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Old October 14, 2013, 08:32 AM   #1
rockinrandy
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How do you test out a new handgun?

While looking through the threads I ran across the "etiquette" in a gun store thread and this got me thinking. I am looking for my first semi auto pistol and have way too many options I feel and want to fire as many that fit me as possible. I should note that this is my first handgun purchase but not my first handgun. (When my father passed I inherited a Ruger GP100 357 mag, and a Winchester (forgot model) 42 caliber). I have shot and reloaded thousands of rounds through these and just want something that I can do more plinking with, along with the ultimate goal of CCW(which I what I plan to carry a semi auto). I have pretty much decided on 9mm, but wouldn't mind trying out other calibers too (i.e. 357 sig, 40, 45). I usually use my range that is on my property (47 acres proper back stops). I have found a nice local gun shop that rents handguns and has over 100 for rentals. My plan is to hold all of the rentals that fit my needs and budget for fit and the ones I like I plan to fire. This will be my first time purchasing a gun along with firing in an indoor range. Does someone have some kind of drill/routine that you use to figure out which handgun to buy? Am looking for a step by step kind of thing or video. I plan to be polite and ask any questions that I either do not know or because I want to ask permission to do something with the gun.

My main goal for getting the semi auto is to familiarize myself with how they work, not looking for winning shooting competition just something that I can use to hone my skills before use a compact or subcompact. (thinking of it as a mid-step to where I am wanting to go)

Last edited by rockinrandy; October 14, 2013 at 08:39 AM.
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Old October 14, 2013, 11:46 AM   #2
Bob Wright
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I've never "tried out" a handgun prior to purchase. In fact, my first handgun was bought by mail-order. From then on, I selected new guns from catalogs or gun books and made my choice from there.

These were all revolvers. As to autoloaders, I was introduced to the M1911 .45 ACP in the Army, then gained some experience with the .38 Super auto by virture of an Army buddy's Llama .38 Super.

My experience has been just buy 'em and shoot 'em.

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Old October 14, 2013, 04:06 PM   #3
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>>My experience has been just buy 'em and shoot 'em.<<

That's pretty much it. If you buy one from a reputable dealer and it doesn't work he'll usually take it back. If you're buying it from afar that might be another story. (especially from an individual)
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Old October 14, 2013, 04:58 PM   #4
DaleA
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I got some great advice from a beginners trap shooting class. The instructor told us don't pretend to have knowledge you don't have.

So don't pretend to know how the gun works if you don't know. Ask the guy how it works when you rent it. If he makes fun of you for not knowing then HE is the jerk.

One story I have of this is watching someone at the range offering to let another shooter try out his semi-automatic. The new shooter took the loaded gun and thought he was putting the safety on and didn't realize that the gun had a decocker. When he operated the lever and the hammer went down he thought he had almost had a negligent discharge of the gun and I think he might have had a personal negligent discharge of his own.
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Old October 14, 2013, 06:24 PM   #5
rockinrandy
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I fully plan on checking everything over on the gun before I load the first round and know what every single external component is and feel confident on how to use them all before I ever fire. I will ask questions and always have especially when it comes to safety (which firearms safety I take to heart and always have) I plan on going this Wednesday when I get out of work (only working a half day). But it's like I said I plan to try on each of the guns I have on my list (a very very long list it seems like) and that they have in stock before I go and test fire them. Pretty set I think though on the 9mm so I might just try them out, and worry about a different caliber at a later time.

Edit thought I should include:
I plan on taking a notebook with me to write down initial thoughts about how they felt and fired (perceived recoil, accuracy (I realize I am new to semi autos but should be decent still) overall feel, and anything that I notice afterwards) This way if I just cannot seem to decide on one at the time I can look back and think a little more on my purchase. The local gunshop (10 minutes from my house) has an indoor firing range, so I can always go back to see how they are again if need be. I feel I have a good budget and should be able to buy extra mags and some rounds to go with it all, at least for my first. That is set to $750 +- but the less I pay then the more I can get in attachments and other things.

