As a firearms trainer, one of the most frequent conversations I have with new shooters is some version of, “Which gun should I buy?”  The question typically comes from responsible citizens, new or inexperienced in carrying firearms or owning one for home defense

I like to start by asking, “Where did you hear about out training and why are you here?”  The answers about why they came to a class are usually thoughtful, with the decision to get a gun made after calm reflection.  No one has shared any particularly dramatic reason, though that might be something elected not to reveal.

The most common reason:  She says, “My husband has a gun, and having it in the house when I know nothing about it makes me nervous.”  Second most common:  He says, “I’ve had this pistol for a long time, and I have a carry permit, but I don’t feel like I know enough to be carrying it around.”

Many have not bought a handgun yet. They seek more information and experience, wanting to be an informed consumer.  After a day of classroom and shooting and trying a variety of sizes of handgun, they leave far better informed.

A big part of being informed comes after reflection on what they plan to use their weapon for.  Home defense only?  Concealed carry? Leaving aside for a moment the legal requirements to achieve some of those reasons, each possibility will likely come with a different “this might be the best type of pistol to accomplish that” answer.

Home defense only?  A full-sized pistol, one that feels good in the hand and is of a caliber with a recoil you have confidence in using.  Higher capacity, so you are not likely going to need to carry a spare magazine in your other hand as you pad around the house in your pajamas in the middle of the night.  A light rail is also a good option, allowing you to attach a white light option for that “bump in the night.” (Using a handheld or weapon mounted light on a handgun ought to compel you to further your training.)

Concealed in your car or truck?  Similar to a home defense handgun, a full-sized handgun choice might be made for similar reasons.  Or, given that the interior of a car may offer smaller places to keep a firearm handy, yet out of sight, a compact may be the best option.  The compacts today have pretty good ammunition capacity and indeed are small enough to put in a small glovebox or center console, even inside the storage/cup holder spaces inside the driver door.

Concealed in your purse?  Similar situation as the two options mentioned above, depending on the “cargo capacity” of the purse selected.  As the man half of this venture, I won’t pretend to be conversant on this subject, but I will say that whatever handbag you carry, nothing but the concealed weapon should be in whatever compartment or pocket you choose to secret it in.  Far too much can go wrong if other loose items work their way into the trigger guard of a handgun in a purse.  Not to mention the purse being a frequent target of a thief who, taking that item, also now has your firearm.

Concealed on your person?  This is where it gets fun.  Summer?  Maybe a sub-compact or small snub-nosed revolver that, despite limited ammo capacity, is easy to hide when dressed in board shorts and a t-shirt. Easy to carry a small spare magazine or speed strip of revolver ammo in your pocket.

Winter?  Given that you will likely be wearing more clothing, like pull overs, sweaters, and jackets, a larger handgun again becomes a good choice.  Easier to hide this time of year, with an ammo capacity that gives you more options until you can get out of there or help arrives.  A critical factor here is accessibility, given that you are likely concealing the handgun under more layers.  (Accessing your firearm while concealed is another progression in your training.  Seek competent coaching and practice it dry!)

Spring and Fall can fall into either of the other two seasons and the choice of a defensive firearm.  The fashions of the year will factor into these decisions.  If only one handgun is in your budget, compromise between the various jobs you intend to have a firearm for, and dress around it.

Or,you can just buy a different pistol for every occasion and season.  You know you want to.

Ron Flowers is a veteran of the US Navy Reserve, the US Merchant Marine and is a retired lieutenant of the Allentown (Pa) Police, and former LEP (Law Enforcement Professional) contractor in Operation Enduring Freedom. Ron owns Citizens Defense Training LLC ( and trains vetted civilians, as well as providing training to small police departments with municipal police state training commission approved classes.  He also serves the NRA Law Enforcement Division as an Adjunct Instructor. He can be reached at [email protected].




Photos courtesy of the author.