Many new guns have come to market over the last two decades since CCW laws have swept the nation state by state by state. And that's a good thing. New designs, new finishes, and new after market accessories including sights, triggers, grips, holsters, and even barrels..
I see a lot of these when visiting gun stores, and even more when students bring in the newest wonder gun sold to them by a helpful gun dealer.
Now would be a good time to remember that gun dealers are in business first to make money. Your well being and safety while is the concern of the better ones, there are many who would rather sell you the model with the highest mark-up than the gun that's right for you. Manufactures are no less guilty as they often give sweeping discounts on models which for whatever reason (usually because not enough people want them (you can guess why) aren't selling well. So they mark them down so gun dealers make more selling that gun over say.. a gun selling better due to more positive attributes. If a gun dealer can make $50 selling you Gun A and only $10 with Gun B, guess which now becomes the perfect gun for your needs?
After more than 30 years of carrying a gun professionally and personally I've only carried three types as a main service weapon, several others as backups, and I'm about to add a fourth. Smith and Wesson revolvers (showing my age), Glocks, and 1911's. For a brief period I carried a Sig Sauer. All three properly specified are still top choices today. The fourth is very close to becoming a Smith and Wesson M&P
How do I make my choices? I've talked in length to my Department armorer and my shooting instructors when in the police department, the same while in the military, I look for what the majority of competitors are using and why, I read tons of firearms literature, attend the SHOT Show and other trade shows, and having had my FFL for 25+ years and during much of that time I operated my own custom gunsmithing business. Yes, it's part of my life.
When carrying a firearm as a professional or as a private citizen via a permit, should you be any less vigilant in choosing the right firearm? I strongly believe the answer is no. Learn all you can, but if you're not going to make firearms your life and will be using it as a tool.. then find someone who has made them their life and question, and questions, and question this person until you not only get the answers you're looking for, but you understand why that answer is the right one.
Recently I was chatting with a student of mine who recently started carrying. He had about a week of experience with his CCW, but seems to know guns better than most CCW level students. Somehow the question of Glocks came up and he said he didn't care for them, and he was honest enough to say this despite knowing I regard Glocks highly. I was happy with his response. I didn't agree with it, but I want my students to think for themselves, not follow what I tell them 100% of the time. Take my opinion if it fits, if it doesn't for whatever reason disregard it. But before making your choice you should absolutely 100% know why you chose what you did, what to expect from it, and have no doubt it's right for you.
The first gun I carried professionally was a Smith and Wesson Model 686 revolver. A L-frame stainless steel 4" barreled .38special/.357 Magnum with adjustable target style sights. Both of my instructors in the academy who were strong competitors in this new sport called IDPA carried them and they recommended them strongly. At the time, even though I'd competed with rifles for years and knew a great deal about rifles, I knew nothing about handguns. So I wasn't going to show up at the academy range with a whatever-name special the gun dealer recommended. You see my point?
Before carrying that weapon I put over 5000 rounds through it, more than half of them with an instructor guiding me. Does this sound extreme? I hope not but I understand if it does. This is the level of training the city of San Diego felt I needed before carrying on their streets and I wasn't about to argue. Decades later all I can tell you is that I now know it wasn't nearly enough! But it was a good start.
When my department finally moved to semi-autos I took my instructors advice and purchased a Sig Sauer P226 and ironically later carried it in the military, also for a brief time. I remember being at the range when some salesman from a strange named company named Glock were trying to push some plastic gun as the newest wonder gun and were offering huge discounts to police who would carry them. We scoffed at them. After several months I grew tired of carrying a heavy duty belt and fighting rust common in a coastal city.. I traded it in on a Glock. About the same time frame I carried one in the military before also switching over to Glock.
What I really wanted to carry was a 1911 in .45acp. But, this nearly 100 year old gun model was being phased out of professional use everywhere, but this didn't stop be from carrying a professionally tuned 1911 personally.
All these years later I'm thinking of switching to Smith and Wesson MP9. Why? Not because some gun dealer is pushing one at me. But because I asked the same set of people I laid out above, and the Military and Police models kept rising to the top of conversation. I was told they were more accurate, had a better trigger, a tough Melonite finish even tougher than Glock's Tennifer, and more. I'd stopped in a few gun stores and tried their triggers and felt metal scraping and sand swishing.. but my sources said I must have found a bad one.
