How to Choose The Right Handgun

How Do You Choose the Right Handgun for your Needs, Purpose and Personal Interest?


This is one of the MOST COMMON questions we get at Ultimate Protection Academy  We believe this page describes THE BEST answer for everyone.


We have a great class in our Training Academy in conjunction with the National Shooting Sports Foundation called First Shots: The BASIC INTRODUCTION TO FIREARMS. This class is for everyone who is thinking about buying a handgun, wants to try out the shooting sports, or maybe needs a simple refresher and those who are is simply curious. (If you know anyone like this, this is the place for them to start; and it’s only $39.95!) In this class, almost everyone wants to know how to choose a gun because almost everything about guns is new to them. When you are at that stage it’s all pretty intimidating. So first of all, there’s no rush. Slow down, and learn how to shoot first. Here we describe where to start and maybe where not to start.


Others may give their opinion of what they like in firearms BUT that may not necessarily what’s best for you. The person who usually is NOT the one to ask is the guy standing behind the counter in many gun stores, ranges, sporting goods box stores, etc. They are often going to try to sell you (the novice customer) whatever they can make the most money on or what they are trying to get rid of.

Selecting a gun is a very personal decisionyour decision, and it should be based on a very short list of criteria:

  1. What do you want to use your gun for?
  2. How much experience do you have?
  3. What gun works best for you?
  4. How does the gun fit and is it the correct caliber for your experience?


What do you want to use your gun for?

You probably know the answer to this first question or you wouldn’t be thinking about buying a gun. Typical reasons include recreation, shooting events/range membership, work-related such as security, competition, hunting, personal/home defense or a combination of these. For the purposes of this article we are discussing handgun selection, but if you are considering buying a rifle or shotgun most of the same principles apply. The other assumption being made is that, if you are reading this, it’s because either you or someone you know is a relative beginner and considering a first gun purchase.

Guns are made in different calibers in order to match the diameter of the bullet to the intended target. If the intended purpose for your gun is to shoot at paper targets for fun or regular inexpensive shooting at our range, then a low caliber pistol such as a .22 (LR) will do just fine. That type of gun (in revolver or pistol) is very easy to handle and comfortable to shoot because it has little felt recoil. If you also want a handgun to serve as part of your personal defense plan you will need to consider a larger caliber (9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP).


How much experience do you have?

Your experience level is also very important in deciding on a first gun. This may be the gun you are going to use to learn how to shoot. It needs to be simple, so we suggest trying out our quality Semi-Autos or Double Action Revolvers in .22LR. It needs to be fairly comfortable and easy to operate.  Larger Caliber or popular Personal Defense/ Law Enforcement Duty handguns are often harder to control and have more felt recoil.

Also, complicated safety and decocking mechanisms will make for a more complicated learning curve. Note: we have had success with beginning students in both revolver and semi-auto (pistol) actions.


What gun works best for you?

There is only one way to figure this out. You have to shoot guns,




maybe a lot of guns. And the best way to do this is take lessons whereas you can try different handguns at each of your lessons. But first you have to learn to shoot, so you know how to compare one gun with another. At UPA Range we have a couple of easy ways to do this. We have beginner lessons and for ladies only: Ladies Night Out Events. If you would prefer individual instruction, schedule some sessions of Semi-Private or Private lessons with one of our instructors. You can also combine both classroom and one-on-one instruction to tailor your learning to your own style.


For those that demand exclusivity and the experience with the Doctor of Gunology herself: Celebrity Mary Polkowski is available on a limited schedule for Private one-on-one during range sessions or those who demand the ultimate in personal training: book the entire range with Mary. Special Rates apply on first come, first serve basis.


So how do you become introduced to the shooting world if fear of gunfire is your concern? Or maybe your fear is just the recoil of the smallest caliber of firearm?  You’re still covered.  Actually, we have had clients who have had such a special concern coupled with a firm desire to be introduced to the shooting sports.  Here at UPA Range we have met their needs far beyond their expectations. At UPA Range we have acquired an impressive training curriculum of Training Equipment which includes, but is not limited to: Quiet Professional Laser Training Systems used by both Military and Law Enforcement; Air Soft and compressed air Revolvers (pellet) and Pistols (BB) that can used on Live Fire Range or in our Special Non-Lethal Training room.  In this high demand arena, by popular demand of a many customers, we are exclusive to the point that we know of no other range that has this much expenditure and effort to provide this type of pleasant experience in the shooting sports than any another range. (To the best of our knowledge).


After learning how to shoot by getting some training and practicing to become comfortable with a firearm, you will be able to compare different guns and decide which ones you like better. Some guns will fit your hand better and feel better to you than others. You will find that you like the style of certain sights better. The weight, balance, and shape of the grip is different with different guns, and you will find that some are easier for you to shoot accurately. Our staff members at UPA Range will help guide you through this process until you find the gun that “fits”. You’ll know it when you do.


You notice that we never mentioned price or suggesting one gun over another. That’s because price or brand should not be a top determining factor in choosing a gun. There are a number of very good guns for a very reasonable price, so you don’t need to start your analysis with price. Once you find a few guns that you really like, then choose the one that’s in your price range. One caution – as with most things you do get what you pay for. A really cheap gun, as with most things, will be poor quality. That means it might not work when you need it. Expect to pay at least $350 – $550 for a reliable first gun.

When you decide to buy your gun, please note that gun dealers throughout the nation (through Internet Sales) compete with each other with the same quality guns you can get locally, except you can expect to pay so much less and often pay no sales tax.  Of course, there’s no need to buy those unnecessary sporting goods box store warranties with a locally purchased gun as almost all brand name gun manufacturers provide the buyer with their LIFETIME WARRANTY. By law, you can return your firearm to the manufacturer for warranty work and they can ship it back to you with no FFL dealer involvement.


If you have questions about how to purchase a gun, see our link on “How to Purchase a Gun”.