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Old January 22, 2013, 11:53 PM   #1
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First Handgun Question

I've asked a similar question on another forum in case there's anyone familiar with it out there, but I'm asking it here with a different slant to it because it's more specifically geared towards the "practice" gun.

First some points that are relevant to my question:

- I'm planning on becoming a CCW-holder in the future when I live in a state where I can do that. I lean towards a snubnose revolver based on the various pros and cons I've read, and at this point only real-life experiences of my own can do more than the hundreds of Google searches.

- A pump-action shotgun is my primary home-defense weapon, and will continue to be so.

- I've never had a handgun. For this reason (and others including economical, flinch avoidance, etc) I believe in starting with a .22LR caliber just as I did with my rifle.

Here's the questions:

Presuming that my future-CCW / "fight to my long-gun in an HD situation" weapon is likely to be a .38 Spl Snubnose J-Frame, is getting in a lot of practice with a .22LR Snubnose revolver (like the S&W 43C) a good decision for a first handgun?

Or, as a new hand-gunner, am I better served by a longer barrelled or less-compact piece even though it is only a .22? Will I learn the fundamentals and develop habits as effectively, better, or worse by using a snubnose compared to say, an SP101 for example (or a semi-auto)?

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Old January 23, 2013, 08:01 AM   #2
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A .22 is always a great choice as a first gun. And a revolver is a fine choice. I would steer you away from a snubbie and get something a bit longer since they are easier to shoot accurately. That new Ruger SP101 in 22is a sweet little gun and would be a perfect choice. Also check out the Single six or single Tens and well, although they are single action only. But still a great choice to learn the fundamentals.

As far as autoloaders go, the Ruger Mark series and the Browning Buckmarks are great affordable choices.

There will be a lot of people out there that will try to talk you out of a revolver. But if that's what you want, don't let anyone talk you out of one.

You'd be surprised how accurate you can be with a 22. I have a Dan Wesson .22 revolver that I regularly take out to the 50 yard range. I put out my 7 inch steel plate and have no problems hitting it(probably 75% of the time).
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Old January 23, 2013, 08:39 AM   #3
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Personally, given the circumstances and times, I would be looking at 9mm's for semi-autos and .357's for revolvers (capable of shooting .38 special for practice). If you are going to buy a revolver, my preference would be Smith and Wesson. For a semi-auto, there are way too many good 9mm's out there, and that would be a separate topic for discussion if you decided to go that rout.

Buy the .22 later, unless you really want a .22. A .22 handgun is not good for self defense or home defense. Not only does the .22LR round in a handgun have the obvious stopping-power deficiency, but they the rimfire cartridge is ess reliable than center-fire cartridges.
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Old January 23, 2013, 08:46 AM   #4
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I understand and in all likelihood I will actually buy the centerfire and the rimfire revolver at the same time (purchase permit required so its easier to apply for 2 at once here, rather than separate times). My question is more whether the rimfire should be as identical to the main gun as possible (ie snubnose) or if I should go longer barrel. People say a snubby is bad to learn on but I don't know if they mean 22LR that is being used to specifically train for the centerfire piece or just folks who go out and by a 38 Spl as a first gun.
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Old January 23, 2013, 08:52 AM   #5
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For your first handgun, you want something you are going to be able to shoot a lot. 38spcl or 357 ammo cost 10X more than 22 ammo(assuming you don't reload). With a 22, you'll be able to spend hours at the range for $20. With 357, about 10 minutes.

For that reason, get the 22. You can always pick up 357/38 later. Or a 9mm for that matter, if you desire.

