Caliber Considerations for a Defensive Handgun

Yesterday a student asked a common question -- how much gun is necessary for self-defense? We often get this question from new students and usually respond with variants of the time-honored guidance: "Use the most powerful caliber that you can competently shoot." including the fact that "For Personal Protection classes, the NRA recommends at least .38 Special for revolvers and 9mm for semi-automatic pistols.

Today the student followed up with further questions as she was a petite female concerned with carrying a concealed firearm. She asked whether the modern compact .380ACP handguns were realistic choices. We then discussed the various considerations that impact your defensive carry gun and its caliber: Ammunition has progressed a looong way since John Browning developed the 230 grain hardball .45ACP. And the compact gun that you are actually carrying on your body has great advantages over the full-size gun that you left at home because it was too large to effectively conceal. Also, sheer knock-down power is but one aspect of effectiveness -- marksmanship and shot placement are critical elements of defensive shooting. The big gun that you miss with is less useful than the smaller gun that you are very capable of shooting well.

The linked article below takes this discussion to further depths and illustrates the EXTREME case of .22LR for personal defense. We do not recommend the 22LR as a primary choice for a defensive firearm but the discussion in this article does illustrate the many complex factors to be considered. For those having difficulty in competently shooting larger calibers, we have ALWAYS been able to train them to use the larger calibers with competence and confidence. We carry a wide range of high-quality defensive firearms -- all the way up to the Desert Eagle in .50AE, although that also is unlikely to be a good choice for a concealed pistol unless you are Paul Bunyan.

Breaking-In a New Defensive Handgun

Today we had a customer pick up a newly purchased semi-automatic handgun. Her pistol was an excellent choice for her -- a quality gun from a first-tier manufacturer that fit her perfectly. We were talking about ammunition selection and she asked a very pertinent question -- "Why do I need to break my gun in?" This led to an excellent discussion on the need to use your defensive handgun on the range in order for the shooter to become familiar with it as well as to ensure that the firearm is reliable with the selected defensive ammunition. Generally from 200 - 500 rounds are viewed as necessary to break-in such a defensive handgun. A very few initial failures may be considered acceptable as the gun is brand new and tight. But the last 200+ rounds should function flawlessly to give the user confidence in a practically 100% reliability rate. Breaking-n should be done with good quality factory-new ammunition. Of course it goes without saying that the gun should be cleaned and well-lubricated. Initial break-in may be done with target-grade ammunition but the final ~200 rounds or so should be done with your self-defensive ammunition -- which is obviously much more expensive. But this investment is considered to be essential for a safety-critical defensive pistol.

See the link below the photograph for a more comprehensive article on this important topic:

Another very satisfied customer with a color-coordinated pistol that she shot very well.

Another very satisfied customer with a color-coordinated pistol that she shot very well.


Hand Size Matters

Again and again we encounter ladies whose husbands, boyfriends or significant others have purchased handguns for them. Although this is always done with the very best of intentions, we frequently find that the gentlemen have purchased their idealized firearms without consideration for the physiological differences between them and their spouses. Thus we find petite ladies wondering why they are having trouble shooting their Desert Eagle in .50AE or are struggling to find a good CCW / Wear & Carry holster for their Smith Model 29. Now these are admittedly exaggerations, but sometimes they are only slight exaggerations.

Our sales staff has great experience in helping our customers (both female and male) to find the exact firearms for your needs and to ensure that the firearms that are selected fit both your body and your hands.

Hand Size and Firearms Article -- Hebert.jpg

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If you think that it is impossible to get your Wear & Carry Permit here in Maryland, please contact us for a no-cost consultation. It is admittedly challenging and uncertain since MD is a "May Issue" state, but we have helped a great many of our citizens to ge ttheir permits.
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Ruger SR22P Patriotic Pistol -- Not Yet Legal in Maryland <:-(

This is a beautiful version of the Ruger SR22 pistol that is painted in distressed American Flag colors. Sadly, although the baseline SR22 has long been legal for sales here in Marylan the SR22P (Painted) is not yet approved.
It was on the agenda for review by the MD Handgun Roster Board in June. Hopefully it will be legal for us to sell in the near future.


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8 Best Handguns New For This Year (2019)

Champing at the bit for a top new heater? These are the 8 new handguns you should be craving to add to your gun safe.

