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What Brands Of Handguns For Self Defense?

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An Overview - With Some Recommendations

Which Brand Should I Buy?

We are indeed living in the golden age of handguns. There are kaboodles (I know, spell check says it’s not a word either!) of companies making quality guns around the world and in the U.S. And most of them are quite good. Form factors are getting smaller. So easier to conceal and more comfortable to carry all day long. Fierce competition has encouraged more entries into the value priced market. Dropping demand will also be forcing prices lower. Good time to be buying a gun. Below is one man's opinion on some of the brands I would encourage you to consider.

Glock (Austria & USA)

Let’s get Glock out of the way first. Perhaps the most popular handgun in America right now. A Glock doesn't fit my hand at all. So I am not a great fan...For me.

But, they are said to be dead reliable, and Glock fans love them. Super simple to use. Glock has no external safety, but their "Safe Action System" features a firiing pin and drop safety that are released when the "Trigger Safety" (A lever fit into the trigger.) is depressed. Basically making it extremely unlikely that the pistol will fire without deliberate intent. This revolver-like point and shoot simplicity is one of the features of the gun that endears them to their fans. Sure to be a popular choice, and one I would never argue against.

Glock brand Glock pistol
Glock 17

Springfield Armory (Croatia & USA)

Hugely popular with everything from the over sized, competition driven 5.25, to their range of striker fired XDms, to the full sized and miniaturized 1911s. Nice triggers and easy shooting, as well as a range of pistols for nearly every need, helps explain their popularity. Nice, accurate shooters. Uncertain about the rest of the line, but Springfield gives you a little something extra with every XD model. They come complete with a Kydex holster, two magazines, a magazine pouch, and a tool to assist in loading magazines. A nice little kit.

Look long and hard at their XDs models for Concealed Carry.

Springfield Armory XDm for Concealed Carry
Springfield¹s XD(m)
In 5.25" configuration

Smith & Wesson (USA)

Part of the national vocabulary, they continue to make excellent products designed to appeal to the rapidly changing market. The entire M & P line has been very well received. The EV is a value priced, mid-sized, nice little shooter. If you can get beyond it’s very difficult take down procedure, a deal breaker for me.

The latest member of the M & P line is the M & P Shield, a slim, small carry gun. Terrific little shooter. Highly recommend!

M & P Sheild for Concealed Carry
M & P Shield
Petite but potent

Ruger (USA)

Has won a reputation for well made, durable, and value priced guns of all types. They offer semi-automatics and rugged revolvers in every size class. They have been innovating to stay abreast of the market and have won many new die-hard fans. Hard to go wrong with a Ruger.

Ruger Blackhawk - not intended for Concealed Carry
Ruger Blackhawk

CZ (Czech Republic) and It’s Clones

The CZ is one of the open secrets of the gun world. A wonderfully ergonomic little shooter, terrifically accurate, and extremely reliable. First manufactured in 1975, it was hidden for years behind the Iron Curtain, Widely distributed in Europe, the brand remains largely unknown in the U.S. Unless you are around serious shooters. It is the most widely issued gun in the world for military and police. During the Cold War, someone pronounced it, "The enemies 1911." (The Colt 1911, long our GI’s issued sidearm.) So admired that it was "cloned" by the following companies. All have similar function and that same sweet pointing grip. Don’t think you would go far wrong with any of the bunch. CZ shooters tend to be a fanatical bunch, and I are one. Nearly as bad as Glock shooters. Bear that bias in mind.

CZ 75B - my everyday concealed carry handgun
CZ 75b in Satin Nickel
Just like mine!

Meet The Family

  • Tanfaglio (Italy) - sold by EAA as the Witness
  • Sarsilmaz (Turkey) - sold by EAA and Armalite
  • Jericho (Israel)
  • Baby Eagle (Israel & USA) - sold by Magnum Research
  • Sphinx (Switzerland)
  • Canik (Turkey)
  • Tri-star (Turkey)

As you can tell, I'm not the only one that thinks CZs are fine handguns. It may be the most copied handgun since the Colt .45 1911.

The Tri-star, Canik, and Sarsilmaz (Variously marketed as SAR Arms or just SAR) are especially good values right now. If you think these are second or third tier manufactures - these pistols are all made in the same Turkish factory. It meets both NATO and ISO 9000 standards. Look those up. A variety of steel and polymer models in full or compact sizes are being marketed as low as $350,00 or so. If you find one that feels like a good fit, I would recommend them highly.