My opinion on the barrel length is above.
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Old January 23, 2013, 08:54 AM   #6
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My first revolver was an old Taurus 38Sp in the 1970s. I could hit a barn, from the inside, maybe. Sold it and years later bought a Charter Arms Pathfinder 22lr with a 3" barrel. With only a little practice I could hunt small game, rabbits and squirrels, with this gun. A few years later I got a Taurus 357mag with a 4" barrel. This I can shoot accurately. I am not sure if the use of the 22 helped or not but I am sure it didn't hurt anything. I now have a S&W 38Sp snub nose. It is very hard to shoot accurately. Based on my experience, I would recommend a longer barrel, probably 4". If you are to carry this, not less than 3" or consider a 3.5'' semiauto. Just my opinion.
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Old January 23, 2013, 09:14 AM   #7
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Don't waste money on two guns. You're on the right track with a 38spl. A 38spl is a good only handgun to have. It allows you to start with light loads for starting out, to full bore 158gr hp's for self defense. Don't get to small a revolver, you'll get discouraged for nothing. A little larger frame is just as easy to conceal, and easier to shoot. Try to stay with a square butt frame. Have Fun!
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Old January 23, 2013, 09:24 AM   #8
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The first thing I would do, is get a hold of a 2" revolver and shoot it with what you intend to carry in it. The steel frame guns really arent all that pleasant to shoot, and the Airweight guns and lighter guns are just downright brutal. A .22 in the same type gun will really teach you nothing about them.

I have a couple of S&W 642's, and have had a number of other similar guns, in both .38 and .357mag, and if you plan on practicing regularly, the sessions are likely to very short, if you even bother at all, once you see what they are like. While I rarely use them much any more, I still practice at least once a month with my 642's, and a box of 50 is all my hand can take at an outing, and its usually sore for a couple days after.

My Glock 26's have replaced the 642's in the backup role. They are much more comfortable to shoot with, I can shoot them better, and I can shoot them without pain for extended sessions. They also will take my 17's reloads if need be.

I think the best thing you can do, is try and find a place that rents different types of guns so you can try as many as possible, or go shooting with friends who have different guns and do the same. Find what youre most comfortable with, and shoot the best with, and thats the gun you should be looking at to carry.
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Old January 23, 2013, 09:31 AM   #9
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Given that you want a snubbie (my favorite pistol), and that you're willing to buy two guns at once... I'd try and find a great 38 snub (Smith and Wesson) and a similar frame 22 but with a 4" (or even 6") barrel for the 22.

There's no reason in the world why anyone can't get good with a 2" bbl BUT if you're new to handguns, it's probably a great idea to have some really good results early on. A longer bbl 22 will allow you some early success instead of some early discouragement. Shoot and dry fire regularly and you'll get good with the little detective gun.

I don't think it's ever a waste of time or money to buy two guns of this type. For any gun, especially a pistol, the cost of your ammo will very quickly out strip the cost of the gun. Assuming you could find ammo, you could shoot that 22 a few thousand times while you shot the 38 a hundred times. That's a lot of good practice with sight picture, trigger control, flinch management, hand-eye coordination, muscle memory. Shooting just 1000 rounds in any pistol is a REALLY good start at getting REALLY good. You could do that for maybe 50 bucks in the 22, maybe 500 bucks in the 38.

A pair of Smith and Wessons, one in 38 one in 22. Add a bunch of ammo. Have a blast..

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Old January 23, 2013, 09:35 AM   #10
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You'll be fine either way but I would push you to go with another option. The reason is a snubnose is one of the harder platforms to master.
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Old January 23, 2013, 10:03 AM   #11
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A double-action .22LR revolver (as opposed to SAO, like the Ruger Single Six) makes perfect sense for practice if you are committed to a revolver for carry. I would not be committed to a short barrel in the .22, however; you are going to use the .22 to practice basic shooting technique and manual of arms, and the length of the barrel won't matter that much.

As one who has had experiences similar to AK103K, I would urge your to review his post before making a final decision.
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Old January 23, 2013, 11:50 AM   #12
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Snubbies are tough to shoot well. Many people don't realize that small handguns truly are expert weapons. They're for people who already know what they're doing. Keep in mind that those small, light snubbies S&W Airweights, and the like) can hurt a lot to shoot, especially with full power loads. If you can conceal a 2in snubbie, you shouldn't have much trouble with a 4 inch. I'd recommend something like that, personally.
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Old January 23, 2013, 02:19 PM   #13
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I like your idea of 2 guns - same frame size - one in .22 and one in .357mag ( shoot .38 spl also ) ....

