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Old August 13, 2013, 02:16 AM   #1
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First post, choosing a first handgun

Hi everyone,

First of all, let me excuse myself for the lengthy post, but since this is my first post on these outstanding forums, let me introduce myself:

I'm located in the province of Quebec, in Canada. I am a full time university student. I like to tinker with just about anything: electronics, watches, computers, cars, and soon, firearms.

In Canada, there are multiple steps to complete before getting a license (firearms Possession and Acquisition License, or PAL), and I have recently started the procedure. I should hopefully receive my license in 2 months time, 3 months at most.

As handguns aren't cheap I've started researching my first handgun before getting my PAL. And, since most handguns need to be ordered months in advance, I've been meaning to make this decision sooner, rather than later.

I'd be only using this firearm at the shooting range for target practice. I'm looking for a quality piece, which is accurate and adequate as a first handgun.

(keep in mind the minimum barrel length for a handgun in Canada is 4", and the maximum magazine capacity is 10 cartridges)
So, if I understand correctly, the ideal piece would be heavy and steel framed with a longer barrel. Also, smaller calibers like the .22LR equate to less $$ for the ammunition and less recoil, but eventually one will want to move onto a larger caliber after some experience.

My research has led me to these two options, in no particular order:
  • Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle II 9mm, Full sized steel frame BE9900 or BE9915R
  • Smith & Wesson 617 .22LR with the 6" barrel (SKU: 160578)

The other option would be the Sig Sauer P226, but I'm not as crazy about this one. The only reason I'm considering it is because it is easier to find and is readily available from two local dealers.

The Smith & Wesson 617 is a very interesting choice. I've read a lot about this revolver, and almost everyone is raving about how great this little firearm is. The 10 round cylinder is pretty cool as well, and the fact that there are speedloaders available for this little revolver makes me happy as well. Great accuracy, inexpensive ammo, excessively low recoil (good for guests), and available in Canada; but the 6" barreled version is slightly muzzle-heavy and the .22LR ammunition is dirty, and thus the revolver will need to be cleaned out very often.

The 9mm steel-framed Baby Eagle II is another great choice it seems. I haven't been able to read up as much on this piece because it seems like it is rarer than the other two choices. Reviewers seem to like it for target practice. It's heavy, well built, relatively accurate, relatively reliable, based on the CZ-75, rare and looks absolutely stunning. The major issue with the Baby Eagle is that it's not available in Canada, and I would have to make a run down to the states for it (which is doable, albeit slightly complicated). Also, I hear its availability is very limited, so I should get on that ASAP if I'd like to get it by the end of this year.

Both the S&W and the Baby Eagle are unavailable at the dealers in my area, so I can't put them in my hand before purchasing them.
The only firearm I've briefly tried at the range is the S&W M&P9 Pro, which was okay, but as it was my first time operating a handgun, I didn't have any accuracy whatsoever. With the regular grip, my hand was also slightly too small to actuate the mag release with my thumb.

I may eventually buy both, but which one is the best for a first firearm?

This is where I turn to you guys and gals. Any information, suggestion, comment, opinion will be very appreciated.

Thank you all for the invaluable help!
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Old August 13, 2013, 02:30 AM   #2
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First off, your "long" post gave us more information to give you a better suggestion. Thanks.

I know you said this would be for target only, but would this also be used for home defense? If so, then I would look towards a 9mm semi-auto or a 38 Special revolver at a minimum.

As to weapon choice, the CZ-75B is a great gun, and worth looking at. I also think any of the Smith and Wesson or Ruger revolvers would serve you well, if you can find them. Don't worry so much about recoil, especially if you are looking at a full size metal gun with a 4"+ gun- the weight will absorb much of the recoil.

All that said, for target practice, and new or well care for used firearm will serve you well. The gun will be as accurate as YOU are. As for quality, look for manufacturers like Colt, Ruger, Smith and Wesson, Sig Sauer, Magnum Research, Kimber, etc.
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Old August 13, 2013, 02:36 AM   #3
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I personally would not buy either until you've had a chance to shoot both. Only you will know what you feel comfortable with. That being said... If you're looking for a range pistol don't let size or weight be a discouraging factor. Extra weight and longer barrels will help minimize recoil. 9mm Will be a more versatile round especially if you're considering use for home defense as well.

Seeing as you're new to the scene, try to find a range where you can rent multiple makes, models, and calibers. Try both revolvers and semi-autos. You'll have a better chance of finding a shoe that fits.