Last edited by rockinrandy; October 14, 2013 at 06:29 PM.
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Old October 14, 2013, 06:38 PM   #6
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I think it's pretty cool that you've got access to a place where you can do that.

Considering how often I see recommendations for new shooters (or in this case, I guess new buyer) to find a range with gun rentals and test fire first, I'm finding the responces to this thread disturbing.

Seriously guys? Someone is trying to make a smart purchase and doing in a manner often recommended on this very board, but no one can take the time to mention some things he should look for?

Obviously, range rules. Ask the attendent for a run down and usually range rules are posted for your perusal.

Depending on how much time and how much your willing to spend on ammo, shoot as much as fits into that criteria.

When shooting a new pistol the first time, I start slow. Trigger pull, felt recoil and just getting a feel for the gun is where I start.

Then I try to put in through it's paces, as it were. I want to see what kind of groups I can get and I do test a little rapid fire (which depending on the range rules, may not be an option) double and triple taps.
After that is when I move on to improvement of what I'm starting with.

Being that I also have my own place to shoot, and have never had the oppertunity to test fire before purchase, my first shooting test is usually a function test, so I just tend to stay really basic and just get the feel of it and make sure it goes bang when it's supposed to.

But that's usually all I need before I know wiether or not I actually like the gun or not.

Overall, you want to feel the function of the handgun and how you handle it, in your shooting style.

Most important, if you don't actually like shooting it, don't get.
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Old October 14, 2013, 08:23 PM   #7
Bob Wright
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>>>I got some great advice from a beginners trap shooting class. The instructor told us don't pretend to have knowledge you don't have.<<<<

I never pretended to have knowledge I did not have. Gun books and catalogs at that time were pretty specific as to functioning of the pistols displayed. By the time I was ready to purchase, I was pretty well familiar with that gun. And, as I pointed out, most of my early guns were revovlers. How hard is it to figure out how to load, fire, and clear a revolver?

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Old October 15, 2013, 12:13 AM   #8
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When I first started buying and trading guns they were relatively inexpensive. Since the majority of my guns were/are used the expense was even less.
So the consequences of a bad purchase weren't as severe as they are now.

Even so when I bought a gun I'd tried a similar or the same type of gun before. Big family lots of older cousins and uncles with lots of guns.
I also handled every gun I've bought before I bought it.

I'll let cornered cat describe what good fit is here.
http://www.corneredcat.com/article/c...-on-a-handgun/

imho how a gun fits is the most important thing to consider. The majority of modern handguns function just fine and unless you looking at extremes in size you shouldn't have to sacrifice fit.

You can adjust fit to a degree with different styles and sizes of grips. More so with a gun that's a bit too small than too large.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:04 AM   #9
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From what I gather from the OP, is that he is asking how to purchase his first semi-auto. If my assumption is correct, I would suggest the following:

Go to your LGS that has guns for sale/rent and hold as many different guns that think may interest you. The most important consideration is one that fits your hand i.e., you can hold comfortably with a proper grip.

Next determine what caliber you want in that model. What are you going to use the gun for? SD/HD? I always recommend the biggest caliber you can comfortably manage. If you are strictly a target shooter, then definitely consider the smaller, less expensive calibers.

Buying a gun is like buying underwear. What style may be comfortable for me may not be for you and vice versa. Try as many guns as possible. Ask all the questions you can think of and make sure you do your homework. Google is a wonderful tool in that you can be loaded with some knowledge before trotting off to the Gun Store.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:12 AM   #10
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General use(s), brands....

