Sunday, January 07, 2007


Handgun Reviews from a Beginner

After taking the handgun safety course, I spent some time at a couple of nearby shooting ranges. On each trip, I rented a different gun so that I could get a feel for how the different designs work and how good I am with them. I put 100 rounds through each one.

Here are some mini-reviews of the guns I tried. I'm writing this for my own benefit, to keep track of which ones I liked and which ones I didn't. Remember that I'm a beginner, and I'm making selections based on what the local ranges have available for rent, so take it for what it's worth.

Glock 19

This is the gun I used during my safety course. It is easy to use, and feels pretty comfortable. The only complaint I have is that it was hard to reach the magazine release with my thumb. (I guess I have short thumbs.)

Steyr M9

The Steyr fit my hand better than any other gun I've tried. I shot very accurately with it. I liked the weird sights. It also looks pretty cool, like something out of a sci-fi police movie.

The only thing I'm sure about is the short hard trigger pull. Unlike other guns where one smoothly pulls the trigger back until it goes bang, with the Steyr, I felt like I had to jerk the trigger to get the gun to fire. But I hit what I was aiming at, so maybe a "crisp" trigger is ideal for me.

I had a double-feed jam after firing 90 rounds. I couldn't clear it myself, so I asked one of the range staff to take a look at it. He cleared it, then test-fired it, and it jammed again. The range guy attributed it to the fact that the gun hadn't been cleaned in a while. He gave it a quick cleaning, and it worked fine after that.

Beretta 92

This is a Real Man's gun: full-size and heavy, with an exposed hammer and designed to be carried "cocked & locked." I didn't shoot it very well. The double-action trigger pull was very hard. I've concluded I probably don't want a gun like this, even if it means the Real Men won't respect me.

SIG P239

I liked this small gun a lot. The single-stack magazine gives it a narrow grip, which suits my hands well. My only complaints are that I pinched the bottom of my right hand a couple of times while inserting the magazine, and the slide lock release was very stiff. (I don't know if the slide lock problem is common to this model, or just a problem with the particular gun I used.) If I ever need to carry a concealed pistol, this one would be at the top of my list.

Glock 17

This is basically the same as the Glock 19, except a little larger. I wanted to get a feel for the difference in size and whether the longer length gave me more accuracy.

Unfortunately, the trigger was very stiff, so I didn't shoot consistently. When I turned the gun in, I mentioned it to a staff member, who checked it and confided that the gun really needed a cleaning. This is the second time that an uncleaned gun has caused problems—I guess that's the peril of renting a gun instead of caring for your own.

Ruger SP101

This was my first revolver. The long, hard double-action pull was a lot different from a semi-auto, but I got used to it pretty quick. The Ruger is a little heavy, but the mass makes firing it easy.

I associate revolvers with 70's cop shows. That's why I went for a semi-auto when I started with guns. But, now that I've used a revolver, I think that's what I should have started with.

After firing 50 rounds from the Ruger, my Glock 19's trigger felt like I was barely touching it when I fired. I didn't think of a single-action trigger as being "light" until I tried a a revolver.

Kel-Tec P-3AT

This is an inexpensive pocket-sized gun, which fires .380 Auto ammo, smaller than .38 Special or 9mm. It's very small, although I do have a few pockets where it would not fit.

Firing it isn't very comfortable, but it's not meant to be—this is a purely defensive weapon, not a "range gun." All my shots went a little to the right of where I was aiming; I don't know whether that's my fault or the gun's fault.

The sights aren't very good, but a gun like this isn't intended for situations where carefully aimed fire would be needed.

Some people complain that the Kel-Tecs are unreliable, but I fired 100 rounds of range ammo and seven rounds of defensive ammo through a brand-new gun without any jams. The only issue I had was that it didn't feed a few times when I racked the slide after inserting a new magazine. Pulling the slide back and trying again corrected the problem every time, so I'm willing to blame it on my poor slide releasing rather than on the gun.

If you haven't yet... check out the H&K USP line.. I got a 9mm compact about 9 years ago and it's been very solid. I've done several advanced training classes where I was putting 1000 rounds in a day through it and it just works....
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