Whatever you end up with, make sure you take a couple firearm courses. They will not only improve your technique, but also teach you to be a safe firearms owner. Good luck and welcome!
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Old August 13, 2013, 02:45 AM   #4
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I would highly recommend a .22LR, if you are only doing target practice (assuming no competitions with minimum energy requirements). It is substantially cheaper, still exercises the fundamentals, and allows you to practice a lot and not go broke. If you can practice as often as you'd ever want, while spending $30+ each session, then it doesn't matter. If you don't have a money tree in the back yard, a .22LR will let you practice enough to become VERY good without costing a small fortune.

Also, don't limit yourself to just a couple models. Try some more, if you can.
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Old August 13, 2013, 02:51 AM   #5
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Thanks for the quick reply.

I would not be using the firearm anywhere else except at the shooting range. In Canada, there is strict legislation on firearm storage (locked firearm inside a locked, hidden container, separate from the ammunition in another locked, hidden container) and stricter rules on firearm usage. Any violation to either of these regulations can lead to a criminal accusation. No concealed, nor open carry up here, either. So this firearm will really only be used for target practice.

Here's an idea of pricing:
The CZ-75B is in stock at a local dealer for ~$680 CAD. The CZ-75 SP-01 Shadow is ~$800 CAD at another local dealer, where the Sig P226 is $925 CAD and the .357 S&W 686 is ~$830 CAD.
EDIT: Links here

I'd like to buy my first firearm new. I'll definitely pay special attention to used firearms for any of my subsequent purchases

Your suggestion would be the CZ-75B?
I will go for a handshake before the end of this week.

EDIT: Wow, more quick replies!

grogg: Thanks for your thoughts! Much appreciated!
Unfortunately, as much as I would love to try them out, I won't be able to, as they're both unavailable. The Baby Eagle is unavailable from any MR dealer in Canada, they aren't exported to Canada. As for the S&w 617, it's a special order and I'd need to put the full amount as deposit to make the order. The range nearby doesn't have any of these models for rent, either.

raimius: That echoes my thoughts as well, and I'm seriously considering the S&W 617. Thanks for the input!

Last edited by Quik; August 13, 2013 at 03:05 AM.
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Old August 13, 2013, 03:23 AM   #6
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Wow, I'm not as familiar with Canadian gun laws (I live on the border between 2 US states, so I have a hard enough time keeping the two of them straight).

Raimius makes a great point about the cost of 22LR. With all the restrictions you have, perhaps getting a 22LR pistol might be more cost effective. There are also conversion kits for many pistols, including the CZ-75.

Yes, I love the CZ-75B, and it is one of my primary carry guns when I can carry something bigger. I fell in love with it when I first put my hand on it, and have never looked back.

While I have purchased many guns without firing, grogg88 makes a great point, and try to at least put your hand on it to see if it feels right.

Again, while we might have things we like, look at what's available to you, and get what feels right to you. As long as you buy a firearm from a quality manufacturer, you should have no issues at all.
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Old August 13, 2013, 06:30 AM   #7
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Can't see any reason not to go with the S&W.
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Old August 13, 2013, 09:35 AM   #8
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From the choices, I would pick the S&W 617. Good revolver and S&W has excellent customer service.
I used to have a 10 shot 617 but sold it because I did not want to deal with timing issues caused by fast DA shooting. S&W fixed it for free with no question asked.
If I was starting over and given the conditions in Canada,
If 22LR - Browning Buckmark or Ruger MKxxx with a 4 or 5.5 barrel.
If centerfire - 1911 or EAA Witness Match (in 9mm for lower shooting cost).
Opt for adjustable sights so that it can be setup to have POA=POI.
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Old August 13, 2013, 10:09 AM   #9
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I agree with raimius and others. If this is strictly for target shooting at a range, go with .22LR. It is accurate, relatively inexpensive, and low recoil so friends can shoot with you ands not be too offended by the recoil.

My personal recommendation would be the Ruger Mk III ( It is reliable, accurate, and will last you a lifetime. There are other variants of the pistol at that site, too. Although a .45 is my high-power caliber, I started with a .22 LR and still have my Ruger Mk I. Check it out.

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Old August 13, 2013, 10:23 AM   #10
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A good - long term purchase - is certainly smart.

A couple of thoughts ....the S&W 617 is a nice gun ...but its limited to .22 obviously. I'm not a huge fan of the 10 shot / instead I might say wait on the .22 revolver and pick up a more traditional gun ( like a S&W model 18 or an older 617 in a 6 shot).