What Are The Best Handguns For 2019:

  • Smith & Wesson 642

  • Nighthawk Firehawk

  • Ruger Koenig Custom Shop 1911

  • Sig Sauer P229 Legion SAO

  • Kimber EVO SP

  • Canik TP9 Elite Combat

  • Wilson Combat Supergrade Commander Special

  • Big Horn Armory AR500

I won’t lie to you: Sometimes, being a gun writer is work — real work. Even torture. I mean, someone has to look at what’s coming that’s new, and they have to decide what’s tops on the list of must-haves. Hey, I’m willing to make that sacrifice so you won’t have to. You’re welcome.

Here, in no particular order, are the best pistols you should hunt down, check out and consider adding to your inventory for 2019.

Smith & Wesson 642


Despite having been around for more than a century-and-a-half, S&W does not fail to deliver. The latest for EDC is their 642. You know, the compact .38 Special five-shot revolver with an enclosed hammer. That means you don’t have to worry about lint, dust or whatever miscellaneous debris about your person that can fall into the hammer slot. There isn’t one.

The short barrel, which is a fraction under 2 inches in length, is plenty long enough to be accurate and deliver the velocity you want from .38 Special ammo. Although, I have to warn you, while the 642 is rated for +P ammo, shooting .38 Special +P loads through a revolver that weighs an ounce less than a pound is not going to be easy.

With all of this comfortable-to-pack defensive sidearm goodness on your belt, S&W had taken another step to improve it: They have installed a CTC laser, the integral-to-the-grip version, and the grips are done in robin’s egg blue. So, this gun is lightweight, utterly reliable, stylish, easy to carry and chambered in .38 Special. What’s not to like?

Nighthawk Firehawk


My checkbook should be afraid: Nighthawk decided to go and make a compensated pistol, and in their usual obsessive method they spent an inordinate amount of time and computer cycles in designing, testing and tuning a comp. Instead of simply putting a comp on the end of an extended barrel, they shortened the slide, blended the comp to match and made the entire pistol no larger than a standard government model. The magazine well receives a funnel, the grips are aggressively textured G10 and the result is an accurate, soft-shooting-but-hard-hitting pistol.

Being a Nighthawk build, the details are all exacting. The slide and comp have a French border, the frontstrap is lifted and checkered, the fit of slide to frame to barrel is done by master pistolsmiths, and the end result is not just beauty — but performance.

The rear of the slide is serrated, the front sight has a gold bead and you can have your Firehawk in 9mm or .45 ACP. There’s no 10mm upgrade right now, but as with all things, that might change … not that you should refrain from acquiring a Firehawk while waiting on the future chance of a 10mm pistol.

Expensive? Perhaps, depending on how you measure such things. But when you consider that it’s going to last long enough to leave to your grandkids in your will, that’s not so expensive.

Ruger Koenig Custom Shop 1911


Ruger, having made the transition from “ugly blocky 9mm pistols” to the 21st century of AR-15s and 1911s, has taken it a step further. Teaming up with Doug Koenig, they now offer Custom Shop 1911s. The start is a 9mm full-sized 1911, the easiest centerfire pistol in the world with which to learn to shoot — and one of the most fun. Combine a clean trigger with sharp accuracy and lower-than-modest-recoil, and then top it off with cheap 9mm ammo costs, and you have a fun gun par excellence.

The details, such as the Hogue G10 grips, the checkered frontstrap and fiber-optic front sight, just make the Koenig Custom Shop Ruger 1911 one of the top pistols to be tempted by in 2019. And if a 9mm isn’t on your must-have list, then it can’t be too long before Ruger offers it in .45 ACP. I’ll go ahead and say it, if no-one else will: Everything should be available in .45 ACP. And if you want it for daily carry, or to use in competitions, it won’t let you down there, either.

Sig Sauer P229 Legion SAO


OK: If you could improve the Sig 229, what would you do? When Sig asked themselves that question, the obvious answer came up: Add it to the Legion lineup. So, they did. They took the rock-solid P229 and added the Legion gray PVD coating, and they fitted it with G10 grips featuring the Legion logo. They put on tritium night sights, and not just any, but their Electro-Optics XRay3 hi-viz sights, and they packed it with three magazines. It got the X-Five frontstrap undercut, frontstrap checkering and the slide received front cocking serrations. Then Sig installed a solid steel recoil spring guide rod, for extra mass low and forward to reduce felt recoil. For EDC, they installed a low-profile slide stop and thumb safety.

