Pick your gun, and move on

Continuing the discussion on “pick your gear, and move on“.

Reading this post by DocGKR, he quotes “a very experienced senior SOF NCO” who “wrote the following superb analysis discussing pistol calibers”:

Not getting into the weapons transition issues from frame design to frame design (it’s the reason I love to hate the Glock), the fact of the matter is that the recoil on the G23 crosses the magic line of running the shit out of your pistol. Allow me to explain… Most of the guys mentioned that they can handle the reduced size of the 19 and the recoil increase over the G17 is acceptable. Most of us have also determined that this does NOT cross over to the .40 cartridge. Guys with a firm handle on recoil manipulation can use the G22 and G35 with acceptable results. However when you go down to G26’s and G23’s, the juice is not worth the squeeze. The recoil is now noticeably effecting times and it’s measurable. If you can’t effectively control recoil and are wasting time allowing your pistol to settle between shots then this is all a wash and means nothing to you, but if you can apply the fundamentals effectively you will quickly see that you can’t run a sub compact 9 or a compact .40 worth a shit. So a decision to accept a larger pistol in order to have an acceptable recoil impulse based upon caliber must be made. The smallest 9mm Glock recoil that I will accept is the G19 and I will not go below the G22 when bumping up to .40.

For reference, ordered by caliber, then from largest size frame to smallest.

  • G17 – 9mm, Standard size frame
  • G19 – 9mm, Compact frame
  • G26 – 9mm, Subcompact frame
  • G35 – .40 S&W, Competition frame
  • G22 – .40 S&W, Standard size frame
  • G23 – .40 S&W, Compact frame
  • G27 – .40 S&W, Subcompact frame (not referenced in the above quote, and likely because if the G23 is unacceptable, the G27 is right out).

So what does this all mean?

Equipment matters (but only so much).

You need to be able to run the gun and run it well. While the old-school and Internet commando mantra demands you use only calibers that begin at least with a “4”, the reality is that using such calibers is difficult because, as above NCO stated, you can’t run it worth a shit. More correctly tho, when you have more recoil, it’s harder to run the gun. More recoil happens because of caliber (e.g. .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Sig, .357 Magnum), but it also happens when there’s less gun (less mass, less area to grip) to help mitigate that recoil. That could be because of simple weight (e.g. an “airweight” revolver vs. an all-steel revolver), or because of size which naturally reduces available mass and grip area (e.g. G17 vs G26, G35 vs. G23).

So you have to ensure you have a gun that runs — for you. This is where things like “gun fit” matter. Here’s a good guide on the topic (and more).

But then amongst all those guns that run, there are other things that contribute to you being able to run the gun well. And I’ll put it pretty simply:

Pick the largest gun that fits you and your circumstances, in the biggest caliber you can acceptably run.

Let me break this down.

Larger guns aid in recoil management, both because they will have more mass, and also with more size comes more surface area to enable a better grip on the gun. They can also offer things like a longer sight radius, lighter recoil springs (makes it easier to rack the slide). Bottom line: you can shoot a larger gun better and more easily than smaller guns. This doesn’t mean to buy a monster gun that you cannot handle, it still has to be what properly fits you and fits your circumstances. But within those that fit, strive for the largest you can because you’ll shoot it better.

You want the largest caliber you can acceptably run. I’ve seen folks that cannot handle 9mm recoil but do OK with .380 Auto. While .380 Auto is marginal in performance, it’s better than nothing and if that’s what you can shoot best, then that’s a settled matter. I’ve also encountered some that can’t shoot more than a .22 LR; while that’s also not ideal, it’s still better than nothing so there you go. And note, while you might be a big strong guy with forearms like Popeye and can run .40 decently well, chances are still good you will run 9mm better due to simple physics.

So yes, for the majority of folks, getting a Glock 17 or Glock 19, or a Smith & Wesson M&P 9 (service model size) is good enough. They are proven reliable platforms, that provide acceptable performance. If those guns do not fit you, you may have to do some more shopping, but the end result is the same:

Pick your gun, and move on.

7 thoughts on “Pick your gun, and move on

  1. One other point – there is great happiness in a two carry household when you are able to have a single caliber for both. It opens up new additional defensive options too.

    The enemy of good is better.