In your situation, I would recommend the Sig 226 in 9mm probably....and then get a .22 conversion kit for you can shoot .22 in it as well. Kind of the best of both worlds. There are other mfg's that make conversion kits as well....for 1911's, Glocks, etc.../ down here, the Sig 226 is around $ 900 and the conversion kit is around $ 250.../ but factor in that all of the conversion kits run best on CCI Mini Mag .22 ammo vs the cheaper bulk stuff - and CCI Mini Mag .22 ammo down here is about $ 13 for 100 rds right now. But a conversion kit is a good way to make essentially one gun / do other things.

A heavier caliber revolver is never a bad the 686 / where you can shoot .357 Mag and .38 spl in one gun. As a first revolver, I'd suggest a 4" or maybe a 6" barrel. The L frame 686 is a solid gun.

Ammo cost is certainly a factor ...and in the states, .22 is not inexpensive compared to it depends on what you can get locally. But if you go with a semi-auto, I would certainly keep it in a 9mm vs .357 Sig, .40S&W or .45 acp...all of which are way more expensive to shoot - at least down here.

If I were to suggest one long term semi-auto in .22....I'd recommend one of the Browning Buckmark's ...they make a lot of models....the least expensive is the "camper"...but you can look at them on

Good luck in your search.....and remember to have fun with the process.
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Old August 13, 2013, 10:31 AM   #11
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I would highly recommend a Sig Sauer P229 or P226. You cant do better if you are looking for a high quality pistol.
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Old August 13, 2013, 11:15 AM   #12
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Thanks for the awesome replies everyone.

The suggestions:
CZ-75B, 9mm, in stock at ~$680 CAD (JimmyR)
Browning Buckmark,.22LR, 3 models in stock from ~$330-$370 CAD (pilpens, BigJimP)
Ruger MKIII, in stock .22LR, ~$300 CAD (pilpens, Louca)
1911, 9mm, Ruger SR1911 in stock for ~$700 CAD (pilpens)
EAA Witness Match, 9mm, no stock (pilpens)
Sig Sauer P226, 9mm, in stock for ~$925 CAD (Mystro)

I'll go to the store soon and try them out in hand. I'll post back here with the results. Maybe they'll even have new arrivals, not visible on their site, that I can try.

From what I understand, given its low recoil and low price, the .22LR is a good choice for target practice only. I was (and still am) slightly worried that I will rapidly outgrow the .22LR and not take the .22LR firearm to the range. Also, from what I understand, semi-automatic .22LR firearms have more jamming issues, due to some of the energy taken from the small cartridge being used to operate the semi automatic mechanism. In that sense, I think the best choice would be a revolver for the .22LR.

On the other hand, the 9mm is a good choice of caliber as well, as long as the firearm's frame is in steel, to minimize recoil. The prices are relatively more expensive for 9mm cartridges, but I hear 9mm is a versatile caliber. Having tried the M&P9 PRO, I wasn't overwhelmed by the polymer-framed firearm's recoil, but it was absolutely impossible for me to be accurate. I'm less worried about outgrowing a 9mm firearm.

Given my limited (read: inexistant) experience with handguns, are my woes about outgrowing the .22LR caliber valid?

Thanks a bunch for the information, everyone!

Last edited by Quik; August 13, 2013 at 11:16 AM. Reason: forgot a suggestion!
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Old August 13, 2013, 11:23 AM   #13
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A .22 (or three) belongs in every shooter's stable, IMHO. I've been shooting them for ~30 years, and I haven't outgrown them yet. The fact is that they're tons of fun to shoot, low recoil, and you get lots more trigger time for less money than any other caliber on the market.

Welcome to TFL!

ETA: Sadly, I didn't read your OP close enough to see if you listed a budget. However, if you can swing it, you might consider something with a conversion kit. That way, you could keep it as a .22 for cheap target practice, with occasional larger-caliber practice until you "grow into" the larger caliber. Sadly, I don't own any of those, so I don't know enough about them to suggest any.
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Old August 13, 2013, 11:46 AM   #14
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First handgun

Young man
A couple of these gentilmen recommended that you should get a 22 pistol, listen to them. The little 22 is the best and perfect first hand gun for everybody. Weather it is a revolver or a semi-auto the 22 cal is ideal first handgun.

I highly recommend a good quality 22 auto like a Ruger Standard 22 or a Browning Buckmark. They are great handguns, and excellent first pistols for anybody and everybody.

J. Budd
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Old August 13, 2013, 11:55 AM   #15
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Everybody should own a .22 revolver as a first gun

The S&W is the pinnacle of design and will give you a lifetime of service.