In and out of the same holster - similar feel in terms of weight - similar trigger pulls in DA and SA...

but I would also suggest a 4" or a 2" or 2 1/2" ....because the 4" is a lot easier to shoot beyond 15 feet or so .../ and they're almost identical in terms of carry - the extra weight of a 4" vs 2 1/2" is really not significant with a good holster and a good belt.

Personally, I like the K frame ( med sized frame) S&W's ...model 19's(blued or nickel) or 66's (stainless) in .357 mag ....and a model 18(blued or nickel) or 617(stainless) in .22 / all K frames. For a holster - when I carry a K frame 4" Revolver...I use a Kramer leather rig / Inside waist band with a forward FBI tilt.../ good holster ( and if I wanted to carry a 2 1/2" K frame, I'd use the same holster )....
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Old January 23, 2013, 02:55 PM   #14
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The most important thing, irregardless of the type weapon you chose, is to develop good shooting techniques.

Find a good coach who will teach you the basics of shooting. Grip, stance, site alignment, breathing and trigger control. Once you have mastered these basics and started to develop muscle memory then and only then should you move on to more complicated drills which are currently in vogue.

You need to avoid those instructors who start you out on complicated drills with out first teaching the basics.
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Old January 23, 2013, 05:12 PM   #15
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While the 22 is a good gun for some applications, self defense is not necessarily one of them. A 3-4 inch barrel medium frame 38 Special or 357 Magnum will do just fine for self defense. Don't let the word Magnum scare you, it just means the gun is capable of handling the more powerful cartridge. The 357 will also handle the 38 Special +P easily. When I started out 30+ years ago I started with a 6 inch 357 loaded with 38 Special +P ammo. It is a very good starter for defensive use and for training. If you decide later to handload your own ammo the 38/357 combo is very easy to handload. I once loaded 900 rounds with an old Lee Loader. Boy did that take some time. Later I got a loading press and never looked back. Good luck in your search. Look at it like this the gun you choose is your destination and how you choose and where you buy it is your journey. Many times the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.
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Old January 24, 2013, 04:16 PM   #16
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As a recent first-time handgun purchaser, my advice is to purchase a .22, and to select it based on its own merits, not for similarities to your eventual planned SD handgun purchase. Find something reliable, easy to maintain, and most of all, fun to shoot.

When purchasing, I debated long and hard on whether to get a 22, a 9mm, or both, but came to the following conclusion: If I buy the 22 only, instead of the 9 only, the money I will save on ammo for my first 2000 rounds fired will basically fully pay for the 22, making it a buy-one-get-one-free deal. This is of course assuming you intend to shoot quite a bit.

Besides the $$$ reasoning, I also figured that after having done some shooting with the 22, I'd have a better idea of what I wanted from a self-defense gun. That has turned out to be very true. Features that I thought would be very important to me turned out to be not so important. Others I hadn't considered before were now on my radar. Also, spending time at the range, I've met a lot of new people, learned from their experience, and tried some of their guns. When I did finally purchase my 9mm (last week), I did it from a much more informed position, and am more happy with my purchase than I would have been if I had made my decision when I was more ignorant.
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Old January 25, 2013, 01:37 PM   #17
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I would definately buy a short barel revolver if you do plan on one day using it for CC. I would avoid the .22

To answer your question: NO

I would take the advice of some of the other posters on this thread and buy a .357 because you can shoot .38 rounds from it and it will save your life 100 times faster than shooting .22 rounds back at someone using a glock or some such.
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Old January 25, 2013, 04:31 PM   #18
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Hello Doc7,,,

I'm a pretty decent shot with my S&W Model 36 snub-nose chambered in .38 Special.

I attribute that to the many thousands of rounds I have sent downrange,,,
With my (near identical) S&W Model 34 chambered in .22 LR.

I also have a Model 34 with a 4" barrel,,,
While it's a very nice gun with which to practice basic skills,,,
I do believe that the practice with the snubbie was more effective,,,
Than it would have been if I had practiced with the longer barrel handgun.