If you reload or shoot often it sounds like you might not be a starter or entry level gun owner like the 1000s of new shooters that have sprung up in the last 5 years or so.
Depending on your budget & tastes, Id suggest a simple well engineered DA only compact pistol that you can learn the basics on then modify it or try other models/calibers later.
You could purchase a Glock 19 or 17 9x19mm, a M&P full size or compact, a S-A XDm, a Ruger SR9 or the smaller compact, a SIG Sauer DAK(a DA only format named after the company engineer). For SIGs, a P226R or P229R can meet your needs. The Beretta PX4 C(constant) is a great first pistol. It offers low recoil, it's easy to field strip, clean and it's well made. I owned a PX4 9x19mm in 2009.

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Old October 15, 2013, 10:19 AM   #11
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How hard it its to buy any decent guns these days, it's next to impossible to "try out" a gun before you buy it.

The last three guns I bought were from gunbroker, because I couldn't find them on sale anywhere within driving distance.
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Old October 15, 2013, 12:52 PM   #12
rockinrandy
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I have been talking with them so it looks like I am going to be firing roughly 6 guns if they fit right, I have kind of decided between the CZ 75/85, Springfield XD-S/M(not really sure of the difference between them), S&W M&P9, Glock (17,19,34), Beretta 92FS, and Kimber Pro Carry II, and am also considering the Sig 2022 and Ruger SR9. These are all in stock to try out, but depends on how they feel in my hand still. Also I plan on reloading (I have 9mm dies) and am researching loads to work with now. Still can't decide between 1911 models and non, hear good and bad and also not for new shooters, but am not completely sure I fall into that category.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:17 PM   #13
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Your list could be shaken out and categorized a little bit so you can compare somewhat like examples against each other.

Striker fire semi-autos you listed include the XD-s/XD(m), S&W M&P, Glock, Ruger SR9

Double action, hammer fired semi-autos include the Beretta 92, Sig 2022, CZ-75

Single action semi-auto are all 1911 variants, including the Kimber Pro Carry

A striker fire pistol has the SAME trigger pull each time, it's somewhat long(ish) and chunky, clunky. While some certainly do compete with these guns, those guns are typically altered & upgraded to address the trigger pull. The design is absolutely simple and makes for a very good DEFENSIVE handgun where target-accuracy isn't the top concern. They are a fine design for safe carrying and simple use in a panic situation. As a purely recreational handgun, many of us believe there are better choices.

A double-action hammer fired pistol was a concept that was tremendously popular for duty & service decades back before striker fired pistols became popular. With these, you have an exposed hammer you can choose to cock if you wish, but most folks would tend to carry them hammer-down on a chambered round. Your first shot takes a very long, very heavy (and often gritty, difficult) trigger pull, designed to sort of mimic that of a revolver. That is -just- the first shot, and all follow-up shots are with a short, crisp, easy to pull semi-auto trigger pull. That transition from first shot to second (and all subsequent) is difficult to master and that transition is a big reason why striker-fired semi-autos grew in popularity.

A single-action semi-auto like a 1911 and some others is arguably THE finest trigger design in all of handgunning, it makes for a light, short, crisp and wonderful trigger pull. Typically, these guns will be carried with the hammer cocked (and manual safety engaged) over a loaded chamber and the typical method for carry would be to draw, sweep off the safety lever, acquire the target and then discharge the round. It can be well argued that this is an "advanced" platform that requires more small-motor processes to run in a panicked situation. I, personally, do not believe this is the best choice for someone that isn't intimately familiar with the platform.

My point with this post? If you rent a Beretta 92 and try to compare that with a Glock, you are really comparing two different platforms & processes. Better would be to rent an XD(m) and a Glock and compare those, or rent a Beretta and a Sig 2022 and compare those. That type of comparison would have you in a better position to make a choice.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:44 PM   #14
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That's just it I have a revolver so I am accustomed to the DA, but am completely unsure as to what type of semi auto I should buy. That is what leads to the 3 main types of semi autos and trying them out each individually to feel the differences and see which one I would enjoy the most. Mainly a HD gun that will get some target practice. I'm not looking to get competitive with it but would like to generally get something that is easy/cheaper to fire that I can put rounds in the black.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:57 PM   #15
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Striker fire semi-auto is a decent choice for your needs. Simple, effective, relatively safe (if you can handle firearms safely) and require the least amount of fumbling and extra motions to employ.

