Firearm Selection for Personal Protection

Selecting the “right gun” for personal protection in Fairbanks Alaska. 


At Alaska Krav Maga & Fitness, one of the most common questions I (Rick) get regarding firearms is how to select the "right gun" for personal protection.  There is a myriad of options, styles etc. to make your head spin and no two people are alike in their needs. In this article we will explore some simple yet effective ways to determine what is right for you.


     The first major talking point in selecting a firearm is to determine the main purpose for it. Is it for target practice, hunting? Etc.  For this topic we have chosen personal protection, however this can be bigger than you think.  Is it for the house? Do you plan to carry it on your person? If so, how? Will you be the only authorized user? Many questions here so have a good idea of it's use and whom will be using it when and where.


Four major areas of concern that we will be covering in the selection.

1. Reliability

2. Shootability

3. Concealability/How you carry

4. Caliber and Capacity.



      Bar none the most important criteria in the selection process. I don't care how cool it looks, how awesome your buddy said it was or what the local gun shop said...reliability is paramount.  This is a lifesaving tool so when it is deployed and you pull the trigger...there had better be a loud noise coming out of the end of it!


      With today's technology and manufacturing processes most firearms can be reliable. Some have a track record for being more reliable than others so gravitate towards them. I am not a cheerleader for a certain brand or an enforcer against another. If you wish to know my personal preference on them ask me in person so we don't have a argument in the chat room. Opinions vary believe me



      The most in depth section in the selection process.  Once you have chosen a reputable and reliable manufacturer, now we have to see if you can shoot/handle it. There are many considerations here: how does it fit my hands? Can I operate the controls (slide release, magazine release, cylinder catch) reliably?  Can I shoot it with one hand? Both hands? Is it simple to operate under stress? Do I want single action, striker, DA/SA or revolver?  The list goes on...


      Caliber selection is part of the shootability criteria but we will cover that in a later section. Most folks would prefer a larger handgun that shoots a smaller caliber cartridge versus a smaller gun that shoots a larger caliber. Generally, a smaller handgun is more difficult to shoot due to the smaller grip surface; shorter sight radius and heavy trigger pull weight. Coupled with a larger caliber, this can make the firearm recoil more and be less controlled. 



     Often times this is an overlooked section. Most of the time when folks select a handgun for concealed carry they haven't had enough experience in working it from concealment. A question most folks don't ask themselves....The firearm is of reliable make, I can shoot/handle it well, now how am I going to carry it and can I present it effectively when I have to?


       When thinking about concealability the first thing that folks think of is the holster. This is an important piece of kit so choose wisely and don't cheap out!! Most police/military folks have a drawer of old holsters they just don't use anymore because it was what they could afford or was cool at the time. When selecting a holster the chief thing to look for is if the trigger well or guard is completely covered. This prevents clothing or other items from crowding the trigger which can lead to a discharge. 


       Size and capacity are also choices in concealability.  A larger or greater capacity firearm may be harder to conceal however, most folks can carry a larger firearm than they think. Many will go with a smaller or less capacity firearm to keep it more secure, harder to see, or just more comfortable. Just remember that the key thing in concealability is.... during "Go time" can I get to it quickly, safely and effectively use it. This all comes with training. Male and female tend to carry differently as well.



     This is a hotly debated topic. I wouldn't be surprised if friendships or relationships have ended over it! Let's have a quick overview of this subject and try to shine some truths over it.


       Most folks tend to favor one cartridge over another for various reasons and with it, ego. When it comes to selecting one there are a few considerations.  Is it a proven cartridge?  Is it readily available?  Is there ample practice and personal protection ammo available and at what price? Breaking it down there 6 main line cartridges that most go to.


.38 special

.357 magnum

.380 ACP

9mm Luger

.40 S&W

.45 ACP


All are capable of performing personal protection roles. Remember that training and proficiency with marksmanship and fundamentals are key here....not the caliber. While there are others out there to choose from, these are the main line cartridges and for good reason. Most are old or current military/police cartridges which have a lot of study, research and development behind them as well as ammunition.


     Capacity is another topic of debate.  Some will argue statistics while others will argue probabilities. Whichever handgun you chose for concealed carry, capacity and caliber has always been a balancing act. Do I want a larger caliber? Can I control it or shoot it effectively from a small, medium or large size gun? Or do I want a smaller caliber and boost capacity? Many questions here.


     After all of my years in shooting courses, time in military /police/contracting has taught me a few things. Almost all personal protection ammunition today is designed around one concept. 1)Penetrating 12-18 inches of ballistic gelatin through an intermediate barrier at a fixed range while expanding 1.5 times its original diameter. This is what the IWBA (no longer in existence) and the FBI collaborated on following the Miami-Dade shootout in the 1980's. 2) Most handgun cartridges, fired from standard sized handguns, are WAY underpowered. 3) There is no such thing as stopping power with mainline handgun cartridges.


     With all this, capacity was determined to be a very important issue. It isn't how many rounds I can fire at others. But the fact that I don't have to stop shooting to reload! Once the firearm is empty your fight is generally over. Most folks don't reload or do immediate action drills when you watch videos of violent encounters.  Once they have exhausted their ammunition they are gone!!


     Hopefully this sheds some light for the readers. Remember that the firearm is only part of your personal protection regimen.  Good hand 2 hand as well should always be you first step in self-defense. Adding other tools (knife, firearms etc.) Should be later in your journey but I digress.  Be well rounded, train hard and stay safe.


Written by AKM Staff member “Rick”

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