EAA Witness - a bargain concealed carry gun
EAA Witness
In Two Tone Finish

Taurus (Brazil)

Taurus has long been a company with quality issues. Typically less expensive than it’s competitors, their products were not values because of their lack of reliability. Now under new management, have heard nothing but positive reviews on their newer products. Their hottest selling product, The Judge, a pistolo that fires both .410 shotgun shells and the .45 Long Colt, strikes many, including me, as a novelty product. But they make a wide selection of pistols in more useful calibers. Their TCP might be the hottest pocket .380 on the market.

Taurus TCP - great for pocket concealed carry
The Taurus Compact Pistol (TCP)
In Bubblegum finish!

Charter Arms (USA)

Has been around a long time making sturdy revolvers with excellent value. They've joined others in aggressively embracing the new shooter and the upsurge in the female buyer market with guns in non-traditional colors. (Pink or Raspberry, anyone?)

Charter Arms - a low cost concealed carry revolver
The Pink Lady Undercover .38 Special
Lightweight aluminum frame

Kahr (USA)

Specializing in handguns for the Concealed Carry market, their high quality compact semi-automatics tend to be on the pricey side. Might not have made this list for that reason. BUT...the new CM series offers a lot of Kahr goodness in a bargain package. Small, accurate, and surprisingly easy to shoot for such a tiny thing. Highly recommended. The CT series is a slightly larger carry pistol that is emulating what they have done with the CM. Find a way to manufacture it at reduced cost - passs the savings on to the buyer.

Kahr CM9 - an excellent choice for concealed carry
Kahr CM9
Nice bargain carry piece

But What About...

(Insert your favorite gun manufacturer here) ? FNH, Sig Saur, Beretta, Para Ordnance. I could go on. But I'll restrain myself. At the start of this article I mentioned how many, many, great companies are supplying us with high quality products. Some make wonderful guns - at a premium price. Some are a bit harder to find (Like the CZ family, but just couldn’t bring myself to leave them out.) Finding something YOU like, that makes sense to you, that feels good in your hand, is much more important than any recommendation I or anyone else, could make.

But consider the following.

Going all high dollar does not necessarily purchase a much better pistol, unless you go the custom shop route. There your dollars will be spent on things like a smoother trigger and better sights. On the other hand, be careful on the low end of the spectrum. Bringing a precise piece of machinery to market at a considerably lower price point than your competitor means cutting costs somewhere. This is not a couch, or golf clubs. You are investing in something that you might literally someday bet your life on. How big will that $50, or $100, or even $200 you saved look if you ever really, really need a firearm and it goes "Click" instead of "Bang"? That might make for a seriously bad day at the office, huh?

Kahr brought the CM series to market at about a $100 - $200 (street) savings from it’s nearly identical CW series by performing fewer machining steps, basically leaving it a bit less polished in appearance, and using one cast instead of machined part (The slide release, IMS). No difference in function.

Sort of like cars. You might not mind cloth seats instead of leather, but you do need it to start every morning.

Magazine Disconnect Safety

Avoid this rather dubious "safety" feature like the plague. Available on several models from otherwise responsible companies. These pistols will not fire if the mag is dropped. Imagine you are in a fight for your life and accidentally hit the magazine release. Suddenly you are holding a paper weight. With any other gun, you at least have one in the chamber to dissuade an attacker. Might buy you enough time for a reload.

Used Guns

A well made gun, reasonably taken care of, is extremely durable. One reason that "gun people" are so enamored of their firearms, is that they are incredible machines. They must be as precise as a watch, yet rugged enough to take the pounding from thousands of small explosions they are expected to contain and direct during their service life. Terrific engineering.

Excellent examples of good used gun values are police trade-ins. Often they will show some holster wear - because - - they were worn a lot in holsters! But other than cosmetics, they should be sound. I would always be more comfortable buying used from a friend, or a reputable gun dealer than through GunBroker.com, etc. You should be safe in assuming that a dealer has gone over the piece before putting it into stock, and you won’t immediately need expensive work done.

However, because of this durability, guns depreciate very slowly. There may not be a huge difference in price between a new or used gun in the same model. You might prefer to get the full warranty and the pride of ownership of the shiny new one in that unopened box. (Don’t you just love the smell of gun oil in the morning?)

But a bargain used handgun? No problem.

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