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How to Choose Your First Handgun

Pistol Selection
Choosing your first handgun may seem overwhelming at first with so many options to choose from, but here at Federal Firearms, we’ve put together some tips on how to make decision on size, ergonomic, safety, price, ammo, caliber, and size to help you make an informed decision.
Before you begin searching for “handguns near me,” check out our helpful tips on choosing your first handgun.
In this article we discuss pistols, not to be confused with revolvers. Revolvers are mechanically different, and there are arguments that exist for revolvers being a great first firearm as well!

Finding the Right Fit

This is the most crucial factor to consider when finding the right handgun. A full-size handgun is recommended for beginners, meaning a handgun with close to a 5” barrel. With a full-size handgun, it is easier for a beginner to handle while shooting because there is more mass to absorb the recoil, as well as a larger area to grip and a longer right radius from the front to the rear sight.
As you get more comfortable with using a handgun, you may decide to carry concealed for self-defense. In this case, you may want to try out a compact-sized gun. You will lose some of the sight radius, but you will also free up some of the grip space that will help with concealment.
Avoid going so small that your pinkie finger is hanging off the gun.

Safety: Manual External Safety Pros and Cons

If you are purchasing the handgun for self-defense, it is recommended that you avoid a handgun that has a manual external safety. In the heat of the moment where you need to use your gun in defense, you could forget to disengage the safety.
However, as a beginner, you may feel more comfortable with a handgun that has an external safety, so if that is what you feel most comfortable with, then stick with it. Keep in mind that the user makes the gun operate, so if you are safe, competent, and aware of what you are doing while in possession of the firearm, your gun will be safe to carry with or without a manual external safety.
You may want to consider a handgun with a trigger safety, where the finger must depress the paddle on the trigger in order to fire the gun. Another type of safety to consider is the grip safety that is integrated onto the backstrap of the gun. This safety needs to be squeezed in order to disengage and allow the gun to fire.

Sights: Go for High Visibility 

When it comes to sights, you want to make sure you have the most visibility possible. In many cases, self-defense situations will occur in dimly lit conditions, so night sights are a great option to provide you with effective visibility. In some cases, the handgun you choose may have recommended night sights that fit the gun, but if not, you can purchase aftermarket sights, and the expert gunsmiths at Federal Firearms can install them for you.


For beginners and for home defense, a striker-fired handgun is a great option. When compared to a double-action handgun, a striker-fired handgun has a nearly identical trigger pull every time it is fired. To determine if a handgun is striker-fired, look at the back of the slide. If the back of the slide is flat and has no exposed hammer, it is a striker-fired handgun.
Keep in mind that a double-action handgun will have a heavy pull, more resistance, on the trigger, or the first shot since you are cocking back the hammer.

Caliber: Why 9mm is Great for Beginners

The 9mm caliber is easy to find and cheaper to purchase when compared to other calibers. At 20 cents for a 9mm full metal jacket round and 40 cents for .45 ACP round, you will find that a 9mm is much more affordable.
Another benefit for beginners when it comes to using a 9mm is that its smaller size provides a mild recoil and is also available in higher capacity magazines, typically up to 15+. This is a caliber that is used by the majority of police forces due to its mild recoil. With a lower recoil, you can e back on target faster, shooting more accurately.

Choosing the Right Type of Ammo

Once you’ve chosen the handgun right fit, sights, safety, etc., you will need to choose the right type of ammo. If your handgun is used for self-defense or home defense, jacketed hollow points are highly recommended.
A jacketed hollow point or JHP is a bullet that features a lead core that expands and transfers energy, along with a copper jacket that controls the lead’s expansion to ensure deeper penetration. The nose of the bullet has a hollow lead tip that expands on impacts, with the copper jacket slowing the expansion, balancing the energy transfer, and the penetration.
This allows the bullet to provide the stopping power you need without over penetrating through the target and into a crowd of bystanders or your neighbor’s home.

Ready to Start Browsing for Your First Handgun? Federal Firearms Can Help! 

With a large selection of quality handguns and a knowledgeable staff, be sure to choose Federal Firearms when searching for a “firearms dealer near me.” Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you choose your first handgun.

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