  2. i’ll be wildly off topic here as usual, but you know me!

    i’ve been reading your articles about the shield for ?what? a couple of years now? when you first started i had no idea what one was, but your descriptions of it and its operation didn’t drive me to look it up either. i have a pocket gun with plenty of power that’s as lightweight as a keltec .32 and i’ve carried it for nigh on 10 years now–it’s a s&w titanium snub nose (with hammer) in .357 magnum and i still have not shot it even once–not even with .38 spc–and yet i trust my life that it will go boom (and cripple my hand) if (hopefully never) i have to light off one or more rounds to save my (or others) life. if i feel the need a large capacity auto i’ll fanny-pack or thunderwear carry my hk usp compact in 357 sig which has virtually identical ballistics to the .357 mag.

    anyway, (i told you i’d digress wildly!) my good friend was passing through my little rural abode a few weeks back and, as always, we talked cameras and gun–he’s the head of the photography department at the star-telegram. he had a new carry gun to show me and it was an m&p shield in .40 caliber with the safety. now, i had been wanting to add a glock to my collection for some time now, but every single time i’d gone down to handle a glock the contents of my stomach tried to work their way up my throat. it might well be (and i’d vote for it) most reliable automatic in the world of all time, but if it feels like a short 2×4 in your hands you’re not going to be able to hit with it. plus, the whole system just feels too flexible and ‘plasticky’, especially the trigger system and the levers even if they might be metal.

    but i absolutely loved the feel of my friends m&p. he unloaded it (and i double-checked when he handed it to me) and i checked the trigger and although it had that ‘stryker fire’ sponginess, it wasn’t as bad as the glock even though it did have that little swiveling safety projection on the face of the trigger. he told me it had started as a 9mm but he’d purchased a .40 cal barrel for it and thus i made a wrong assumption after casually browsing the brownell’s and midway usa sites that i could buy a .40 and simply add a barrel in my preferred caliber–the 357 sig.

    so i started sort of casually keeping an eye out for a bargain on one even though i was on a hot’n’heavy search for my ‘white unicorn’ pistol–a fn57 i’d been jonesing for for 3 years and had been on waiting lists galore with no luck even finding one to buy. but that is truly another story (with a happy ending!) for another time.

    so i found a nib .40 cal m&p shield at an auction site for $320 and another dealer told me that was below dealer cost, so i jumped on it. turns out that ffl xfer fees and the obscene and i think illegal credit card fee which nearly all gun shops foist on their customers just because they can get away with it because all the gun buyers have been whipped into a frenzy of fear of the liberal black man in the white house … but i wildly digress and that’s another argument for another time. anyway, but the time i paid all these fees for my $320 shield i could simply have walked into the local academy sports and bought one off the shelf.

    i knew i wanted night sights and some trigger work at minimum although i discovered that the sights which came on the shield were simply outstanding–some of the best pistol sights i’d ever seen. and the trigger wasn’t awful, as i said earlier. i wanted the sights with the oversize front dot, but my local gunshop didn’t have those and since, if i bought the sights from them they were going to install free, i went with some truglo ‘brite’n’tuff’ sights instead. i also purchased an apex ‘tactical trigger kit’ which went further than just replacing some springs and plungers to actually providing a new aluminum trigger. apex promised something on the order of 20-80% less take-up and slop and overtravel and indeed, once the kit was installed (which was not trivial for my local shop–they had to call in a consultant!) it truly is a trigger a single-action guy can work with. it went from a pull of about 6-7 pounds down to 3-3.5 lbs with very little takeup and no overtravel or slop or sponginess.

    i then added one more extra–a set of talon grip tapes which i was scared to death to try to install on my own, but went on surprisingly easily and, if they stay put, i consider a very worthwhile investment in keeping a grip on a small gun in a large caliber.

    but, here’s where the problem came into the picture and why i’m done with sub-compact autos–the first time i tried to do a breakdown (field strip) i was completely and totally unable to draw back the slide. there was nothing to get leverage on nor could i do the old trick of pushing the muzzle down against or on the side of something hard. since the gun shop were the last folks who had it apart and i wasn’t 100% sure they’d left something locked up inside, i went back to them and had the embarrassment of watching the first kid who picked it up casually lock the slide open. he handed it to me and i still couldn’t do it and my hand was a wreck from trying it before.

    but, it turns out there were a couple of tricks i wasn’t aware of in the way s&w had designed this pistol. first, for some insane reason they have added a lever inside the mag well to cater to the pussies who don’t like pulling the trigger to move the slide off the frame. we’ll get back to this penis of the devil later.

    but to even get to that point, you have to lock the slide back to manipulate the disassembly lever to enable the slide to come free. the manual says that you have to push the slide lock up into the notch and this was causing the bulk of my problem–the gun was just too small to allow me to keep pressure or to put pressure on the slide lock and rack the slide back so the notch lined up. but the dude at the gunstore had left the magazine in and thus didn’t even have to touch the slide lock–the magazine locked the slide back. again, catering to the pussies who insist that a magazine should always be removed.