I think your idea is very sound,,,
Especially in these days of expensive centerfire ammunition.

All I can really say is that it worked for me.


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Old January 25, 2013, 04:56 PM   #19
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Use enough gun!....

One of the first rules of gunfighting is;
The .22LR is a poor choice for protection-concealed use. Research the work of Edwin Sanow & Evan Marshall. They were sworn LEOs & gun writers who reviewed 100s of court documented use of force incidents.
For a entry level handgun or caliber, start with a simple .38spl or .38spl +P. you can buy cheaper target/practice loads then upgrade to a more powerful factory round(Speer Gold Dot 135gr +P, Ranger T load, TAP, MagSafe SWAT, DPX, etc). Avoid using reloads or handloads for personal defense, factory rounds ONLY.
A Ruger LCR or SP101 in DA only format can handle .38spl or higher power .357magnum rounds. You could add a CT laser-aimer also for training.
If you really want a semi auto, get a SIG Sauer P229R DAK & buy the factory .22LR add-on kit. You could shoot 9x19mm or .40 rounds then convert it to .22LR. I would not suggest a striker fired pistol like a Kahr, Glock or XDm to a new gun owner. It's important to learn the basics first.
Keep your new weapon clean & learn the gun-use of force laws in your area.
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Old January 26, 2013, 07:42 AM   #20
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For personal defense, I start with 9mm and work my way up.

While I think 22LR is a great way to learn to shoot a handgun, it's garbage as a CCW and personal defense round.

Most 22LR revolvers are similar in size to small 9mm's (and identical to 38 spcl), you can't out engineer the fact that revolvers will need a cylinder, most shoot from the top of the cylinder, and therefore are fatter and taller than a single stack semi of just about anything and nearly the same size as larger caliber revolvers.

That and the round is just weak. 38 spcl +P is good for a revolver and 9 mm for a semi. Work your way up from that for personal defense.

...and, no, I'd never intentionally step in front of a 22LR or a 380 ACP, like all the arguments always default to, but that's irrelevant.

...also, most subcompact carry revolvers have terrible triggers, worse than subcompact pocket 380s and nines.
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Old January 26, 2013, 09:50 AM   #21
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Admittedly 22 is a great round to learn and get experience on. But for defensive purposes Id start with 9mm... Its cheap to buy ammo and a solid SD round.
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Old January 26, 2013, 10:40 AM   #22
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My first handgun was a 9mm. It quickly became apparent that I needed a LOT of practice. I decided to spend $150 on a Phoenix HP-22A rather than spend a lot of money on ammunition. It has worked out well and I saved far more on ammunition than the cost of the gun (and I still have the fun little gun). The little gun is fun and accurate. Why spend a lot of money on a gun you are only going to learn to shoot and plink around with?
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Old January 26, 2013, 04:52 PM   #23
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I believe in starting with a .22LR caliber just as I did with my rifle.

So do I. I think that a ten-shot, Smith&Wesson Model 17 in a 4" barrel, would be a great revolver to start (and end ) with.
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Old January 26, 2013, 05:12 PM   #24
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Here's a question everyone is leaving out: Where do you live Doc7?

In Texas, if you test and get your CCW with a revolver you can ONLY use a revolver. If you test with a semi-auto, you can use both a revolver and auto-loader.

If this is the case, and you're hell bent on a revolver CCW but open to two firearms, consider getting a 9mm semi-auto to practice and pass your test with. Then if you later on find out you prefer to carry with a Semi rather than revolver, you can switch.

If this isn't the case for your state, its at least good to do the research.
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Old January 26, 2013, 07:08 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by doc7
Presuming that my future-CCW / "fight to my long-gun in an HD situation" weapon is likely to be a .38 Spl Snubnose J-Frame, is getting in a lot of practice with a .22LR Snubnose revolver (like the S&W 43C) a good decision for a first handgun?
If it were me, I'd just go ahead and get the 38 snub. A similar 22lr revolver would be fun and it would be a useful training aid. The way I see it, why go to the expense, though? Of course, if money is no concern, just get both and you're all set.
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