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How do I begin to shop for a self defense firearm? Tips please!

I'm a younger guy, nobody in my family really owns any sort of weapons and very few of my friends do. With all of this craziness going on and whatever laws looming, I want to purchase a firearm to protect me and my fiancée in case I ever need to before it becomes much more difficult to. I'm drawn to shotguns however a simple yet effective and good quality handgun would make the most sense for my situation. I'm not sure whether to shop online, go to a local gun shop, go to Wal-Mart or what (I live in PA). Could you helpful people point me in a good direction to find out what sort of handgun and features would be a perfect fit for me? I have no knowledge of brands and technical qualities but I don't want to be ripped off. Reference websites, stores, recommended gun models, etc would all be a huge help. Thanks!

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If you are serious about a S&W

I'd suggest looking at a 3913. Nice gun, great resale and best of all an ambidextrous safety.

There are no politicians or bankers in foxholes.

If you don't figure on

If you don't figure on shooting much, you might consider a revolver. I think they are more forgiving to shoot. Less to go wrong as well.

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. - Heinlein


Mossberg 930 SPX semi auto 12ga shotgun. Holds 7+1 (2 3/4") shells and will fire as quick as you can pull the trigger. With the pistol grip it is easy to use one handed if necessary unlike a pump shotgun. (If you have the arm strength.) But you must use high brass loads to cycle correctly which is no big deal since you want high power rounds anyway. I bought one and I love it.

Retails around $650 - $700 or so.

If someone breaks in, this will be the first of my guns they will have to contend with.

It depends on what you're looking for.

Strictly home defense? In that case, are you in a neighborhood or in the country? If neighborhood, shotgun all the way. If country, shotgun or a rifle such as the AR-15, AKM, or Mini-14. Handguns are also good - Glock is great, Ruger is great, Smith & Wesson is great. If a handgun, there's a lot of different options. 9mm gets you light recoil and high capacity, .45 gets you fantastic stopping power, and .40 S&W gets you a good compromise, the only issue being the snappy recoil.

Reply and let me know generally what you're looking for and what kind of area you're in, I can get a better idea of what you need based on that.

Phxarcher87's picture

12g, glock 23, ar-15/mini 14 , 30.06 bolt action with 3X9X40,

These should be in your sights to protect yourself and your family.

When you are at home a pistol should only be used to fight your way to your shotgun that should be loaded with double 00 buck.

When you travel a Glock 23 will be optimal.

When your streets become filled with people who want your stuff the
ar-15 will protect your family and your property.

The 30.06 is made to shoot far and wide its valuable because it is common it will kill anything in north America (anything)

I hope everything I wrote here amounts to nothing in time. Before the action of a gun is cocked back and the bolt locked and loaded ask god for mercy. The founding fathers of this nation 1st and for most defeated tyranny because they called on the name of the Lord.

George Washington


The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.124

James Madison

High capacity assault

High capacity assault weapon!

It doesn't sound like you will be able to buy them much longer. Better get one of those now while you still can.

SteveMT's picture

Home protection starts with a 4 and ends with a 5.

You want a weapon that is going to stop someone. A 45 will. That's my recommendation, a Glock 21.

Starts with 4 and ends with 5

Especially if you are considering a .40, just get the 45 and be done with it.

Though, I will respectfully disagree about Glock. Glock, while without question is outstanding equipment, they are primarily made in Austria, while some assembly is done here in the states (Georgia). Go'fer a Ruger which is 100% Made in USA (Connecticut), and be done with it even more :-)

"What if the American people learn the truth" - Ron Paul

I believe that tests have shown

that the .40 has better penetration than the .45. My brother in law and I did a preliminary test of this claim and it seemed to hold true when firing at a log and then checking for penetration. Some of the .45 bullets were easily visible.

It depends on many factors.

Solid versus hollow points, 180 versus 165 grain, etc.

Solids can penetrate and go through, causing less damage to the target while inadvertently hitting another undesired target that is behind the primary. If the target is really tough, solids may be a better choice. Hollows by design break up inside yielding greater damage, but again if the target is very hard this becomes moot.

Some are designed to have more impact using 165, while others are designed for 180. You have to see what the ballistics are for the given arm and use what is recommended. There are other factors too that you can research, but if one had a choice, chances are it's the 45 hands down. They make big boom.

"What if the American people learn the truth" - Ron Paul

Ok. You just said a whole lot of nothing.

You sound like John Madden calling a football game. "If that guy can catch the ball and run it into the end zone before getting tackled then he will make a touchdown."

I can make the case for why a .40 will penetrate better than a .45 of the same grain. But if you want to get down to it it doesn't make a hill of beans worth of difference between a 9mm, .40 or .45 cal when it comes to home defense because human flesh doesn't offer much resistance.

I still prefer the auto 12ga to any of the above.

