Choosing the Ideal Prepper Pistol Part 2 – Four More Selection Criteria to Choose the Ideal Pistol

The FN5-7 is is a lovely 'super-gun' but look at all the controls on it, making it hard for normal people to become competent in its use.
The FN5-7 is is a lovely ‘super-gun’ but look at all the controls on it, making it hard for normal people to become competent in its use.

This is the second 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.  Of course, when you’ve finished this second part, we hope you’ll move on to Part 3 – Caliber Issues When Choosing Your Pistol and then Part 4 – Less Important Issues, and an Ideal Pistol Recommendation.  Your reward, at the end of the fourth part, is our suggested ideal pistol choice.

In the first part of this series we suggested the three most important considerations in choosing an ideal pistol for prepper purposes is to select a firearm that has great longevity, is easy to maintain, and reliable in operation.

Few people would disagree with the great importance of these issues.  But what else also needs to be considered?  Here are five more issues, in continuing order of decreasing priority, and – yes, we do expect some howls of protest at some of the comments we make!

Remember, you’re always free to selectively evaluate what you read, both here and elsewhere, and to then apply your own criteria to this and all other issues.  You don’t need to follow everything anyone tells you exactly, and you always should question all advice, even our own.  🙂

4.  Ease of Use – Controls, ‘Manual of Arms’

We’re giving more importance to this issue than you might expect, because in a survival situation, you want to have not just the gun enthusiasts and professionals in your group armed; you want everyone to at the very least be familiar with the basics of working a pistol (ie loading, charging, setting safety on/off, cocking/decocking, shooting, reloading, malfunction clearing, unloading) and hopefully to be comfortable, armed, whenever the situation calls for it (and, ideally, even when the situation doesn’t obviously call for it, too!).

So a gun that is easier to learn and use becomes more important in this situation than it does when an enthusiast is selecting another gun to add to their collection, and welcoming the ‘fun’ of learning its associated manual of arms.

Some pistols have seemingly dozens of levers and knobs and buttons on them.  Others have almost none.  Which do you think is the easier gun to learn to use?  Yes, the one with few or no controls.

You’ll find it very much easier to train people if you avoid pistols with safeties and cocking/decocking levers.  We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve seen new shooters get confused as to if their safety is on or not – with doubly tragic results.  Some people will carelessly think the gun was safe, and then discover, via a negligent discharge, that it was not safe.  Others will end up unable to shoot due to not understanding the safety was still on.

As an interesting commentary on that second point, which sounds unrealistic, an after-batter review of dead US troops on the beaches of the D-Day landings found many with unfired rifles, but with broken triggers.

Why were the triggers broken and the rifles unfired?  Because the troops forgot to take the safety off, and in their adrenalin rush, didn’t realize what the problem was and simply pulled and pulled on the trigger until it broke.

You need to realize that in high stress situations, the adrenalin dump anyone experiences will shut down their higher reasoning functions, leaving them only with muscle memory and instinctive learned actions.  If you can make the muscle memory and learned actions totally simple, you don’t need to train your fellow retreat community members so much (and remember that some of your community will not like guns and won’t want to be trained anyway) and can still expect them to be able to ‘add value’ in a deadly encounter.

One more thing about safeties.  The most important safety is the ‘human’ safety – a total adherence to the four firearm safety rules is better than any number of mechanical safeties.

For sure, revolvers are among the very simplest of guns to learn to shoot (but the very hardest to learn to reload).  The next easiest to shoot after a revolver is probably a Glock or other double action pistol with no safety/decocker.

5.  Ease of Use – Comfortable Shooter

If you’re going to have to use the pistol, you want to have as low a flinch response as possible.  Maybe you, personally, are a super-macho type who doesn’t care how much blast, flash, noise and recoil the gun generates each time you shoot it, but your non-professional comrades definitely will be affected by such things.

We’ve all seen new shooters tensing up, closing their eyes, then jerkily squeezing the trigger, with the shot going anywhere but towards the target.  They hate the experience and shoot both more slowly and less accurately than they would with an ‘easier’ gun to shoot.

The heavier the gun, the longer the barrel, and the smaller the caliber, the easier the gun will be to shoot.  Some people also think the recoil on a semi-auto is easier to manage than on a revolver – the former is a sort of spongy springy experience, the latter is a hard sudden sharp jolt.  Personally, we quite like the ‘clean’ feeling of a revolver recoil, but we understand the easier felt recoil of firing a semi-auto for many people.

Note that we’ve put ‘comfortable shooter’ higher than caliber or accuracy or number of rounds stored.  An easy shooting gun will be more effective, in the hands of an average or less than average shooter, than a larger caliber super-accurate huge capacity pistol.  The unskilled shooter will shoot more accurately, and more quickly, with a ‘comfortable’ pistol than they will with a ‘super’ pistol, meaning they are more effective overall.

As in every element of firearms skills, the key issue is almost always the person, not the gun.  Design your firearms selections around the people who will be using them, not vice versa.