This is NOT to say that you won't absolutely love it on a range day. You may end up doing exactly that! But some of the other platforms can make for an easier road to precision accuracy and enjoyment on a range day, depending on what kind of shooting you enjoy.
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Old October 15, 2013, 02:13 PM   #16
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Personally I like precision and feel that I have the 357 mag down (Ruger GP100 6" barrel). I have even shot 2 deer with it in the last 2 years. Anything within 100 yards or so is pretty well down with it. I have yet to find a semi auto under $2k that I would say would be the same. I have shot that same gun since I was 12 and am now 26 (lots and lots of rounds through it), this was actually my first gun I learned how to "brew" loads for. My handgun selection is few, but my long arms are numerous. I definitely consider myself safe, sometimes almost obsessive over it. That was learned many many years ago as well even before I learned to shoot. This is actually the first year that I have a membership to a dedicated range (mainly due to my new .308 for a longer range setup). With this it grants me access to an indoor range, since I am under snow for 4 months out of the year it gives me something to do over winter to keep skills up and more or less ready myself for CCW.
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Old October 15, 2013, 06:11 PM   #17
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Ok, a few thoughts .......some you can do dry firing ....

a. how they fit your hand
Can you reach all the controls comfortably ( thumb safety-if there is one, mag release, decocker if there is one )...and can you do it without moving your grip with the primary hand. Point is, if its too wide - or too long to reach ( of if you've had a broken thumb ) maybe you can't reach the mag release without moving your primary grip hand.....and if you have to move your grip to release a mag...the gun does not fit your hands. Try it in the shop...dry firing....

b. grip angle ...
Grip the gun "high and tight" ....does it come up level / where the sights are level - or do you have to roll your wrist to get the gun level. Some guns will come up naturally - some won't . Eliminate the ones that will not come up right - grip angle is wrong. Again do it dry firing..
Now some guns - have back straps that you can change....

c. Sights....
Some are big and easy to see ...some not so much / night sights are a good thing in my view...but there are a lot of different styles.....some you'll hate, some you'll love....fibre optic, front gold bead, what dots, whatever....

d. weight and length ...overall and of grip area....
generally poly frame guns are light / short barrel guns are short...but depending on the size of your hands...some may fit you, some may not. Some guns have a bumper on the base of the mag - that give you a little more room to grip the gun with the small finger on your primary hand...if you need it ( like a Sig 239 model ) ...which makes a small gun shootable for some of us with bigger hands....
The lighter the gun --- the more recoil you'll get ....
The shorter the gun ...the shorter the sight plane you get...

Example...a Sig 239(single stack and shorter) vs a Sig 226 ( their full size gun double stack) ...weight, width, length of sight plane are both really differnet....and so is the Sig 229, etc.....

e. shooting them....
does the gun recoil in a predictable pattern so it returns back to your initial position for a follow up shot. Some shorter guns for me, in heavier calibers ..seem to me, to recoil almost in a figure 8 and are really hard to shoot.

f. Triggers.....
width, length or reach for you, how much slack, how much creep, how do they break ( 3.5 lbs, 4 lbs, 6 lbs, 10 lbs....) ....and even more important how far do you have to release them to reset trigger for 2nd shot. A 1911 has a very precise trigger - it moves straight back and forth in the frame ( no slack, no creep, breaks very crisply ...usually 3.5 - 4 lbs ...) if its well made...../ many guns, like Sigs, have a trigger that is suspended from a pin ...so as you move it back and forth ..it moves thru an arc.../ some triggers almost wobble left and right as they move ( those really aggravate me) ...but it depends on what you like....width of trigger shoe / how it fits your fingers...all a big deal...

again some of this you can do at the counter - dry firing ...some you need to go to the range.

