I know many will disagree, but I think we live in a Golden Age of gun culture. Never before so much good (and bad) information was readily available. There are blogs, sites, forums, reviews, videos, manuals and training classes available to anyone who wants to learn about guns, shooting and concealed carry, and the amount of information is increasing every year. But when you’re already deeply immersed into the firearms industry, it is often easy to forget how a first-time gun buyer feels when he decides to buy his first concealed carry handgun.
A few years ago, I had a very sobering experience with a buddy of mine, a first-time gun buyer. I believe this experience might be similar to what many of you would encounter when you come to a gun store with your non-gun friend to help him with his first purchase.
We were in Florida, and a buddy of mine told me he likes guns. Later I found out that he mostly “likes” them on Instagram – he was subscribed to a few dozen gunstagrams that show off Gucci Glocks and custom 1911s, but never had a firearm of his own. He occasionally carried a handgun at work years ago, but never came around to actually buy one, finding different excuses every time – kids in the house, the wife might not like and stuff like that.
Anyway, he asked me to help him choose his first concealed carry handgun. I weighted in all the factors: he lives in Florida which is really hot all the time, he won’t make an effort to “dress around the gun” to conceal it, he doesn’t have much training, so it should have a simple safety mechanism and require minimal maintenance… The answer was pretty obvious for any gun nerd: M&P Shield, Glock 43 or any other modern quality single stack handgun chambered in 9×19, a good holster, and last but not least, ammo and training.
To make the purchase easier and more fun, we went to a gun store that has a shooting range and lets you shoot a gun before you purchase it, even if it is not on a regular “rental” list. M&P Shield was available right away, we went a conveniently empty indoor shooting range, loaded up some mags. My buddy fired a few shots and was less than excited.
– I don’t like it. – he said.
– What did you not like about it – I asked – Grip angle? Sights? Recoil?
– I just don’t like it. Let’s get something else.
OK, I said to myself. Let’s look at another obvious choice – Glock 43. At that time, 43 recently came out and was out of stock, but the store owner liked it so much that he bought one for himself. It was a beautiful little gun with Trijicon HD sighs and a laser. He was kind enough to give us his personal carry handgun for the test drive and we were back on the range.
Great sights, laser, the gun was just perfect for a beginner shooter. Heck, that would be my first choice! But my buddy once again fired a few shots, shook his head and said: “I don’t know, I don’t like it”.
At this point, we wasted so much of the store owner’s time, that a “used car salesmen” in me took the stage, I just knew that my buddy has to buy something. I felt an obligation to the store owner to make sure we won’t leave without purchasing a gun. I left my buddy for a few minutes to return Glock 43 to the store owner and when I was back, my buddy suddenly looked very happy.
– I found it! I know what pistol I want – he told me, pointing at some handguns behind the glass. I looked at him with a mix of surprise and disbelief. He was pointing at compact 1911 with a 3-inch barrel.
Don’t get me wrong, I love 1911s. But 1911 is an expert weapon, you need to know how to maintain it. It is heavy, which is a factor for someone buying a first concealed carry handgun. You need to carry it “cocked and locked”, know how to use the safety and have enough training so you won’t fumble with it in a stressful situation. 45 ACP has substantial recoil, especially in a compact gun, which is definitely a negative factor for a shooter with little to no training. And we all know that compact 1911s don’t have the best reputation when it comes to reliability.
At this point, my common sense started fighting with used car salesmen inside of me. It was tearing me apart. I wanted my buddy to buy a good handgun, at the same time I wanted him to buy anything, so all effort of the store owner wouldn’t be in vain. I tried to convince my buddy to make a more reasonable choice, but his newfound love for compact 1911s was too strong. He was already trying to take a picture of the gun and contemplating in his mind if it would look good under hashtag #1911addicts.
And then I thought – the choice is simple. He either leaves the store without a gun at all or with this 1911. It is not the best gun for him, but he loves it. And because he loves it, he might actually buy a decent holster for it, some ammo, take it to the range once in a while and most importantly – carry it.
But if I force him to buy something he doesn’t like, for example, a more reasonable polymer-framed single stack 9 mm pistol, it will end up somewhere in the drawer, forgotten and nearly useless. No way he is going to carry it or train with it. So after some shrewd price negotiation, he ended up buying this 1911.
I guess it would be great if people bought guns based solely on common sense and reliable information. But you can’t always expect that. For some people, looks are a more important factor. Just let them make this little mistake, don’t shame them into buying something they won’t really like.
Maybe over time, this person will change his mind, but even now with his less-than-perfect first concealed carry handgun he can follow the first and the most and most important rule of the gunfight: “BRING A GUN”. And having a less-than-perfect pistol is much better than having no gun at all.