6.  Ease of Use – Reloading

We’re still not getting to accuracy, because most people don’t shoot very accurately – in a real confrontation – with a pistol.  And when we say ‘most people’ we include trained professionals such as police officers, who struggle to land shots on opponents, in actual encounters, as much as a quarter of the time they shoot.

It is one thing to shoot accurately at the range with an Olympic target pistol.  But you don’t want a gun to win a gold medal at the Olympics with.  You want a gun to save your life, and that’s a very different creature entirely.

In a real encounter (especially in a lawless scenario where all usual behavior modifiers have been nullified), you want to be able to send a lot of rounds downrange, if for no other reason than to control the battlespace and keep the other guy’s head down while you decide what you want to do and how you will do it.

We know that saying this will upset many traditionalists, who have been taught that accuracy is more important than any other element in a gun battle.  Maybe – in an ideal world – accuracy is the most important, but we’re not considering ideal world scenarios, and neither are we considering perfectly trained highly skilled shooters.  Indeed, in a Level 3 situation in particular, and lesserly in Levels 2 and 1, the precious scarcity of ammunition means that you’ll never be able to regularly train your people as often and extensively as you should, so you need to understand the compromises and considerations that become necessary.

Of course, ammunition scarcity becomes a secondary issue when fighting for your life.  In such a situation, your highest priority is to ensure your survival.  Killing – or even wounding – your attackers is not as important as ensuring your survival, and conserving ammunition is hopefully the lowest consideration of all.

Plus there’s a very good chance you’ll find yourself facing multiple opponents.  Do the math :  If you’re reasonably well-trained to the same level of competence as a police officer, that still means you’re only hitting your adversaries with one out of every four or five rounds fired, and if it requires three to five hits to take a determined adversary out of the action, how many rounds will you have to fire to stop three attackers?

The answer is somewhere from a good case scenario of 36 rounds up to a bad case scenario of 75 rounds.  Yes, that’s 12 – 25 rounds needed per person.  Okay, you might get lucky and have a couple of single shot stops, but you might also get unlucky and need to pump ten rounds into a determined adversary before they break off their attack and either run away or collapse.  Oh – and moving ahead of ourselves to the caliber issue, below, as well; that ten round requirement is as true with (your choice of good caliber) as it is with (your choice of bad caliber).

Anyway, bottom line for this section should be obvious.  No matter how many rounds your gun holds, the chances are you’re going to need to reload at least once during a real life encounter.  Some guns are much easier than others to reload.  Some guns have funnel-shaped entrances to their magazine well, and tapered off tops of their magazines (ie most dual stack magazines).  Others have narrow magazine well openings, straight sided magazines, and tricky out-of-the-way magazine release levers.

If you’re stuck with a revolver, then unless you are highly trained and practice regularly, you’ll find it takes ‘too long’ to reload after your first 5 – 8 rounds have been fired.  Reloading a revolver also requires more fine motor skills than reloading a semi-auto, and the first thing you lose in a high stress adrenalin filled situation are fine motor skills.

The low capacity and slow reload time add up to a total deal-breaker for revolvers.

7.  Number of Rounds Stored

The more rounds per magazine, the fewer magazine changes you’ll need to do – that’s sort of obvious, isn’t it.  Having more rounds in your gun also enables you to consider ‘suppressive fire’ – ie simply shooting in the general direction of the bad guys to keep their heads down and to prevent them from shooting back at you.

The subject of magazine capacity is currently a matter of huge debate, with gun-control advocates seeking to limit the capacity of pistol magazines down to 10 or maybe even 8 or 7 rounds.  Some pro-gun people have said ‘a trained shooter can change magazines in a second so the capacity issue doesn’t really matter’.

It is true a trained shooter, with magazines properly indexed in magazine pouches on his belt, can indeed swap magazines in about a second or so; indeed, a super-trained revolver shooter can also reload his revolver in a similar time (but the big difference is that the revolver shooter is recharging 5 – 8 rounds whereas the semi-auto guy is recharging up to 20 rounds in the same or less time).  But in a violent encounter, you may not have your spare magazine(s) in pouches on your belt, and wouldn’t you rather be shooting a half full gun than reloading an empty one?

Plus, most people only carry one or two spare magazines.  Wouldn’t you prefer those two spare magazines to have another 30 – 40 rounds in them, than to only have 12 – 16 rounds in them?

So a gun with a larger capacity magazine capability is better than one with a lower capacity.

Please Continue Reading

This is the second part of a four-part article series on how to select the ideal pistol for preppers.  If you haven’t done so already, may we suggest you next read the first part – The Most Important Selection Criteria When Choosing an Ideal Pistol.  Of course, we hope you’ll also read  Part 3 – Caliber Issues When Choosing Your Pistol and then Part 4 – Less Important Issues, and an Ideal Pistol Recommendation.

Your reward, at the end of the fourth part, is our suggested ideal pistol choice.

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