I recently attended a Tactical Handgun 101 course with Randy Cain.  (I’ll put more down about that later.)  One of the nice things about taking Randy’s course is that not only is he a font of knowledge and experience about guns, but everyone brings a ton of toys.  As you can see from the site, I have been chronicling some some of my experiences in choosing a handgun.  After literally hundred of hours of reading, I thought that I had chosen something that would truly work for me (CZ-40P).  In reality, I had just paid–in Randy’s words–the stupid tax.

The Stupid Tax is the cost of learning what does and doesn’t work for you by experience.  It’s also the cost of listening to the wrong people.  So here are the basics of buying a gun according to Randy Cain.

Randy’s Bottom Line

  1. If you’re serious, get a custom 1911.  Buy a Colt Government model (full 5″ barrel) and send it to custom combat gunsmith.  It’ll take about three to four years to get it back because the best smiths have waiting periods that long.  And it will end up costing $3000-$4000.
  2. Everyone else should get a Glock or at least make a good case as to why a Glock doesn’t work for them.  “They’re ugly; they have weird triggers; they have crappy sights and feel blocky in the hand.  But they’re relatively cheap, reliable, every trigger pull is the same, and you can put better sights on them.”

Things to look for in a Gun in order of importance:

  1. Reliability: It has to go bang every time you pull the trigger or it will get you killed one day.
  2. Trigger: It needs to have a consistent trigger.  In order of “goodness” of trigger: 1911’s can have the best triggers, followed by Glocks and glock like guns (like Springfield XD and S&W M&P).  The worse triggers are DA/SA guns because they have two different trigger pulls.
  3. Sights: In order to hit the target, the gun needs to have sights that you can use easily.  Randy’s favorite sights are Heinie sights.

Other Thoughts:

  • Get a gun in the caliber it was designed for as it was designed.  The more a gun is modified from its original design, the more problems may manifest. 
  • Don’t go messing with the gun: full length guide rods and other doodads (except for sights).
  • The only calibers you really need to choose between (for civilians) is 9mm and .45 ACP.  9mm is easier to shoot and cheaper to practice with, but doesn’t work as well in a defensive situation. Cops may want to use 40 S&W, but it’s really a compromise: more powerful than 9mm; less powerful than .45; and harder to shoot then both.

So what was my stupid tax?

Buying a gun DA/SA gun, even though I clearly remembered hating the M-9’s (Beretta 92FS) double action trigger when I went through Basic Training at the Academy.  I bought the CZ-40P because in my reading, a gun with a decocker was recommended for left handers as you can “decock at leisure after shooting.”  It’s also a 40 S&W, which is more expensive to shoot and a little harder to shoot well.  Thankfully, the CZ-40P was a very inexpensive gun whose value has actually gone up slightly because of its relative rarity.

Did I learn my lesson?

Only partially.  I am selling my CZ-40P and have now bought a CZ-75 Stainless Steel edition that Gander Mountain had priced $100 less than it should have been.  It has an ambidextrous safety, so that I can work it left handed.  Even though it is a DA/SA gun, it can be carried “cocked and locked” in single action mode, similar to a 1911 type gun.  And finally, it’s a 9mm, so it should be a bit less expensive to shoot and easier to shoot well.

I tried to like the Glock; I honestly did.  I tested a Glock and a Springfield XD in 40 S&W side by side with my CZ-40P, and I just shot the CZ better.  Then when I went to Gander Mountain, and they happened to have that nice Stainless Steel model sitting there at a bargain price, it was like God was speaking to me.