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Old October 9, 2012, 09:17 PM   #1
Just A Dad
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I Can Only Own One For Fun/Self Defense

Background

I am a 42 yr old father of 3 who has never owned a gun and my wife is highly against me having one. I have shot a few different handguns in the past but only a few times. If I can talk her into it, I will surely only be able to own 1 gun for the forseeable future.

My Questions

My main purpose would be for fun (target shooting/blowing off steam at the range) with the secondary purpose of home defense. I am interested in a semi auto pistol for around $500 or less.

So....if I can only own 1 gun for a long time....

What brand for a "beginner" like me would you recommend (ease of use, safety...DA vs. SA or combo, reliability)?
I'm leaning toward a 9mm or 357 (38 special)....what do you think?
Any general advice?
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:28 PM   #2
Brit
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The choice between a 9mm or .38 Special is simple, the 9mm is ballistically superior, can be had in more compact dimensions, with a higher capacity.

The big difference, cost!
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:34 PM   #3
Crankgrinder
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when i bought my first pistol this was the thing i was faced with also, so 9mm it was for me. Cant help you with the wife though, imo thats like the sheep telling the sheepdog they cant have any teeth. Cant see myself being 42 and still married but then couldnt see myself a dad w/ family of four either.Best of luck.
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:38 PM   #4
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You posted your question in the discussion area for semi-automatic pistols, and the .357 round is for a revolver so I'll just skip right over that.

Being old-school, I always default to suggesting a 1911. There are several brands available that can be found for under $500 street price. Rock Island Armory offers at least one model in 9mm.

However, if this is going to be your one and only pistol and you don't have an inclination to get more deeply involved with tinkering and the mechanics of what makes your gun go "Bang," then I guess I would have to suggest you look at some of the newer designs. Although I personally detest them and will never own one, a Glock would serve your needs and be within your price range. You could also look at Bersa.

There are probably others that would be under $500, but I'm not familiar with the non-1911 market. What I will offer, though, is to be very careful if/when people suggest some of the small, polymer-framed pistols. They're fine for carry and self-defense use, but if the agenda includes using the same pistol for enjoyable range time and/or moderately extensive practice -- the small, lightweight pistols are NOT enjoyable to shoot.
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:39 PM   #5
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For your purposes I like the Beretta 92FS/92A1.

It's a very aesthetically attractive gun, making it more appealing to girls (I promise I'm not making this up as stupid as it sounds. I've taken girls shooting with friends who were bored with my friends' Glock and XD type guns but ooohed and aahhhed at my Beretta).

It's a very friendly gun. Low recoil, easy to handle.

It's a very reliable gun.

It has a heavy first trigger pull and a manual safety to ease her mind.

I'd grab a 92A1, a GunVault safe for it, a Streamlight TLR-1 to fix to the rail, and fill a few magazines with a quality load like Federal HST 147-grain. After all, if you only get one, go full-out.

Actually...if you really only get one...you might go look into a Sig Sauer P226 or HK P2000. Something that can last bulletproof for ages.
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:47 PM   #6
jmortimer
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With premium ammunition like Buffalo Bore, the .38 Special is equal to the 9mm. As a practical matter either one would work. I would check out the Ruger SP 101 or a Ruger SR 9c. Unless you are going to spend a lot of time at the range shooting, a double action revolver would be your best choice. It takes more practice to master a pistol. The revolver goes from night stand to fire with no safety or slide to consider. No better all around gun than the Ruger GP 100.

Last edited by jmortimer; October 9, 2012 at 09:52 PM.
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:51 PM   #7
warnerwh
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A .357 revolver is what I recommend. It is a very versatile gun. You can shoot .38 specials in it as well as full magnum loads and everything in between. Also the revolver is a simple gun. Just pick it up and it's ready, no safety to deal with. If it wasn't also for home defense a .22 auto is alot of fun and very cheap to shoot.
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Old October 9, 2012, 10:05 PM   #8
militant
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Id hate to start a caliber war here but the .38 special is not equal to the 9mm at all. The 9mm is a higher pressure round. The best rounds in .38 are not equal to the best rounds of 9mm. But back on subject, for your price range, I'd get a glock in 9mm. Simple, reliable, and can be found used for 350/400 at local gun shows in my area.
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Old October 9, 2012, 10:07 PM   #9
RBid
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At your price point:

Caracal F or C
Ruger SR9 or SR9c

Up to $550:
S&W M&P 9
Glock 19 or 17
Springfield Armory XD9
Walther PPQ


Definitely want a gun box of some type.
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Old October 9, 2012, 10:27 PM   #10
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I second the SR9 or 9c. Awesome first choice and if it's your only, I think it would be very durable IMHO.
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Old October 9, 2012, 10:27 PM   #11
Polinese
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I'd say a used CZ 75/85 series. Or a Rock Island Armory 1911 in 9mm.
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Old October 9, 2012, 10:28 PM   #12
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Don't buy a gun without at least looking at it.

