This is the final part of a four-part article series on how to select the ideal pistol for preppers. If you’ve directly arrived at this page, may we suggest you start reading from the first part – The Most Important Selection Criteria When Choosing an Ideal Pistol and then the second and third parts – Four More Selection Criteria to Choose the Ideal Pistol, and Caliber Issues When Choosing Your Pistol.
Phew. So far we’ve covered some obviously important issues, some moderately important issues, and we’ve tried to persuade you that something some people consider of great importance – caliber – is actually not as important as you might have thought. What else remains?
Here are four more factors to evaluate when choosing your ideal pistol for prepper purposes, and then, finally, a suggested ideal pistol for you to adopt.
9. Size and Weight
How big and how heavy is the pistol? Pistols range in size and weight from tiny pieces weighing well under a pound and fitting comfortably into a regular pocket to massive monstrosities weighing well over three pounds.
In general, bigger is better than smaller. But there comes a point where monstrously big starts to become a negative factor. Remember the primary purpose of a pistol is convenient portability – it is the ‘take with you everywhere’ gun. For a really effective firearm, you need to sacrifice convenience and instead choose a rifle.
A larger – that is, longer barreled – pistol is slightly more accurate than a shorter barreled pistol, The extra barrel length allows the bullet to better stabilize and probably emerge at a slightly higher speed and with slightly greater energy. The extra barrel length also usually allows for a longer sight radius along its top – but note that accuracy is the second least important attribute we list for pistols.
A heavier pistol has two possible advantages as well as the obvious disadvantage of extra weight meaning more hassle to carry, and we again restate that you should not try to over-engineer and over-specify what you expect in your pistol. A pistol is merely the gun you use to fight your way to your rifle – any real gun battle should always be conducted with a rifle, not a pistol.
On the weight issue, the heavier the pistol, the less stressful the recoil will be. The weight of the gun ‘soaks up’ the recoil better in a heavy pistol than a light one. Many people misunderstand this and think small light guns are the easiest to shoot – that is completely wrong, but we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve heard either gun buyers saying ‘I want a light easy to shoot gun’ or an advisor (often a husband or father) telling someone (ie a wife or daughter) ‘choose that one, it is nice and light and easier to shoot’.
Secondly, a heavier pistol implies a pistol that has more metal in it, meaning less stress on the components because they are ‘over-engineered’ for greater life and reliability, and probably less sensitivity to individual cartridge configurations. This is sometimes the case, but also sometimes not (for example the Hi-Point pistols which have very heavy slides as part of their simple blowback mechanism).
There’s one more thing about size. A ‘normal’ sized pistol (ie 4 – 5″ barrel) is intimidating and may solve a problem without needing to be fired. When a bad guy sees you confidently present your ‘normal’ pistol at him, he is more likely to back off than if you present a tiny little ‘pocket rocket’.
A tiny 2″ barreled pistol looks much less mean and scary, and because of that, it is more likely you’ll end up needing to use it ‘for real’. Our feeling is that the intimidation factor is greatest with ‘normal’ pistols; if you have some ridiculous ‘tricked out’ over-size pistol, you start to look slightly foolish yourself and that also detracts from the overall ability of yourself to project a credible deterrent to whoever it is you’re encountering.
So we’re suggesting pistols with a 4″ – 5″ barrel and probably weighing 1.5 – 2.5 lbs as being best all-rounders.
10. Ease of Carry and/or Concealment
Although we ourselves live most of the time in states where open-carry is lawful, we generally choose not to visibly open-carry our pistol(s). In the ‘normal’ world, open carrying can place the person with the pistol at a tactical disadvantage, and requires them to always be conscious of who is around them and to be ready to fight to control the retention of their pistol from unexpected attacks.
It also shows any bad guys that you have a gun and where it is; you have no surprise factor at all in an encounter. One more thing – rather than encouraging people to be polite and well-behaved around you, it can actually incite some fools (usually drunk) to provoke a confrontation with you, and the question ‘So what are you going to do about it, Mr Tough Guy? Shoot me?’ is one we’ve heard expressed in such situations – situations where it would be totally inappropriate to present let alone fire your weapon.
So, in the normal world, our preference is to carry concealed. That’s a whole discussion in and of itself, and may require some modifications to your choice of firearm.
But in an extreme adverse situation in the future, maybe the need to carry concealed is no longer as strong, and instead the need to be able to quickly access both your pistol and your extra magazines is of greater importance. Maybe also, instead of potentially provoking encounters with people who know they can safely tease you with impunity, because if you as much as touch your pistol in a threatening manner, they’ll have the police lock you up so fast your feet won’t touch the ground (true); maybe in this case, in a situation where the rule of law has been suspended, people realize that it is an ‘every man for himself’ struggle, and that provoking a fight is more likely to create a tragic consequence for the provoker, and with no police likely to respond.
So our feeling is that concealability will be much less important when TSHTF, and that instead you will want to carry your pistol in a way that you can most quickly get at it – in other words, a traditional vertical no-slope outside the waist-band holster, and ideally with an obscured retention device for the holster if you’re likely to be in areas with higher densities of people.
By obscured retention device we do not mean an obvious SERPA style lock on the outside (away from your side) of the holster, and neither do we mean a strap with a snap catch over the top of the pistol. Instead, we suggest a lever device of some sort on the inside (close to your side) of the holster that people can’t see and don’t realize is there – a ‘Level 3’ type holster such as, for example, this Bladetech product.
We imagine some people have already left this article, shaking their heads in disgust at our lack of respect for the ‘importance’ of accuracy.