    i’ve very nearly come to the conclusion that reading any gun manual is now worthless. and i’m a person who will read every scrap of paper and online docs for any new piece of equipment–be it as simple as a can opener.

    at any rate, just being able to deploy both hands to racking the slide back did the trick although the last 3/8″ where it tips the barrel up is a stone outright bitch. if you hesitate even for a millisecond at the point it hangs up you’re lost–you have to brute force it past this little hitch. but it is still so hard on my hands that i can lock open the slide no more than 2-3 times per day. and yes, i’m doing some hand exercises and when i can finally get out to shoot, i figure 200 rounds should loosen it up quite a bit. also, every day i lock it open and let it sit there to try to break in the spring a little bit.

    but once i was able to take it down i found another gotcha when reassembling it. remember that little lever which many people say you can just ignore and pull the trigger instead to move the slide off the frame? well, you can’t ignore it when putting the slide back on the frame–it has to be pushed back inside the magazine well.

    anyway, i realize that compromises have to made on a subcompact gun but i think s&w made a lot of design and engineering mistakes due to liability avoidance–at least as far as breakdown–if not operation–goes. hopefully i can get out soon and actually shoot my new pistol.

    but, having said all that stuff, the bottom line is that the shield is hardly an improvement over the little revolver i’ve carried for 10 years now. it’s twice as heavy even unloaded and only carries at best 2 more rounds and, due to me never pushing the maximum round capacity, only one more round than my little snubby. and even then, since there is no 357 sig barrel for it yet, the .40 caliber doesn’t quite match the ballistics of the ‘one-shot-kill’ .357 loads.

    so yes, it’s the best stryker-fire pistol i’ve ever handled, but when it comes down to it, i doubt i’ll actually carry it very often unless something happens to my snubby even though it fits into the same pocket holsters i have for that revolver.

    • So you drank the Kool-Aid. 🙂

      Here’s what I can say.

      Because I got too fat, my fatness was pushing maximum capacity on my waistbands, thus IWB carry was out — unless I wanted to buy new clothing, which I’m not in the mood to do — because I’d rather become less fat. So that’s progress for another story, and it’s progressing well, and while I can go back to IWB at this point, for a time it was too unpleasant so I was making alternative choices.

      One was that I was carrying my snub in a pocket. I never liked that option, because pocket carry sucks, but it was better than nothing.

      But the real rub was with the snub itself.

      While I’ve had a snub as a BUG for a number of years now, recently I’ve started to become disenchanted with it. The main reason? How effective can I really be with it? This isn’t anything as a general statement of snubs or what have you — it’s truly a personal issue. This is only about me and my situation, my abilities, my choices. And in the end, I know I can get better, acceptable hits with a semi-auto than with a revolver. Put the Shield in my hand and I do fine. Put the snub in my hand, and I can do OK, but start to take things out of say 0-5 yards and it starts getting more difficult. I’m not horrible, but I’m certainly more capable with my semi-autos than my snub. Sure, could I gain the mastery? Yeah… but, I have limited time in a day, and spreading myself over mastering multiple things isn’t the most efficient path towards my goals. If I wanted to be something like a IDPA Distinguished 5-gun Master well, that’s different, and that’s not in my goals. So for me, it’s better to stay focused and keep things within the same basic manual of arms — so full-sized M&P9, M&P9c, and M&P Shield 9. Each are of course different, but all within the same ballpark that I do alright.

      But for the gun itself, I have found that the Shield carries and conceals better. It may be a bit larger frame-wise (tho that can also depend upon what grips one has on their revolver), but it’s slimmer than the snub — there’s far less bulge. And yes, it has more capacity. Granted a snub has sufficient capacity for the “typical gunfight”, but I don’t consider “more ammo” or “more capacity” as a bad thing; because I cannot guarantee when my flag flies that it’s going to be typical.

      I’m much happier and more confident in carrying the Shield. But again, that’s my personal choice for my personal situation.

  3. i made a mistake on describing the trigger as you undoubtedly caught. the shield comes with a hinged plastic trigger. the apex trigger kit replaces that with an aluminum trigger with the ‘glock’ projection on it. sorry. /guy

  4. Pingback: Gun Review: Glock 26 Gen4 9mm | US Gun Times

  5. Pingback: Gun Review: Smith & Wesson’s Semi-Custom M&P .40 | US Gun Times

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