DA/SA guns are about as newbie friendly as DAO guns; don't be intimidated. Make sure you are comfortable with it.

$500.00ish guns

Caracal C of F
Glock 17 or 19
PPQ
CZ75B
Beretta 92
Sig P226 certified pre owned (You can find used SIG P226's; Good as new for around $600.00)
Springfield XDM
S&W M&P line

All are great quality guns that suit different peoples tastes. No one can say for sure X gun is perfect for you; only you can make that choice.
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Old October 9, 2012, 10:30 PM   #13
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"The best rounds in .38 are not equal to the best rounds of 9mm"
I'll send a memo to Buffalo Bore and tell them you disagree with their data.
9mm Luger +P+ Pistol and Handgun Ammo - (+P+) 147 gr. Jacketed Hollow Point (1,175 fps/M.E. 451 ft. lbs.)
38 Special +P OUTDOORSMAN - 158 gr. Hard Cast Keith @ 1,250 fps 548 ft lbs
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Old October 9, 2012, 10:59 PM   #14
bitttorrrent
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I hear you! I am 43 and have just gotten back into guns after a long time.

My first gun that I purchased was a Baretta px4 storm! What a thrill it is to buy one for the first time. I wanted 9mm, higher capacity and a safety. I have 2 younger kids and just wanted that. Although my 3 year old son has already watched how i drive and can take the keys, unlock the car and start it! He was just asking about the brake and gas.. thankfully he can't reach the pedals.

I just wanted one gun, but I now have a collection of mine, the ones my Dad has given me and inherited from the mother-in-law so I now have a safe and a number of guns and rifles.

BTW, my wife hates them and freaked when I showed that i was keeping it at our house. She has allowed me to keep them at our vacation house cause its in the woods in MI, but not really at the main house.

Good luck with the gun selection and the wife. Neither is easy.

I like and have some 9mm's:
baretta px4 storm
taurus pt-99 s.s.
caracal F
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Old October 9, 2012, 11:12 PM   #15
militant
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http://www.ballistics101.com/9mm_vs_.38special.php


The topic has been beat to death with a stick.
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Old October 9, 2012, 11:19 PM   #16
481
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Just A Dad:
My main purpose would be for fun (target shooting/blowing off steam at the range) with the secondary purpose of home defense. I am interested in a semi auto pistol for around $500 or less.

So....if I can only own 1 gun for a long time....

What brand for a "beginner" like me would you recommend (ease of use, safety...DA vs. SA or combo, reliability)?
I'm leaning toward a 9mm or 357 (38 special)....what do you think?
Any general advice?
If you are looking for a good 9mm, I'd go with any of the semiautos suggested by RBid.

I'd add to that, that if it's a .357 you are after, Ruger makes a very nice one- the GP100- that can be had in a variety of barrel lengths suitable for SD/HD. Go with at least a 4" barrel as anything shorter than that makes obtaining reasonable accuracy a little bit harder to achieve.
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Old October 9, 2012, 11:20 PM   #17
jmortimer
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"The topic has been beat to death with a stick"
^ I would have ignored the facts as well. Generally, I agree, the 9mm generally has more energy, but there is no 9mm +P+ or otherwise that compares to Buffalo Bore .38 Special Outdoorsman. Sorry you were wrong on this point.

Last edited by jmortimer; October 9, 2012 at 11:27 PM.
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Old October 9, 2012, 11:35 PM   #18
Retread7
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I went through quite a few pistols before I found the Glock 19. It is perfect for me, both for self defense and fun at the range. After a few years, the wife tried it (a few of our friends are lady shooters). Now she wants her own G19.
My 2 cents
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Old October 10, 2012, 03:45 AM   #19
Denezin
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Actually coonan makes the 357 mag in an auto and so does magnum research in their desert eagle. As per that question in that price range i agree with the RIA 1911 in 9mm. But once again try some guns out first.
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Old October 10, 2012, 04:21 AM   #20
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Despite having been in your shoes once as far as the "not knowing what to buy", I'd simply suggest choosing some calibres you can afford (if buying a couple of hundred at a time makes you cringe, it's probably too expensive to consider) and then going to a gun shop and holding those in your range.

Make a short list.

Go to a range. Try to shoot as many as you can. As many on your short list as possible and any others your price range allows,, in as many calibres as you can from that list. Make your short list a bit shorter.