On my next trip into Ray O'herrons' in Danville I tried one they had and the trigger broke cleanly, albeit with a great deal more takeup than I found comfortable and with a heavier break. Still, I'd read the trigger had potential. And if you've been reading this page for a while you'll know I bought an Apex Tactical Carry trigger kit and installed it and tuned the timing of the piece myself and ended up with a trigger with maybe 1/16th of takeup, only 1/32 of break movement, and zero over travel.. and a consistent weight pull time after time I hadn't felt a trigger that good since my custom tuned 1911's, and this was on a plastic gun!
1000 rounds and not a single malfunction of any type later.. my only complaint was the accuracy. It was certainly "combat accurate" turning out 4-5" groups at 25m, enhanced by me installing a 10-8 rear serrated sight and a Trijicon HD Orange blade front sight with a tritium dial in the well respected Ken Hackathorn configuration. But still, it felt and pointed like a 1911, now has a trigger better than most 1911's, a great set of sights.. I wanted it to shoot like a 1911. Did I mention all of my 1911's have hand fitted custom match barrels? So I started looking..
Turning to competitors for a recommendation I was told to look at Storm Lake. I did and you can order a barrel from them that is configured like a stock barrel, one with ports, in stainless or Melonite (nice touch guys..), with a threaded barrel for suppressors w/cap, and some other options. I placed my order and finally the brown truck dropped off a 4.95 inch with 1/2-28 threads and a protector cap.
It dropped in like a factory barrel, no hand fitting required, put a drop of blue locktite on the threads and hand tightened the thread protector cap, and put the slide back on the frame. It even looks cool!
By now I have roughly $950 in this MP9 to include the cost of the gun with 3 mags and night sights, the new set of sights, the trigger, the barrel, and 6 extra 17 round mags. About a third of what a 1911 would cost outfitted in much the same way, and built to the standards I demand my 1911's. So a real deal. If it shoots.
This afternoon I'm off to the range I've already put 1000 rounds through this pistol so I know it's100% reliable and in my hands shoots 4-5 inch groups at 25 meters. I loaded six rounds and did a quick Bill Drill (from the holster, draw and fire six rounds as fast as you can, and keep them on the target which is 7meters away with the target being a 2 inch wide 8 inch high strip of white paper.
Using a shot clock my first round of 6 was 2.98 seconds. This mean I drew my weapon, acquired a sight picture, and put six rounds into the strip of paper. My time was pretty average for an experienced shooter. Using a 1911! WOOHOO! Oh, the six shots were in a 2 inch group which is real is really tough to do shooting a Bill drill.
I shot about 8-9 more drills, verified my POI (point of impact) hadn't changed with the new barrel, and did a few more tests and one more drill before driving home to eat dinner . At 25 meters my groups improved from 4-5 inches to 1.5-2 inches! That folks is custom 1911 territory!
I'll put another 500-1000 rounds through it before I even think about carrying it professionally or personally.
That isn't all it takes for me to adopt a new model. Like any weapons "system" there must be a system. There is. There is the great M&P Shield I've written several articles on, you can read them at www.champaignccw.com They also make a nice 3.5 inch compact version with a 12 round capacity, a 5 inch long slide version, and a 4.0 and 5.0 inch competitors model already machined to accept the newest of red dot sights. They call these the CORE models.
The CORE is the only factory made model ready to accept these sights. AND they come in .380auto, 9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP. A complete system. Lets not forget their superb M&P .22 that feeds an fires every .22 high velocity and most standard velocity rounds I've tried. You can order models with or without a thumb safety, 10 rounds mags, night sights, The 9mm line for instance includes 24 variations. They even license an Airsoft model for indoor plinking practice which is otherwise an exact copy. It fits in the real holsters, it's a pleasure and students enjoy shooting this and the MP .22 both.
I'll be writing an article about the sights, the trigger, and the barrel.. this page being less formal allows me to get the news to you here more quickly.
So when you ask me why I carry a certain model, now you know. And you know more than to let your friendly gun dealer make that decision for you. No matter how much they think they know. And if by chance you're a student and ask me, you now have an ideal how seriously I take the topic and how much work I put into forming my opinions. This doesn't mean I know it all, or there isn't better choices out there. It only means based on my experience which like everyone else's is limited, these are my best answers for now.
Until next time..