I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t choose a pistol to defend myself over a rifle or a shotgun loaded with slugs. But when it comes down to using a pistol, it probably isn’t so you can cross a room and get to a rifle. It is popular to say that pistols are just secondary weapons that are not gonna do much good for you anyways. I do not see it that way, and I believe that your pistol is probably one of the most important weapons on your person. If you think about it, your not going to be using the pistol unless you are out of ammo, can’t reload your primary weapon fast enough, or if you are not able to use a rifle such as when you are carrying as a civilian. I would extend this to Law Enforcement and Federal Agents that do not have the luxury to hop, skip, and jump to the nearest rifle. This is where the fighting pistol comes into play.
Basically, my point is that when you have to use your pistol, you better be good with it. It also better work the way you need it to work when you are under stress for your life, because that is the only reason you would have to use it, right? If you have to draw your pistol, whether you are carrying it concealed, or have to defend yourself when your rifle goes down, you are now going to have to rely on whatever training and skill you have with a pistol to stay alive and hopefully win the fight. That said, we need to stop thinking of the pistol as a secondary weapon, and think of it as being equally as important as your rifle or shotgun. Remember that your pistol is your last line of defense before you have to start fighting with knives, fists, and harsh language. Now with that said, I want to go over a few features that I get picky about when I am choosing a fighting pistol.
When looking at ergonomics for a fighting pistol, it is important to understand that it should feel very comfortable when you use it. It should feel like an extension of your hand. I also recommend making sure that the pistol points very naturally and that you are able to get good sight alignment very quickly from the draw.
In my experience, gloves can be quite an asset to those in cold and wet environments. Therefore, I believe it should be standard for you to test your pistol with gloved hands. Practice drawing it, shooting it, reloading, correcting malfunctions, and general manipulation.
When you are trying to hit the target, the best thing you can do is use your sights. For me, I have found that the bigger the front sight is, the better chance I have of being able to use my sights quickly. I want the sights to stick out like a sore thumb up against my target, since i am not going to shift focus to my sights to take a close range shot.
I found that the three dot sight picture can actually confuse my sight picture compared to the dot and dash sights, such as what you will find on old Sigs, Kahr pistols, and the M9. Even the triangular front sight of the Steyr pistols is very conducive to shooting accurately under stress. The key, I found, is to keep it simple without losing functionality.
I will refrain from telling you what kind of trigger system to stick with, whether it is DA/SA, or striker fired. But, I will tell you that before you make a definitive decision, I would recommend testing how well you perform under stress. Try working out, running, adding time stress, and constant movement while staying as low as possible. I found that the Double Action Plus+ trigger on the Lionheart LH9 was almost the perfect merger between my love for double action, and the desired results you can obtain with a single action trigger. That being said, I want you to remember that I also test my triggers with gloves on. A 10 pound double action trigger pull can feel like 6 pounds or less. Heck, a single action trigger can feel even lighter as well, which may cause worry for you if you jerk the trigger under stress. The only way to know is to find out through training and practicing.
Whether it is choosing better sights or extra magazines, you want to have options. How about having parts to help make the grips more comfortable? Let’s not forget that we also need to have holsters available for your fighting pistol. You may even prefer to have a rail on your fighting pistol in order to help keep it versatile and be able to attach lights and lasers. Also, do not underestimate the value in having access to inexpensive and available magazines that work in your pistol. No matter what it is, make sure your desired fighting pistol has options so that you can adapt it to your needs.
My specific “requirements” for my fighting pistol is a culmination of my experiences in shooting pistols and how I react under real life-threatening pressure. Everyone will react differently under pressure, resulting in different preferences in triggers, grips, etc. You must define your own parameters around your experiences.
My final piece of advice here is the same that it was at the beginning. Do not think of the fighting pistol as a last ditch mediocre weapon that is only one step above throwing rocks. This gun could save your life one day, and you need to prepare for that by getting good training and preparing for the worst. The reality is that if you ever need to use your fighting pistol, it is the worst case scenario. Stay trained, stay practiced, and stay ready.