Having done all that, what else could they do for 2019 to further improve the P229? Simple: They made it a single-action-only pistol. The trigger mechanism is now not a double-action to single-action design, but single-action only — for a cleaner, crisper trigger pull. Sure, you give up the DA second-strike capability, but we all know that if a primer fails to go off you don’t give it a second chance — you ditch it and get to the next one. For an EDC 9mm with high capacity (15 rounds in the standard mags), the Sig P229 Legion SAO is a steal.

Kimber EVO SP


If a full-sized pistol is not what you’re looking for, then the ultra-compact Kimber EVO might be just the thing. New for 2019, the EVO is now a striker-fired pistol, the EVO SP, so the rear of the slide is enclosed. This helps keep lint, dust and the basic everyday carry crud that accumulates on our gear, out of your pistol.

Kimber made the magazine release one that can be swapped for right- or left-handed shooters. They also performed some trickery on the grips: I had to actually read about the EVO SP (oh, the horror) to realize one detail that was different about the pistol — there are no screws or other external hardware holding the grips on. The rear sight has a ledge machined in it, so if you need (and it would be a pretty drastic need) to work the action one-handed, you can. With three finish ensembles and the Kimber Custom Shop to call on, you can pretty much have your EVO SP any way you want it, provided you want it in 9mm Parabellum.

Canik TP9 Elite Combat


The Turks make solid guns. The Canik is the exemplar of the modern service pistol: a striker-fired, polymer-framed hi-capacity 9mm that you can have in black or FDE. However, for the latest model, Century Arms — the importer of Canik — went to Salient Arms for upgrades.

On the barrel, they extended it and threaded it for mounting a suppressor. The slide gets a fiber-optic front sight in your choice of two colors. The slide also gets machined for a red-dot sight, and the TP9 Elite Combat comes with that machined area sporting a filler plate, just in case you don’t want a red-dot sight. Yet. The frame, with its replaceable backstrap to accommodate your hands, gets a magwell funnel for speed reloads, and the trigger is replaced with a flat-faced one while the striker system has been tuned for a cleaner trigger press. All of this for a pistol whose price won’t break the bank, and in 9mm, which also means feeding it won’t break the bank.

Wilson Combat Supergrade Commander Special


The Wilson Combat Supergrade line continues to expand. The latest is the Supergrade Commander Special. The crew starts with Wilson’s own forged frame and slide, machined in-house and fitted by pistolsmiths with years of experience. (It takes 5 years just to learn how to do all the tasks they do to a 1911.) Then, it gets a Wilson match commander-length barrel and extra touches for those of you planning on everyday carry … such as a low-profile USGI-derived thumb safety and an abbreviated grip safety that still protects your hand from the rowel hammer but minimizes printing when carried.

They then combine old with new, including USGI cocking serrations with ball-end cuts on the slide. The white/gold bead front sight is on a blued slide. You can have your hand-polished Supergrade Commander Special in all-blue, or blue slide over stainless frame. Carry in style, carry in comfort, carry something comforting, carry the Supergrade Commander Special.

Big Horn Armory AR500


If there’s one advertising/marketing tag line I hate, it’s “taken to the next level.” But there are times when it is actually true. Big Horn Armory has done just that, by taking their .500 Auto Max rifle and crafting an AR pistol out of it. Big Horn takes a new AR-10-based receiver set, with the magazine well broached for an AR-15 sized magazine, and puts an Alien Gear Tailhook arm brace on the back end and a 10-inch barrel on the other end.

The .500 Auto Max is a .500 S&W case with the rim turned off, and you can have ammo loaded with bullets from 350 to 440 grains. Or, you can load your own, as it uses standard .500 S&W Magnum loading data. The result is a compact, relatively lightweight (you don’t want a brute like this to be too light, now do you?) pistol that would be perfect as a close-range hog hammer, a camp bear gun or just the range gun to impress your friends. Ammo is available from several sources, and new brass can be had from Starline. As a final note, should you desire, the barrel is threaded, and putting a suppressor on it is thus possible.

