4 Quick Tips for Buying a Handgun

What Hangun to buy?

We may not sell handguns at OpticsPlanet.com, but we certainly know a thing or two about them.  We have thousands upon thousands of accessories for all sorts of firearms, and you can be sure we think long and hard about the various ways you can equip your handgun, but we also know how important it is to find and buy a quality gun.  After all, if your gun doesn’t shoot straight it won’t matter how cool the laser sight is or how perfect the holster fits, right?

So I thought I’d toss out 4 Quick Tips for Buying a Handgun.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, since that would take several thousand words, or even a whole book, to fully complete.  There are so many models, with so many different factors that you need to consider, so instead here’s an abbreviated list of important things to look for when buying a new or used handgun.  I’m assuming you have the general type of gun and caliber already selected, so this list should suffice for most purchases.

  1. Think accuracy first – Use a shooting rest and really take your time when trying the gun out.  Don’t rush your shots.  What’s your grouping?  I’d suggest testing the gun at about 20-25 yards.  It’s a bit far, but if your grouping is good at that range you should have a quality handgun.  If you’re not a great shot bring a friend along to shoot for you.  A buddy of mine did that when he bought his first handgun, as his aim was less than reliable, but by the time he bought his second gun he was more than capable of testing the gun’s accuracy.
  2. Reliability is crucial when buying a gun you expect to last – And who doesn’t expect their firearm to last?  Your handgun should last several years with few problems.  Part of determining reliability has to do with the handgun itself.  If you’ve done your homework you should know a fair bit about the model and manufacturer.  Proven reliability based on decades of performance in the toughest conditions in the world is a good place to start.  1911’s, the Beretta M9 and a number of other service weapons are usually good choices.  Check each part.  If the springs aren’t perfect that’s okay, as you can replace them.  In fact, you might look for a handgun that’s a fixer-upper, in which case you need to check the frame and slide.  If they fit well, you’re on the right track.  Check for cracks in the slide and frame rail, and for peening.  Any moving parts should move freely and easily.  Check the safeties but don’t worry if everything isn’t perfect.  Fixer-uppers are all about the journey of taking your handgun to the next level.  The main thing is to look for an unusual level of wear and tear.  Used guns are bound to have a few rough edges, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worthy taking a closer look at.
  3. Accessories – I’m not being (too) self-serving here.  Yes, I want to help you buy handgun accessories like laser sights, holsters, night sights and more, but I also want to make sure you make the most of what you have.  So ask yourself what you already have in your arsenal.  Do you have a Crimson Trace Rail Master?  That’s a universal laser sight, so you can attach it to a number of different firearms.  You’ll need to sight it in each time, but it’ll save you some money in the long run.  Most of the time your holster is going to fit one firearm, but if you have other carry options, such as a concealed carry bag (like the new OPMOD PAC Bag) you can use that for various handguns dependent on how you feel on a particular day.
  4. Buy the handgun you’re comfortable with – In many cases one of the best ways to determine if a handgun is the one for you is to hold it in your hands, take a couple shots, and see how it feels.  You can read all the articles in the world about the frame material, caliber, safeties and more, and ultimately if you don’t like the grip or the way it handles you won’t like the gun. This is a personal process, so even if you have a friend help you test the accuracy or even take the gun apart to ensure all the parts are in proper working order, be sure to get a feel for the firearm.  You might be a Glock fan, or you might prefer the Springfield XD (we have a video on that very argument here), but make sure you try a few different options out and see how they feel.  You’d be surprised how different handguns that appear similar can feel.

Yes, I know this isn’t a super long list, and there are certainly more things to look for.  Part of knowing which handgun is for you is experience.  The more firearms you own in your life, you’ll learn what things to look for and why.  Two smart shooters with years of experience will approach the same firearm, try it out the exact same way, and come away with different opinions.  Always give the gun a test drive and be as critical as possible.  You’re going to invest some serious money in that gun, so you want the right one that’ll last for years to come.

Do you have any tips for buying a handgun?  Let us know in the comments!

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2 Responses to 4 Quick Tips for Buying a Handgun

  1. Lee says:


  2. Lee says:

    Don’t go overboard on power,accuracy is more important.A pistol you can recover from,after firing,and immediately
    put a slug right back on another target,just where you want it ,is the right one.You should keep practicing with different
    makes and models,including calibers, until you are satisfied with your choice.Do it yourself,don’t let others influence your
    decision,but listen to ideas given to you.If it makes good sense to you.

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