Yes, accuracy is important, but we place it in the second last position because almost any gun can outperform the person shooting it. The accuracy/inaccuracy of a good pistol (such as this lovely Wilson Combat) might be +/- one inch at 50 ft when fired from a bench rest (the Wilson claims one inch at 75 ft). But, in the field, with you shooting in a stressed situation, your accuracy will be +/- one foot at a 15 ft range (or maybe even worse). The gun is 40 times more accurate than the shooter.
All accuracy is good, but any pistol that you’re considering is likely to have good accuracy to start with, and the path to better accuracy is not to buy a fancier more expensive pistol, but rather to train yourself to better use whatever pistol you do have.
So, in case it is not obvious, we do agree that accuracy is essential, but the path to accuracy lies not so much in your choice of pistol as it does in your choice to train yourself to use it accurately.
A factor which may impact on accuracy is the ‘ergonomics’ of the pistol. If the grip is too large (or too small) that might have a measurable impact, but in general, with standard sized name-brand pistols, they’ll all massively outshoot you when it comes to accuracy – maybe only slightly so on a range, but massively so in a combat situation.
We’ve seen some people shoot well with one pistol and poorly with another, whereas other shooters have performed exactly the opposite. Note that such a wide and random spread of results generally occurs with inexperienced shooters – the better skilled you are, the less your personal accuracy will vary with your choice of pistol.
A pistol is not designed to be an accurate weapon. If you want or need accuracy, use your rifle. Instead of being accurate to an inch at 50 ft, a good rifle is accurate to an inch at over 100 yards.
Last, and truly least, price.
Although we linked to a $3000+ Wilson pistol in the previous section, there’s almost never any need to spend over $1000 on a pistol, and many times you’ll find that $750 or less will be plenty to buy you the best possible pistol out there. For example, Glock 17 pistols are selling on Gunbroker.com for $600 or less, and some local discount stores may sell them for as little as $550.
On the other hand, however, you have to wonder about guns that are ‘too low’ in price. There’s a sweet spot from about $500 – $1000 which allows a gun manufacturer to make a no-compromise pistol that will function reliably and well; if you pay less than $500, there’s a worry that some cost saving strategy might impact on the gun’s ongoing reliability; and if you pay more than $1000, well, good luck to you, but don’t assume that just because the gun costs more, it is any better than one costing less than $1000.
Do you want to save a few hundred dollars on a tool that you’ll be trusting your life on? No, we didn’t think so! So, within the $500 – $1000 price range, focus on the gun and how it rates under the other 11 issues we’ve discussed on this and the other pages of this article series, rather than its price tag.
And the Winner Is?
We like guns. We own guns. Indeed, we like guns a lot, and own a lot of guns. We happily ‘mix and match’ our carry guns from day-to-day, depending on what we’re wearing and where we’re going. We have revolvers and semi-autos. We have tiny pocket pistols in .32 caliber, and long-barreled .357 magnum revolvers. We have .22 cal plinkers, and exotic ‘super-guns’ in exotic calibers (ie 5.7×28). We have cheap guns and expensive guns, and we have – oh, heck, you get the picture. We like all guns. 🙂
We like Sigs, Berettas, 1911s of all flavors, Brownings, Berettas, Walthers, H&Ks, and FNs. Rugers are great, as are S&W, Springfield, and Colt. And so on, through the long list of gun manufacturers. You could present us with a pistol from pretty much any manufacturer and we’d sincerely thank you for the gift. 🙂
But if we had to choose one and only one gun to take with us into a serious survival situation, a gun that we could rely on working, every time, for many thousands of times, we don’t need to think twice what our choice would be. By all the twelve measures above, we’d happily reach for our full size 9mm Glock 17 semi-auto. Sure, we’ve added night sights to it, and adjusted the trigger, but we loved it and won distinctions with it as a totally standard pistol with no work on it whatsoever, and we just love it all the more now that we’ve tweaked it a bit.
Glock make four pistols in 9mm, and we have all of them (models 17, 19, 26 and 34). The 19 is slightly more concealable than the 17, and the 26 slightly more concealable again, but we’ve found that we can always conceal our 19 just as readily as our 26, so the 26 sits unloved in the safe. The 34 is a lovely gun, but somehow we find ourselves using our 17 as our ‘workhorse’ gun.
The current model Glocks are termed the ‘Gen 4’ series (because they are, sort of, the fourth generation of Glock pistols), and when they first came out, they had reliability issues. But those issues have been resolved, although unfortunately they gave the Gen 4 series a bad reputation to start with – so bad that Glock decided to continue making the previous Gen 3 series alongside the Gen 4 until such time as the bad reputation faded.
You’ll sometimes find people who don’t realize that the updated Gen 4 series pistols are now as ultra-extraordinarily reliable as the Gen 3 pistols, and they will try to talk you out of choosing a Gen 4 for that reason. Ignore them.
Other people will say ‘The Gen 3 is cheaper’; and while that is true, you get an extra magazine included with the Gen 4 which helps to bridge the price gap, and it is an all-round better gun. As we said in the previous section, do you want to save $50 or less on a tool that you’ll be relying on to save you in an emergency? Of course not.
In this extensive article series, spanning four parts and almost 8,500 words, we’ve looked at the issues that are relevant to you as a prepper for choosing an ‘ideal’ pistol. If you were a target shooter, you’d have different criteria, and you’d have different selection criteria again as a soldier or police officer. Our discussion is primarily for preppers.
Realizing that there is no such thing as an ideal pistol (or caliber) and that all choices embody many compromises and limitations, we none the less end up with the conclusion and recommendation that you outfit your retreat community with Glock 17 pistols.
This is the final part of a four-part article series on how to select the ideal pistol for preppers. If you directly arrived on this page, may we suggest you start reading from the first part – The Most Important Selection Criteria When Choosing an Ideal Pistol and then the second and third parts – Four More Selection Criteria to Choose the Ideal Pistol, and Caliber Issues When Choosing Your Pistol.