Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When to upgrade your defensive pistol

Let’s face it, the gun industry is booming and concealed carry guns are in extremely high demand these days.   With this demand you’ll find manufacturers racing to fill the void they see in the market with new and improved designs.
The flood of new handguns becomes a bit overwhelming to the average gun enthusiast at times.  At one point you find a handgun you’re happy with that’s the latest and greatest in technology only to discover a year later another manufacturer has introduced a new model with improved ergonomics, sights, finishes, reduced size, etc.  The question then becomes, “when do I upgrade?”
Let me take a step back and tell you a little bit about my own carry guns over the years and perhaps from this I can impart a little wisdom regarding the temptation to constantly upgrade your carry gun.
I’m 44 years old.  I’ve been carrying and shooting handguns for around 23 years.  In that time I’ve carried a 1911, a Glock 17 and a Glock 19 as my primary defensive arms.  Each time I’ve swapped one gun for another in my holster I’ve done so for very specific reasons.
The 1911 was originally chosen because I shot it well, it was reliable and it packed a punch with the proven .45 ACP cartridge.  The 1911, if made right, is one of the worlds best defensive pistols ever designed.
Glocks entered the scene and brought high capacity, reliability, erogonomics and lightweight to the table of consideration.  I purchased a Glock 17 in the late 1980’s and slowly warmed up to it.  By the 1990’s I was favoring the Glock pistol.  I had learned to shoot it as well as my 1911’s and I found it was one of the most reliable pistols I had encountered.  Sometime in the mid-1990’s I switched to a G17 as my primary defensive gun.
I’ve always been a fan of full-sized service pistols.  I’ve never been a fan of compact handguns, at least through most of my adult life.   I’m 6’4” and am able to comfortably carry a service sized pistol without much issue.
Enter the Glock 19.  I bought my first Glock 19 in the early 2000’s.  I never really favored it over the G17 for a range gun, but I slowly began to realize it was just as reliable and even more concealable as its bigger brother.  By 2004 I was carrying a G19 as a primary defensive pistol and I continue to carry to this day.
During the span of time discussed above I’ve seen countless handguns come onto the market.  The Springfield XD, the Sigma, the M&P, the various Sig’s, and countless others have appeared with each promising improvements over previous designs.  Despite the temptation to jump ship to a new carry gun I’ve managed to stay the course with the G19.   
Here’s why.
You’ll notice there are many years between the time I buy a handgun and the point at which I decide to carry it.  For most people it takes years and thousands upon thousands of rounds to become truly proficient with a handgun.  I can pick up any handgun and within a few magazines shoot it well.  By well I mean chewing the center out of a target at 7-10 yards.  But there is far more practice and skill required before that firearm becomes an extension of your body.
With a 1911 or a Glock I can stand square to a target 7 yards away, close my eyes, draw the weapon and bring it up to eye level, then open my eyes and have the weapon on target – pretty much dead center with the sights aligned and requiring only minor adjustments for a perfect sight picture.  Some people call this “muscle memory” but I call it being "at one" with my tool of choice.  It becomes an extension of my arm and in my minds eye, even when my eyes are closed, I can visualize it doing exactly what I request of it – and it does.  I liken it to being able to close your eyes, hear a sound and point your index finger directly at the source.
You do not gain this level of familiarity and control over tools by a few range trips and a few weeks later carrying the firearm daily.  It takes hundreds of trips to the range and thousands of presentations from the holster and endless dry firing before you gain such a level of proficiency with your weapon.
If you were to change handguns every year or two you would become “ok” with a wide variety of firearms but you would be a master of none.  It’s my belief that I must be a master of my weapon if I am to be able to use it to perhaps save my life or the life of a loved one should that day ever come.
I will also add that the worst thing you can possibly do is have a collection of carry guns, each being completely different.  I’ve met people that carry a 5 shot snubnosed revolver one day then carry a double action auto the next.  This is a sure fire way to find yourself being carried by six friends and relatives to your final resting place.
I digress.
If you have a handgun you’ve trained diligently with, one that hits center every time you pull the trigger and it has proven itself to be reliable, why would you trade it for a brand new design?  You must ask yourself, “what do I gain buy switching to a new pistol?”  I think you’ll find in most cases you’ll gain nothing functionally and your desire to “upgrade” is nothing more than a perfectly natural craving for the latest and greatest device to fondle and show to your friends.  From a practical sense, most of us gain nothing from buying a new handgun as it ultimately resets our level of experience to “novice” and now you face years of training to get back to where you were before the “upgrade”.


  1. I tend to agree with your thoughts, MAC. But I have to go a slightly different direction. In the winter time, I can carry a full size or carry size pistol. I have no issues concealing that. Summertime, though, in South Mississippi, that's a different story. It's entire too hot and too humid to wear clothes that would allow me to properly conceal. So my best option in the summer is a pocket rocket like a Sig P238. I can slip it in my front or back pocket and it looks like a cell phone.

  2. I also carry a .308 pistol (Kahr P380) from time to time but usually as a back-up to my G19. There have been times where I ventured out of the house just with the P380. But as a general rule the G19 goes with me everywhere (or the G17). I can conceal the G19 in the lightest of clothing without issue and it really doesn't add to the heat I must endure. While we don't get the same temps as you do down south, this summer we've seen temps in the 102-105 range.

  3. MAC, you make some excellent points here. I think someone once said, "Beware of the man who owns only one gun, and knows how to use it."

    I have three main guns that I currently carry concealed throughout the year, but have seriously been thinking of changing that practice. A Taurus 1911 (.45) Fall, Winter, Spring, a Taurus 24/7(.45)sometimes in Summer but mostly in the summer, my CZ P06(.40). I own a CZ 75B (sometime carry) in .40 and a CZ 75 in 9mm, but that one is a Cold War commemorative and is not shot..at least not yet. I have been considering retiring my 1911 and the 24/7 (so to speak)and staying with the CZ P06 and shoot more with that, so your article helped me along towards that path. Thanks.

  4. If Los Angeles County issued concealed carry permits, which they don't, I would figure out some way to carry my G21. It fits my hand, I can shoot it well, and I just enjoy the heck out of it. It's an older version with the fat grip and I have no problem with any aspect of the gun. It just works. Every time. You blog post is well done and your points well made. I found you from your appearance on Hicock45's channel. Your You Tube channel is excellent as well.

  5. Your information has really helped me out in updating my pistol gun.