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Buying A Handgun – Using a Process and Criteria

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Article first appeared at Ammoland.com

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Ammoland – Often we take a seat-of-the-pants haphazard, unplanned approach to buying a handgun … a critical tool that we rely upon for saving our valuable life and protecting not only ourselves, but our loved ones.

Sometimes a friend or family member gives us their subjective, emotional opinion about a gun and says this is the gun you must buy, so on a whim we do, because it looks good and we respect and trust them.

But maybe, just because the gun works for them, it may not be best for us. Maybe we end up with seven or eight guns that sit in our gun safe not being used.

Buying A Handgun

So it is my opinion, we need to be more objective and spend more time up front thinking logically and rationally about this. We should use a standard process and criteria we develop ahead of time. The payoff is in the long-term result of buying a handgun that is the very best for yourself and that you will regularly use. Consider what is your primary purpose, goal, and use for the gun and then specific features that meet that use. You should research and gather specifications and data to evaluate.

Before you look at various new, hot releases, state-of-the-month handgun options and buy the latest-greatest, it is important to FIRST define your objective or use for the gun, your criteria and personal preferences and features that are necessary to accomplish your goal and rank them by importance. Then establish 3 or 4 alternative options that generally seem to meet your objective. If you do not know any, do your research again and find a handful to start your evaluation process. You can always add others later, once you have identified your objective and criteria. Then objectively evaluate each gun option against each of your criteria, e.g. pros and cons. I find a T-Diagram works best for this, listing pros on one side and cons on the other. If I see these side-by-side for each gun, I can better use it for comparison purposes.

What criteria and approach to buying a handgun do you use? The time your take initially in the short run to use a defined, standard process will pay off with long-term results. Here is the process I use:

My Buying A Handgun Selection Process:

  1. Define my Goal/Use for the handgun;
  2. Specify my standard Criteria and desired Features up front (I use 22, sometimes less);
  3. Rank my criteria/features by my importance and preferences;
  4. List 3 or 4 gun model Alternatives/Options I want to consider and decide among;
  5. Gather my specific gun model Data, do my Research, find manufacturer’s specifications, etc.;
  6. Objectively Evaluate each gun against the same criteria and features using a standard methodology;
  7. Select my “Winner.”

For me what works best for evaluating my alternatives is to use a standard 5-Point Likert Scale (given below) to evaluate each of my following 22 factors or Criteria for each pistol I am considering. It is important to identify specifications and also use a standard shooting drill for all guns to compare the same factors for each.

My recent book “Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials” ( tiny.cc/exti2x ) gives 5 shooting drills to help with this and elaborates on my criteria. My Criteria and factors are generally defined below to help. So, I assign my points to each criterion, then total all points for all 22 factors for each pistol and compare them. The pistol with the highest Total Points is probably the pistol for my specific purpose, if I honestly assessed each factor. For your different purposes or use for the gun, you might delete some of the below factors or add your own. I do that sometimes, like reduce the 22 to 7 or 8.

The 5-Point Scale for each criterion is:

  • 5 = Very Desirable/Acceptable
  • 4 = Desirable/Acceptable
  • 3 = Neutral
  • 2 = Undesirable/Unacceptable
  • 1 = Very Undesirable/Unacceptable


Col Ben's Buying A Handgun Selection Checklist
Col Ben’s Buying A Handgun Selection Checklist

ACCURACY – able to hit the target as desired for your first shot out-of-the-box without gun modifications; use the same distance, drill, grip, speed, target aimpoint, etc. for each gun.Here are the General Definitions of just my first seven criteria to help decide on a personal pistol.

  1. RELIABILITY – consistency over repeated trials with the gun; can you shoot it today, tomorrow, & next week with very similar results.
  2. DURABILITY – are there indications the gun will last a long time; mechanical construction; quality of materials used; manufacturer’s workmanship, design & detail.
  3. ERGONOMICS #1 – GRIP/FIT- Proper fit of gun’s grip to your particular hand & finger size.
  4. ERGONOMICS #2 – CONTROLS- Can you easily reach the slide lock lever, safety, mag release, various controls, etc.
  5. ERGONOMICS #3 – COMFORT– Does the gun feel good in your hand & when shooting it is the recoil physically acceptable to handle when applying shooting fundamentals.
  6. TRIGGER PRESS – Does it have a short and light trigger press, reset, and travel, as desired, or do you prefer its long and hard press.

Consider my process: Define your goal/use; Specify your criteria up front; Rank your preferred features; Objectively evaluate each gun against the same factors using a standard process, and proceed buying a handgun best supported by data.

What top criteria are important to you and what process do you use when buying a handgun ?

Continued success!

Col. Ben Findley
Col. Ben Findley

About Col Ben Findley:

“Col Ben” is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as “Expert” in small arms. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. Ben wrote the recent book “Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection” with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website atwww.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com.  Contact him at [email protected]

© 2015 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected]

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