Then decide which platforms you like, in calibres you enjoyed of those you could still afford to feed.

Then scour the second hand market until you see a good deal on one of the models you felt you'd be happy with.

Will the gun be up to the job? Seems to me most manufacturers make guns that go bang when they are designed to.

I, personally, got a 3rd Gen Glock 19 as a good deal just turned so I took it, despite looking more at a Steyr at the time.

You might consider something that can be rimfire converted too such as the CZ range (but there are others), then you can de-stress for mere cents, but practice with dollars or cents depending on the mood...
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Last edited by Pond, James Pond; October 10, 2012 at 04:27 AM.
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Old October 10, 2012, 05:03 AM   #21
BillCA
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Some good suggestions have been offered.

Beretta PX-4 (under $500)
Beretta 92FS (Mid-$500)
Beretta M9 (Low $500) - a military version of the 92FS.
CZ-75B 9mm ~$500
Rock Island 1911 9mm - (About $400)
Rock Island 1911 .45ACP (About $415)
Springfield XD 9mm (Under $500)

You really need to paw and handle a handgun before deciding to purchase. A lot of things might look good on paper or in color photos, but not feel right in the hand. Handle pistols and look for one that is a good fit to your hand.

If you want high capacity, strike the 1911 models from the list. The PX-4 is a nice gun but for me, the rounded edges and shape don't feel right in the hand. That's a personal opinion.

When looking for a pistol, for your purposes, I'd definitely select one with an external safety. That eliminates several brands or models, including Glocks, most new S&W pistols and the Springfield XD. As good as those guns are, if it will be in a home with non-shooters (wife & kids) an external safety is a must.

For the uninitiated, revolvers are simpler to work because you provide all the muscle power for each step. There's one button the side of the gun for reloading. Some pistols, however, have multiple levers on them which can cause confusion for the unfamiliar. The pistol also automatically performs several operations after firing to eject and reload the chamber. This can bother some shooters.

In a revolver, you should be able to find an excellent, previously owned .38 or .357 magnum for under $500. Cosmetic flaws from use or handling will drop the price somewhat. The .357 Magnum is simply a longer, more powerful .38 Special so it will shoot the .38 Special. The .38 cannot chamber the longer .357 however.

Right now, 9mm ammunition is relatively cheap. The .38 Special is comparable in cost when we're talking paper-punching ammo. When it comes to serious personal defense ammo, the terminal effects of .38 Special +P vs. 9mm are going to be very similar. Using the .357 for home defense is a bit of overkill, IMO.

I'm approaching 60 now, and old age takes its toll. I find the sights on my Beretta 92FS are easier to use than most other brands. I resisted the "large capacity" pistols for years due to their bulk and weight. The 92FS, itself is a large pistol that sits low in the hand, isn't too heavy and shoots very precisely. It has an external safety and a long double-action first trigger pull and a lighter pull subsequently.
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Old October 10, 2012, 06:43 AM   #22
Hal
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Quote:
If I can talk her into it, I will surely only be able to own 1 gun for the forseeable future
I could make a very strong case for you buying a .22 rifle and forgetting about a handgun @ this point......
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Old October 10, 2012, 06:46 AM   #23
walts
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I'd recommend a CZ75b as it will do everything you need it to do and it's a ton of fun to own if you can only have one.
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Old October 10, 2012, 07:02 AM   #24
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I know this is the semiauto forum. Honest, I do. Given the circumstances (42 yo father of 3 who has never owned a gun), I have to go with a .357 Magnum revolver. Yes, Just A Dad, I know that you're interested in a semiauto, but there are some very real reasons to look into a revolver:

Pros:
Revolvers are not subject to jamming, stovepipes or the same types of FTE or FTF malfunctions that semis are. (They may be subject to other malfunctions, though.)
The .357 Mag is a capable round for HD/SD.
The .357 Magnum is capable of shooting .38 Spl for cheaper practice.
Revolvers can be left loaded for decades without worrying about springs, etc.

Cons:
Slower reloads -- not really a problem for range use, and speedloaders help.
No external safety (whether this is really a "con" is the subject of some debate).
Wider profile (important is concealed carry is a concern).
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Old October 10, 2012, 07:59 AM   #25
Just A Dad
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Thanks for all the replies!!

Hal --- My 9 yr old son and I did recently get a Gamo Hornet air rifle, which we're having fun with at 15 yards in the basement (against the wife's "better judgement")..haha.

I appreciate all the feedback (and anymore that can be given). I'm an engineer by degree, so doing the research and learning from the more experienced is half the fun for me. I will definitely try several out at my local gun range that rents pistols.
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