Not so certain of the Baby Eagle. Caliber is great but the platform seems a little cumbersome to me. Desert Eagle is kind of a niche company. I've never shot or handled one. So, consider the source.
Ruger makes some quality nines, as do many other manufacturers.

If you can, fire every gun you intend on buying. Hands are different, and a gun that fits a gun magazine writer won't likely be a good fit for you.
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Old August 13, 2013, 12:27 PM   #16
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Spats McGee, budd, Colt46, thanks for the warm welcome and the great input.

As for the budget, considering I want a high quality first firearm, I'm ready to go up to ~$1000.

I'm not crazy about the idea of a conversion kit. I'd rather get two firearms than one with a conversion kit for different calibers. Thanks for the idea though, I didn't know this was a real option.

From all the input I got on this thread, it seems people are more willing to recommend a semi-automatic pistol rather than a revolver at .22LR . Won't semi-automatics jam with such a small, relatively low power cartridge? That's the reason I chose the S&W 617. Thoughts?
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Old August 13, 2013, 12:40 PM   #17
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Every semiauto has the potential to jam. A quality .22 semiauto really shouldn't jam that often. With that said, you may have to try several different kinds of ammo to find out which kinds it likes and which it doesn't. That, however, can be said of any firearm.
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Old August 13, 2013, 12:58 PM   #18
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From all the input I got on this thread, it seems people are more willing to recommend a semi-automatic pistol rather than a revolver at .22LR .
Auto-loading pistols have taken more of the market (and popularity), than they used to. However, considering the single purpose to which you state that you will put it, a revolver (in .22 Long Rifle), will serve just as well.

Won't semi-automatics jam with such a small, relatively low power cartridge?
No, a Ruger MKII or Browning Buckmark are very reliable and fun to shoot.

It just comes down to which gun appeals to you more. I am basically a revolver person, but my "working"( Raccoons, Opossums, Et. al., in and around my property) gun, is a plain-Jane Buckmark although I have had Ruger .22 autos that were just as good.

When choosing your gun, carefully consider to what purpose it is going to be put...for instance you did not mention self-defense, hunting, etc... Some, many, Americans will typically suggest a gun with a different frame of mind. You will have to decide which serves your specific purpose best.

For target, it is best to have three things...Long barrel for longer sighting radius, heavy barrel for forward weight, and adjustable sights for adjusting the point of impact. If you are serious about target shooting, a .22 Long Rifle Ctg. is all you will need. However, if your idea of target shooting is to fantasize about blowing a bad-guy away, then by all means get something bigger like a 9MM.
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Old August 13, 2013, 01:04 PM   #19
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My Ruger MkII has many, many thousands of rounds through it. Due to the occasional inconsistencies in .22LR ammo, I may get a failure to ignite once or twice in a 550-round box. That is not a "jam" per se, and the fix is simple--rack the bolt and continue.

Note that these rounds will fail to ignite in a revolver, too.

Considering that (in normal times) we can get 550 rounds for $15 or so, the occasional misfire is a small price to pay for this amount of shooting....and the proficiency that will follow, if you concentrate on your fundamental.

I have both a .22 revolver (S&W M18) and the Ruger MkII semi, and I probably put 10x the number of rounds through the Ruger every year.

Whatever you decide, let us know.
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Old August 13, 2013, 01:17 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Quik
From all the input I got on this thread, it seems people are more willing to recommend a semi-automatic pistol rather than a revolver at .22LR
Couple of reasons: As .22s go, the 617 is relatively expensive. You can get a Ruger MkIII or Browning Buckmark (both excellent pistols) for much less. And you'd likely find those recommending a semi-auto actually shoot a semi-auto themselves. And my hunch is that most of them aren't nearly as proficient with a revolver.

My recommendation is for the 617 as well. Any .22 (especially a DA revolver) is an excellent platform for working on the fundamentals, and shooting well is all about the fundamentals, so no, you won't outgrow it. The 617 is not only known for it's accuracy, but it's very versatile as well - it'll shoot any .22 it's fed, and can be shot in SA or DA, the latter being tougher to master but well worth it. Learn to shoot a revolver well, and shooting a semi-auto well will come fairly easily. IME, the opposite often proves to be the more difficult path.
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Old August 13, 2013, 01:26 PM   #21
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I'd shy away from $1,000 guns on your first go. Good choice for your second, or third.

Anyways, if you are less than excited by the advice so far, I'd take a look @ the Sig Sp2022.
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Old August 13, 2013, 07:27 PM   #22
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Quik....lots of good advice here, lots to think about. For Old Farts (that's American for Senior types) I can tell you that you'll never outgrow a good 22. And there's a lot to choose from. Same with 9mm. A staggering variety of choices.

