Tips for Buying a Handgun – Ask Yourself These 3 Questions First

tips for buying a handgun

Buying a handgun is a serious commitment and can be overwhelming when considering  the many options available and the regulations and laws covering firearms. Gun ownership requires not only a financial investment in the firearm, but a personal investment of time to become proficient in the use of the firearm and to be a responsible owner.  

If you are looking to buy a handgun, but aren’t certain what you want or need, start by asking yourself a few simple questions.

  1. What are you going to be using the gun for?
    • Home Defense
    • Self Defense / Concealed Carry
    • Recreation
    • Competitive or Sport Shooting
    • Hunting
    • All or some of the above
  1. What is your experience?
  1. Do you have children or children that frequent your home?

What are you going to be using the gun for?

Home Defense

Handguns are versatile and one of the main reasons people purchase a gun is for home defense or self defense.  A gun that is being used in home defense should be something that can be drawn and used quickly, reliably, and safely. Firearms should always be stored in a safe or lockbox inaccessible to others. Recommended home defense calibers would be .380 auto or 9mm because there is little  recoil and they are effective enough to neutralize a threat. If you feel you need a defense option more simple to operate a .38 special revolver would work for most people.

Recreation, Range Shooting and Competitive Sport

If you intend to use the weapon for recreation, range shooting or competitive shooting, there are a lot of available options. The main consideration for this type of weapon is the type of sport and personal preference so that you are shooting what’s most comfortable to handle.  Larger caliber handguns are fun to shoot but take a toll on the shooter after a while; in addition, larger caliber ammunition is more expensive. A fun but effective weapon to learn basic marksmanship is a .22 caliber pistol. The ammo is cheap and the recoil from the weapon is so minimal that most people never tire  of shooting it.  If you’re looking for a little more excitement in your range time, you could move up to the larger caliber weapons: .380 auto, 9mm, .40 S&W, 45 ACP or even further depending on your experience.


If you’re choosing a handgun for hunting it’s most likely for smaller game, but you may also choose to have a pistol in case you get into an unsafe situation with a predator.  In a hunting/self defense situation you would want a larger caliber, anywhere from .40 S&W up to a 45 magnum.  A .22 would be sufficient to hunt small game and not mangle it so it could be used for its hide and for eating.

find the perfect handgun for you

What is your experience?

No matter your current experience there is always a handgun that can fit your needs and comfort level.  If you have never shot a handgun or your experience is limited to shooting a friend or relative’s handgun some years ago, then get out there and try some guns out.  Go to multiple gun stores and hold weapons.  Have the clerk explain how to use the weapons and their features. Then go to ranges to rent and try out multiple types of handguns. Some ranges, like Heart of Texas Shooting Center, offer the opportunity to try a gun before you buy it.  Shoot different calibers, different size guns:compact, sub compact, full size, and different types of actions:single action, double action or semi auto.  Take your time and get the right fit.

If you do have some experience, consider what it was that you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about your shooting experience.  Make a list to help.  Was there too much kick or recoil and you didn’t feel like you had control of the gun? Was the gun too big or heavy and you couldn’t hold it comfortably?  It could be something as simple as how comfortable you felt with the texture of the grip. Is it something you could draw quickly if needed?  

Do you live with children or do children frequent the home?

This question is probably the most important question of all three.  Handgun safety is always paramount, but when it comes to children, it is the top priority.  If you have children in your home, purchasing a safe with your handgun is strongly recommended.  It is a requirement for gun sellers to give a gun lock with each firearm sold. Use it!  Next, consider the type of safety on the weapon. 

find the perfect handgun for you selector switch

Some often used types of safeties are:

Manual Safety – a switch or lever that when put in the “safe” position prevents the trigger from being pulled.

Grip Safety – a lever or other device located on the back of the handgun’s grip which must be depressed by the shooter’s hand, when naturally grasping the gun in a firing position, so the gun can fire

Hammer or Firing Pin Block –  a latch, block or other obstruction built into the action and usually positioned to prevent the hammer from contacting the bullet cartridge or firing pin when at rest

Trigger Safety – a lever built into the trigger that unless the trigger is pulled naturally the weapon is “safe” from accidental discharge

Each type of safety helps make the weapon safer, but none are full proof.  Safeties are mechanical and can fail, so do not trust them completely, but they are another level of protection. If you live in a house with children (or have children that may visit your home), choose a firearm with a safety that has to be manually switched off like a manual safety, a firing pin block or the combination of the two rather than a passive safety like a trigger safety or grip safety.  Another safety measure responsible gun owners can take is to store the handgun separate from the ammo in case it is ever discovered by children. 

After you’ve spent some time considering these questions or if you still have unanswered questions, give our range staff a call.   Our experienced staff is happy to answer your questions and help find the perfect handgun to fit your needs.

About Heart of Texas Shooting Center

We are Waco’s Premier Indoor Gun Range. Conveniently located near I-35 on Hwy 6/Loop 340, we are proud to be a locally owned and operated business.

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