First Pistol

Nephew and Niece are wanting their first pistol.  They’re interested in defense and fun, and they both can manipulate and control a full-on defense caliber auto pistol just fine, or more than fine, for beginners.  I know; ask a hundred people, get 100 answers.  Many of you have been shooting for decades and have fired 100s of thousands if not a million rounds or more in practice and competition, and so you have meaningful experience.  They’re looking at a sale on an XD or XDm right now.  I’ve also mentioned the M&P.  I figure Joe will mention STI, and Tam might point to another quality 1911.  Some will also say that a .22 is a good idea.  I’m steering them away from a sub compact, toward a full sized pistol of some sort.  They don’t want to spend over a thousand.  Preferably much less.


I usually answer; “Buy the one you like” but when you’re first starting out, it’s hard to know what you’ll like.  I did tell them they could rent at one of the logal gun store/ranges in their city and try a few.


I want to know about pistols you’ve really given some hard use.  I haven’t been able to wear out my old G20, for example, after much trying.  I looks like hell, it has the ergonomics of a cinder block (to quote J. Cooper) and the trigger feels like it was designed by gun owner haters, but it just keeps working.


What say you all?

22 thoughts on “First Pistol

  1. I have an XDm, the first handgun that I shot was a Ruger SR9 and wasn’t too big of a fan. I really like the ruger Mark III (hunter with the long barrel) for general fun and the full size XDm for both fun and defense (i shoot 45, but the 9 is good too, my sister has one). My personal recommendation for someone in the market; go out with a bunch of buddies and let them sample at the ‘gun buffet’

  2. Well, other than writing the answer to this in about a dozen posts…

    In all seriousness, you can’t do better than a K22 of some kind; but if you want to go full caliber, a 686 is a spectacular choice.

    I generally think someones first centerfire pistol should be a revolver, so they don’t have to practice failure drills while learning how to shoot a centerfire.

  3. The more “answers” I see to these questions the less (nothing personal) I like the question. Specific model choice depends on 1-use and 2- the geometry of users hand and mass of body, in my sometimes (but possibly not tonight) humble opinion 😉

    Get them talking about what they want to use it for, not so we can tell them what model is best for that use but so that they really give it some thought. Then send them off with an experienced person (for safety, not model opinions) to a range with a large rental selection. Let the ergonomic reaction between body and tool do the rest.

    If after a few trips they still have questions about their own intended use and/or how that interacts with models/ergonomics an NRA basic pistol class cannot be beat. Really, us tellin’ em won’t beat them “installing the software” and making their own informed decision. My .02

  4. I like the Beretta 92 SF 9mm, so does the wife.
    She likes it because her hand is safely away from the slide (unlike the bresa .380 Thunder) and I like it because of how it feels in my hand.

    It also takes anything I put in the mag.

  5. For a $1000 budget, a Ruger 22/45 and a Glock 19. I’d get the .22 first, unless there is an active threat that requires a defense gun. I picked the 22/45 because it was a full size with the grip angle of most centerfire guns, instead of the weird angle of most .22 semiautos. I would not argue against a .22 revolver either.

    For a centerfire handgun, 9mm is cheaper, and I no longer believe that the difference in effectiveness between a premium 9mm+p is significant when compared to .40 or .45. My first carry gun was an XD 40 subcompact. It has been perfectly reliable in thousands of rounds, but ergonomically it obviously sacrifices a full grip for easier concealment. I didn’t realize it until I made holsters for each, but the Glock 19 is not significantly bigger than the XD subcompact and carries as well, despite having a grip that doesn’t leave my pinkie dangling–less of its height is slide. If I were to start over, I’d go with the Glock 19 if carry was at all likely. If carry isn’t likely, I prefer the grip angle and trigger of the full size XD’s over similar Glocks.

  6. I hear you on the ergonomics of a Glock, but after going out and trying several pistols and revolvers that my friends owned (I only have a Springfield 1911 and a cheap Taurus Millennium Pro PT111), she liked the G19 best and a S&W Airweight second).

  7. I wouldn’t recommend a STI until I was convinced the shooter was being “held back” by a Ruger, Glock, S&W, or any other of probably a dozen other makes of guns.

    Ditto what Boyd said.

  8. My first handgun was a G20 10MM – great gun, very functional, but definitely not for everyone, and not cheap to feed unless you reload. Definitely a “try before you buy” choice.

    Ergonomics that don’t fit everyone aside, the Glock G22 (full sized .40 S&W) is a great choice for a semi-auto, and I’d recommend a Ruger GP100 (.357 Mag, preferably 6″ stainless) for a revolver. Either one is well under a grand, brand new.