Enjoy the search!

If you want the show piece BBQ gun, I think it's good advice to wait. You're young. Give yourself time to winnow down the myriad choices for something special.

A couple random thoughts. For $1K CAD, you might consider

- Ruger Mark III 22/45. An exceptionally accurate and reliable 22 semiauto. Will generally eat anything you feed it. As one poster said, most of the problems are ammo related. Just the nature of 22 ammo. Having said that, it's usually rack another round into the chamber and proceed. I'm guessing $300-325.

- Ruger SR9. I have a SR9c, the compact version, and it is very accurate and a nicely soft shooting 9mm. I have never had a failure. Can't remember exactly what I paid, but I'll bet they're around $400. The full size SR9 I would expect to be just as easy and forgiving.

So now you're at around $750. Leave you some cash for ammo, maybe a red dot for the 22....or

A used Smith & Wesson Model 10. With either the standard (tapered) barrel or the heavy barrer @ 4 inches. The standard police weapon for a generation and just some good ol 38 cal goodness! I don't know if Canadian police departments or the RCMP have made their old revolvers available as they replace them with semi autos or not. Buds, for example, routinely sells police trade ins for about $275. Might be a little holster worn, but generally excellent mechanically. And they shoot wonderfully. Plus, the blued steel and wood grips give it soul!

Just my thoughts. For a little more than $1k CAD, you have an instant collection in three generally available calibres. And all are superb firearms.

Best of luck to you as you sift through all the advice. Remember, no matter which way you go, I think you're wise to start with a good 22.
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Old August 13, 2013, 07:57 PM   #23
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CZ75 is a great gun and with the Kadet kit you can shoot 22's out of it too!
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Old August 13, 2013, 08:34 PM   #24
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Thanks for the feedback everyone, much appreciated!

Okay, so I don't need to go with a revolver for exceptional accuracy.
And contrary to what I thought I learnt through my limited research, revolvers aren't necessarily the only choice for a .22LR handgun.
Since I hear everyone is saying great things about the Browning Buckmark and Ruger MkIII for very little $$ shelled out, if I like how it feels in hand, I might go with a Browning Buckmark or Ruger MkIII, and save some cash for a second, 9mm pistol (maybe the CZ75B or SP-01 Shadow, which would keep me just over ~$1000 CAD).

I dropped by the gun shop today near closing time, so unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to try any handguns for a fit. However, I spoke with a very helpful employee, who was supposed to check out the ETA on a S&W 617 (but didn't have time recently).

He mentioned that their site doesn't have all their stock, nor all the information:
  • The ~$925 Sig Sauer P226 they have in stock is made in Germany.
  • They have a used H&K USP 9mm for ~$950.
    (The salesman was trying to convince me to go for the H&K, as it is very rare up here, apparently.)
Unfortunately, I don't have anymore information, but I'll be going back this Thursday for more information and to try their in-hand feel.

Also, I've realized that I prefer DA/SA handguns, both for the .22LR and the 9mm pistols. The HK USP 9mm also has a polymer frame, so I think I'll be going with something else. I'm not eliminating the S&W 617 just yet, though. Is there a discernible difference between the Sig Sauers that are made in Germany vs. the American Sigs?

One more question: they have the S&W 686 in stock. I know that the 686 is an L-frame revolver, while the 617 is a K-frame revolver. My question is: if the 686 fits well in hand, should it equate to a good fitting with the 617?

Your opinion has been absolutely invaluable, thanks a bunch!
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Old August 13, 2013, 08:44 PM   #25
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First, I'll have to be Honest;I didn't read completely through all the posts here.

Next, I need to be Frank or Blunt:

If you only get a .22lr, I think you'll get bored with it sooner rather than later. Don't get me wrong, they're great fun and very useful but unless you can come up w/ some way to game them (and there are lots of ways) I get tired of the rimfires after a bit.

If you don't get a rimfire first, something I think every handgun owner should have is a medium frame 357 (or a 38). The light target loads barely recoil and the heavy hunting loads... do.

If you don't want the flexibility of a weapon you cycle with your finger, and end up with a semi-auto, try for one that has a 22 conversion kit available which will partially offset the need for a separate 22.

I'm assuming you can have a conversion kit and not have it treated like a firearm up there. While I'm making assumptions... a high quality airgun is almost as good as a rimfire to practice with though nowhere near as useful.

TLDR, get a 357.
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.22lr , 9mm , baby eagle ii , first handgun , s&w 617

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