Hey anothernobody

It sounds like you are a somewhat spiteful person and/or have no friends. Therefore,

Have a safe and happy holiday :-)

"What if the American people learn the truth" - Ron Paul


Wow. I guess you really like your 45. Or you don't like truthful observation or maybe you just read to much into things. :-)


Who said I owned a 45, lol?

For the record, I do not own one. But I have fired them, along with others. I also read ballistics now and then.

40 is a very good arm, as are others. I just wanted the readers to do a little research on their own before committing their hard-earned frns.

o/t, I was handing out literature at the gun show and overheard a bunch of guys talking. They said that they may confiscate guns door to door, but nobody was going to confiscate theirs. Another asked "why is that?". The answer was "because we're militia, and they won't dare go near our big'uns, but let them try". By the way, they didn't want any of my useless political literature, nor do they vote.. they go only by the Constitution.

"What if the American people learn the truth" - Ron Paul

Go to your Sheriff or police

or if you know where there is a target, practice room/range that offers lessons about handguns.. hunter saftey is great to learn about rifles and shotguns.. but what you do is go to a class (Shefirff and police usually participate, so they usually know when and where classes are and offer a wide variety of arms for you to hold, understand the differences in ammos and get a feeling for what suits you. what you feel comfortable with, what you can carry and you want to carry, you like the piece.. it feels good, safe, you feel in control..

My classes were more valuable than the arms because I learned so much it was so easy to know exactly what I wanted and why.

Bud's Gun Shop online. Best prices and service in the USA.


What do you want the gun to accomplish? Do you want one for concealed carry? Something to carry in a pocket? The best gun for home defense? Target shooting? Or a combination of all three?

Whichever gun you choose, study it. Learn about safety, care and cleaning and take it out and shoot it as often as you can afford too.

For holsters could I recommend El Paso Saddlery in Texas? https://www.epsaddlery.com/ El Paso holsters are not only beautiful but durable and have classic safety features.

If you are looking for a pocket pistol go with a revolver, Smith and Wesson 340 PD, in .357 magnum. A .38 Special will work just as well. You would get 5 shots with a 1 7/8 inch barrel, for up close and personal situations.

If you want a car gun or larger pistol to carry on your hip, please consider the semi-auto Springfield Armory XD9 or XD45 with a 4" barrel. You can get the XD9 with a 3" or 5" barrel or a XD45 with a 5".

Defense from what? Tyranny?

Defense from what? Tyranny? or crime? from tyranny you need the same weapon that the military has. For home defense a good 12 guage shotgun is the way to go.

Glock 19 is a no brainer

Just make sure it feels good in your hands. Go to your local gun shop and hold a few of the models. I would also get a shotgun while you are at it. Can't go wrong with a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 for affordable quality.

"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind." - Khalil Gibran
"The Perfect Man has no self; the Holy Man has no merit; the Sage has no fame." - Chuang Tzu

Kathleen Gee's picture

How do you want to use it?

A gun is just a tool. First you have to decide how you want to use the tool. Do you want it for concealed carry, or just have in the house? Or one of each?

These are my comments as a woman shooter. Most men will disagree with me and I'm OK with that. :)

If you want to concealed carry, look for a smaller frame automatic, either a 9MM or a .22. In my opinion, revolvers don't hold enough bullets, they take much longer to reload, it's harder to use a speed loader under stress, and they're bulkier.

As for brands, Glocks are extremely common (they're used by a lot of law enforcement) so they're easy to get parts and accessories for. They're well-made guns. Heckler & Kochs are really nice but expensive. I like Walthers and Kahr Arms. Berettas are good but slightly harder to get accessories for. Bersas are popular but I find the recoil to be unmanageable, especially in the small concealed carry model. Hi-Point guns are crap. Don't buy the cheapest gun, buy the cheapest good gun.

Why 9MM or .22? They are the most common and least expensive calibers of ammo. Don't buy some weird caliber that you can't afford or can't find. I prefer to shoot .22s because I'm a girl with small hands and 9MMs have a harder recoil.

Most men will say that a .22 doesn't have enough "stopping power." I counter with stories like this one: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/police-woman-shot-intruder-9-...

Also, remember that in most cases of self-defense, no shots are fired. Most criminals flee the scene when they see your gun.

But if you do have to fire the weapon, you need to be absolutely prepared. That means you have to have put a lot of rounds through the gun to be really comfortable aiming, firing and reloading it (which is why you want to choose a caliber with cheap and plentiful ammo.)

You need to choose a gun that won't kill your hand after 50 rounds of target practice. Personally, I can't stand the recoil on anything larger than a .22 because of my girly hands. If I had a larger caliber, I just know I'd never practice with it because of the pain. (There are a few guns I've only been able to fire one round through and couldn't continue, like .45s. I can't even hold up a .357, much less fire one.)

To pick out the makes and models you want to test fire, go to a big gun show and literally handle a lot of guns. As the dealer if you can dry-fire the gun so you can feel how hard the trigger pull is. Have the dealer show you the difference between double action and single action. Also have them show you how the safety works and how hard it is to engage and disengage. You should be able to take the safety off in the dark, with one finger, on the same hand that is holding the gun.