  9. I’m with you on the Glock. It’s like a rusty old farm tractor…ugly, uncomfortable and not much fun to drive, but it does the job and just works, every time.

    With that said, my wife loves her G19.

    I wasn’t real sure about their intent by your post. If they’re looking for something to learn shooting with, I’d recommend any of the quality .22lr pistols or revolvers available out there. They’re fun to shoot, easy on new shooters, cheap to feed and generally inexpensive to buy.

    If they’re looking for a defensive pistol, that’s so much a matter of personal taste and preferences that any answer that comes from anyone other than the person who’s going to do the buying is moot.

    When my wife decided she wanted a gun of her own, I took her to every range in the area and we tried every rental gun they had available so that she could get a good taste of the different styles, feels etc. Some of the ranges, when we told them what we were doing, would let us pay one rental fee and try gun after gun…all we had to do was pay for the range time and ammo after that first rental fee.

    Anything over a couple of hundred bucks is generally considered a big investment for most people (I know it is for me), so you want to do your homework and try your best to choose well the first time. IMHO

  10. Smith and Wesson M&P 9C. The American successor to the perfect pistol, the Glock 19.

  11. I agree with you in that they should rent several pistols and buy the one they like best. My first pistol was a Rock Island Armory 1911. It was cheap and reliable. The only problems I’ve had with it is wearing out springs. I can also recommend a S&W M&P 9mm. If they are not going to be carrying it concealed, get the full size. Otherwise, get the compact.

  12. Joe,

    I like the M&P 9mm, and the older CZ-75. That’s just personal preference though. What’s more important is that they know how to evaluate pistol choices to pick what works best for them.

    Here’s a (long) forum thread I wrote on this topic. I’m rewriting it as a Michigan Firearms Examiner article, but it won’t be posted for awhile. In the meantime the original forum thread is the best I can say on how to pick a pistol.

    How to pick your first defensive handgun.

    http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=108&t=60104

  13. Depends on what “rings their bell”. Take them to the shop and see what they like. If the XDs look good to them, its a good choice. I think the M&P series is a damn good choice too. Of course Glock is still selling like crazy for a reason.

    And of course if they’re drawn to revolvers, then they should get one of those!

    You get 100 answers because no one size fits all. My first handgun was a S&W1911 because I wanted a stainless 1911, and that-was-that. A good friend of mine got his first pistol and he got a S&W686 because revolvers are his bag and .357 Mags are a Swiss Army gun.

    Another friend got a Sig Sauer because he liked the looks of the H&K USP, but under my recomendation, and his sticker shock of the price the Sig looked cool enough for him, and had everything he needed.

    Some people like big heavy guns for managed recoil, others find small light guns easier to manipulate. No two people will see any one gun the same way.

  14. I have a Gen 3 S&W 5906, it was a police trade in, I think I paid about $300 for it, it is an all stainless full size auto loader, mag capacity can be anywhere from 10 to 18 rounds. I has fed any type of ammo I’ve put in it and keeps on working. I’ve never had a problem with it and I’ve been pretty hard on it too.

  15. I think the full sized M&P in 9mm is a fine choice. Plenty of firepower in a reasonably compact package. It’s a creampuff to shoot and ammo is plentiful and very inexpensive (when compared to other centerfire calibers). The multiple backstraps also make it customizable enough for both shooters to reach a compromise. Spend a hundred bucks on a Streamlight TL-1 and you’ve got a fine nightstand gun. These all add up to a package that is enjoyable to shoot and affordable enough to practice enough to become quite proficient in a caliber that is widely considered as acceptable for defensive needs.

    For right around that grand, one could get the aforementioned weapon light, a Crimson Trace Lasergrip, a quality holster, and a case of ammo.

  16. My response is always the same, go to a range that has a good selection of pistols, try them out for size, go with what fits your hand, buy some ammo for the appropriate calibers, shoot them all, buy the one that fits and is comfortable to shoot and manipulate. If it’s not comfortable to shoot, you’re not going to practice. Next, find a .22 of similar size and configuration for cheap practice and fun. heck, nowadays that might boil down to buying a conversion top end and some extra mags.

  17. i have an xdm and have been very happy with it’s performance. have about 6000 rounds through it with no failures. ergonomic and aggressive in apperence it’s really sweet. however if i was shopping for my first… hand’s down the gen 3 glock 17. butt ugly, super reliable, easy to concel. cheaper ammo. easily upgradable. and with a price tag about $500. that leaves ya $500 for ammo.
    i have to agree that the pistol buffet idea is probley best. it’s nice to have a wide selection.
    so long as they’re all entry level pistols.

  18. Walther P99 in 9mm or .40 Cal depending upon how recoil sensitive they are, and a Walther P22 for lots of inexpensive practice!

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