As I see it ....find a gun you really like / then compare each to that one...grip angle, how trigger feels, sight plane, sights....
---------
rent some guns ...( 1911's come in 9mm too ) so rent some, if you can ....and stay in the 9mm before you wander off into other calibers. Ideally you're looking for that one gun that just feels right.

note....a friend lusted after a full sized Sig 226...but when he finally shot it, it was just too big for his hands ...not his gun. Some of us are devoted 1911 guys ...and no matter what is new or different...1911's are where we stay ...but there is a huge range of 1911's from RIA, Colt, S&W, Springfield, Sig - to upper end guns like Les Baer, Ed Brown, Nighthawk and Wilson Combat.

Mix in some revolvers...guns like a S&W K frame ( model 66 ) in a 4" in .357 mag or .38 spl...and see how it feels. Maybe you eliminate the revolvers right away ...maybe not....
---------
last but not least.....make sure you have fun with the process.

If you have a buddy with a big collection....ask if you can spend some time with him or her....and go thru their collection...see how it feels, etc....it may help a lot...
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Old October 15, 2013, 08:12 PM   #18
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Interesting question. I too have never been able to try out any gun I ever bought. I envied a friend's A-5 and bought one. Other than that I only handled the gun at point of purchase. Never really thought about it before.
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Old October 15, 2013, 08:58 PM   #19
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Quote:
That's pretty much it. If you buy one from a reputable dealer and it doesn't work he'll usually take it back.
More like buy it back from you as a used gun, at used gun value. I've never seen a dealer take a gun back for a refund because you didn't like it.

In fact, just the other day I was at one of the largest, most reputable gun shops around here and overheard the sales guy that was helping a young couple suggest they look at a lot of guns, and shoot some first before buying one, "because once you buy it, you've bought it. There's no returns on firearms." Every gun store I've ever been in has had the policy of all firearm sales are final.
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Old October 15, 2013, 09:15 PM   #20
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Since I am one who recommends trying a borrowed/rented gun before buying (if possible), I think it is the best way to make a decision. The worst way, IMHO, is to take someone else's word, even on a site like this. Since different people with different experiences may well have different recommendations, and some folks will simply recommend what they like or use while having zero experience with anything else, taking someone's word is iffy at best.

In addition, the terminology can be confusing. Do you want a DAO, a DA/SA; a hammer or striker; are you going to carry condition 1 or 3, etc? It is like someone who just wants transportation asking a bunch of race car owners what car to buy.

Then there is the other hand. I recall the poster (I now forget which site) who strongly recommended a gun which had never failed him and which he thought was near perfect - an RG10. No doubt he was sincere in his effort to help, but his lack of wide experience was obvious.

Jim
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Old October 15, 2013, 09:26 PM   #21
rockinrandy
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Does anyone have any drills, or how more or less to test the function of the gun? I am going to start slow first couple just to learn the trigger. Then after that do some double taps or quicker succession rounds? Plan on running a couple of mags through each unless they don't feel/perform the way I should.
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Old October 16, 2013, 05:39 AM   #22
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I always rent one from the gun range first to test the weight, sights, and recoil.
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Old October 16, 2013, 11:48 AM   #23
BigJimP
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I'd do some slow fire at 10 yds.....can you put 4 or 5 shots into a 2" circle.../ that'll tell you something about how trigger breaks and resets..( focus on how gun recoils and how trigger feels ).

Renting guns - you don't want to run them in and out of a holster...so I'd put a silhouette target at 21 Feet...( A zone would be center chest - or nipple to nipple and down to belly button ). I'd start at low ready....do some double taps..( how does the gun feel, how does it come up "on plane", how does it recoil)....then I'd go to the low ready .....and 1 shot - reload - 2 shots. Even if I only had one mag....( 1 shot - drop mag into your hand-and go down and tap your thigh with the mag -- then reinsert mag and a double tap)....and evaluate how that feels, how it works for you....

maybe 15 or 20 rounds per gun you're testing is enough to rule some out...or put them on your "probable" list...in my view.
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