I personally dislike the safeties on most guns. Mainly because they're awkward and tricky. (Under pressure, you may not have the manual dexterity to take the safety off, and then you're screwed.) But also because safeties give you the illusion that the gun is "safe," and you should never, ever assume a gun is safe. You should always assume that you will kill whatever you point the gun at. You should always assume it's loaded, and deadly.

When you handle guns at the gun show, you're trying to find one that fits perfectly into your hand, and is comfortable to grip. Grips feel very different from manufacturer to manufacturer. (For some reason, Walthers seem to be made for my hands. They're exactly the right shape and size.) You can also buy aftermarket grips but it's easier to just buy a gun that fits well out of the box.

Make a list of the guns that feel good and then go to a gun range that rents guns. That will allow you to test-fire several of them. Buy the 9MM or .22 that is the most fun to shoot accurately. Be sure to also buy a "takedown" manual that shows you how to take it apart and clean it, plus a cleaning kit and concealed carry holster (if that's what you want to do with the gun.) Plus ammo, of course. A range bag is also a good idea. And buy as many extra magazines as you can afford. When you go to the range to practice, and are paying for range time by the hour, you don't want to waste all your time reloading. Multiple magazines are also helpful if you shoot competitively.

I don't have a lot of experience with shotguns so someone else will comment on that, I hope.

I hope this helps.

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"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid." - Ronald Reagan

yep 22 is great. don't get me

yep 22 is great. don't get me wrong i love my 1911 and my xd9 but i have a 22lr semi auto pistol and it is my favorite pistol to shoot, its about all i can afford to shoot lately

Excellent advice.

You are obviously an intelligent individual who put a lot of study into this situation. Well done!

similar situation

shotguns are great for home defense, but not in closed quarters or when you are sneaking around corners to check out various rooms in your house.

currently have a glock 19 (9mm) for the home
about to buy a glock 26 for my concealed carry(9mm-smaller version of the 19)
i will probably then buy a mossberg shotgun for aound $300 for the home
then it will probably be a ruger 10/22 (.22 caliber) just because the ammo is cheap as hell and they are fun...

go to a gun store and poke around. try and find a range that lets you rent the gun to try it out. it can and will be intimidating at first, but just get over it...you gotta do what you gotta do...i would do a 9mm or .40 caliber due to the abundance of ammo..nothing smaller than a 9mm for a handgun..

Remember to factor in the price of ammo

None of it is cheap, but some of it is "dollars per shot" and I suspect it is all going up. And without ammo, you've got a stick.

Love or fear? Choose again with every breath.

TwelveOhOne's picture

Interchangeable ammunition is a goal

You (the OP that is) may want to consider a 22 LR rifle, and corresponding revolver. The ammo is less expensive, and can be used in either.

Others' ideas about the .357 using .38 special ammo is useful as well, just don't only practice with the .38 special ammo if you intend to defend your home with .357 rounds.

I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
http://fija.org - Fully Informed Jury Association
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How, who, what & when & why?

Go with a friend that has knowledge that you seek. Even your friend may be much older than you... or older than friends that keep up with your gate, consider what those you trust know.

Myself, I go away from the hustle & bustle. I go to acquaint myself with old friends or friends of friends.... By & by I visit those that live on a hilltop, w/ nary a care in the world. All that cross their front door threshold cannot help be be friends. Find out how it is that friend & all that come to visit feel at ease. Feel safe.

Disclaimer: Mark Twain (1835-1910-To be continued) is unlicensed. His river pilot's license went delinquent in 1862. Caution advised. Daily Paul

I'd look for a local gun shop with an attached range

where you might be able to try some different types before you buy. If your budget is really tight, you may find affordable used guns that have been traded in.

If your finance is willing, take her as well. If you can only afford one purchase now, it might make sense to get one you can both operate.

I'm partial to revolvers, especially for beginners.

A .357 caliber could be downloaded with .38 specials for cheaper practice or for your finance to use if you acquire another firearm.

Shotgun is a good choice if you stay at home, but a handgun gives you more flexibility if you venture elsewhere (subject to state and local


Most Gun Shops

Have classes or can refer you to a class.

I can't stress how important it is to learn about guns and how to use them safely from someone who is experienced. especially if you have no prior experience.

Most classes will allow you to borrow a gun or rent a gun. Educate yourself first and ask the experts their opinions on what kind of gun is best for you.

One stop shop

100 Cabela Drive
Hamburg, PA 19526

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This is a great question and I will give you a great answer.
You want a .40 caliber Glock with a mounted flashlight. The total package should be about $500.

This gun lacks a definitive safety so it is great if you are inexperienced with firearms (just keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot), and would need to use it in the heat of the moment. If you have little kids, I recommend getting a lock box off of Amazon for it, just to ensure that the ones you are trying to protect don't have an accident.