "one day" class format, excessively large and small handguns can complicate the learning curve to an extent. This is not intended to suggest that one shouldn't bring their weapon of choice to class unless it fits the "footprint" of a mid-sized handgun or that very large or very small handguns are in any way unsuitable. It is simply meant to raise awareness to the fact that very small and very large handguns, relative to one's hand size, are indeed more difficult to manipulate.

With respect to handgun weight and manufacturing materials, the technology available today affords manufacturers the opportunity to reduce the weight of firearms considerably without compromising strength. However, the reduced weight, while benefiting ease of carry, comes at the price of increased recoil. In fact, when lightweight "space age" materials are mated to heavy calibers, or in some cases even those considered "non magnum", the recoil can be quite painful. This is yet another criteria that must be considered when selecting a firearm for self defense.

Note: Handguns with compensators and recoil reduction ports are to be avoided. They often deflect gases and muzzle flash in an upward direction and this can degrade the ability of your vision to acclimate to low light conditions. The upward deflection of hot gases also creates safety considerations when shooting from the Retention position.

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"Having a gun and thinking you are armed is like having a piano and thinking you are a musician"
------ Col. Jeff Cooper (U.S.M.C. Ret.)

This course is sponsored by the Firearms Instruction Research & Education (FIRE) Institute,
a Penna. nonprofit corporation.
Training is provided as a public service.
All students must be 18 years or older. Proof of no criminal history is required.

2003 F.I.R.E. Institute