There you have it: a few reasons the job of being a gun writer can be so much work. This is my list, and it should be your list, too. No, don’t thank me: I’m happy to be of service.

Gun Rights Made All the Difference for These Intended Victims


Contrary to the rhetoric of many gun control advocates, the Second Amendment’s protection of the individual right to keep and bear arms is not a malevolent, outdated barricade to peace that must be demolished or diminished in the name of public safety.

Rather, the Second Amendment is a fundamental part of the nation’s scheme of ordered liberty.

Firearms are used far more often in self-defense than in crime. According to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiled and analyzed various studies involving the defensive use of firearms, Americans use firearms in self-defense between 500,000 and 3 million times annually.

The agency’s own data indicates that approximately 1 million defensive gun uses likely occur every year, far outpacing the number of times guns are used to illegally kill or injure others.

nevertheless, gun control proponents regularly promote policies such as limiting magazine capacity, banning commonly owned firearms, and restricting the number of firearms a law-abiding citizen may purchase at one time.

These policies not only fail to meaningfully address the underlying causes and mechanisms of gun-related violence, they also would hinder the ability of regular citizens to legally and effectively defend themselves and others.

Every month this year, we’ve reported on Americans who were forced to rely on their Second Amendment rights to defend themselves or their fellow citizens.

Here are some examples from the month of May that shed light on the importance of allowing law-abiding citizens to exercise the right to keep and bear arms:

May 1, Detroit. A 59-year-old woman defended herself and her home against three men who broke the security bars on her window. The woman called the police. Then, fearing for her life in the interim, she fired at the intruders. One intruder was wounded and all three fled.

  • May 5, Memphis. A woman called the police twice after spotting a man on her home security cameras who was walking suspiciously along the side of her house. Before officers could arrive, the man kicked down the woman’s door. He was met by a hail of gunfire from the woman and fled the scene wounded, eventually admitting himself to a hospital, where he was arrested.

  • May 7, Lumberton, North Carolina. Two would-be armed robbers confronted a 39-year-old man in an open garage in his own backyard. The man pulled his own firearm and exchanged gunfire with the two assailants and wounded one in the leg. Both were arrested, and one has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

  • May 9, Huntsville, Alabama. Two armed robbers confronted a 23-year-old concealed carry permit holder and his mother outside a grocery store. After one of the robbers pointed his gun at the mother, the permit holder drew and fired in her defense. The would-be robbers escaped the confrontation in a stolen vehicle and later were apprehended by police.

  • May 12, Lancaster, California. A father shot and killed a man who broke into his home through a window and entered an upstairs bedroom. The same man tried earlier to break into a different house, and the father feared for the safety of himself and his children.

  • May 14, Tallahassee, Florida. A homeowner found himself outnumbered—but not outgunned—by four armed assailants who had stolen his keys and broken into his home. Armed with a rifle, the homeowner fired approximately 25 rounds to defend his life and his property. The suspects returned fire, but ultimately fled the residence and were arrested by law enforcement.

  • May 20, Madison County, Indiana. A 25-year-old man involved in a series of altercations with his family returned one night to threaten family members with a shotgun for several hours. The man’s father retrieved his own gun and shot and wounded his unhinged son.

  • May 24, St. Paul, Minnesota. A concealed carry permit holder fired in self-defense toward a group of males who chased him after he parked his car. One assailant was struck, causing the group to retreat. After the incident, the permit holder immediately called police and waited for them to arrive.

  • May 25, Hudson, Florida. A mother with young children held a would-be intruder at gunpoint for an incredible 26 minutes while she waited for law enforcement to arrive. Although she’d called 911 three times, the first support to arrive was not a police officer, but an armed neighbor.

  • May 27, Chicago. A concealed carry permit holder shot and killed an armed man who approached him, gun drawn, in an alley. The permit holder was unharmed.

  • May 30, Houston. A woman defended herself from three armed men who forced their way into her home while unlawfully impersonating police officers. When the woman realized the intruders were not actually police officers and that one intruder had his firearm drawn, she retrieved her own gun. The fake cops fled after a brief shootout and later may have been involved in another shooting.

  • May 31, Las Vegas. Two brothers protected themselves and their home from an intruder who broke in and started a physical altercation. During the struggle, one of the brothers shot the intruder several times, killing him. A neighbor told the media, “It’s scary. You never know what could happen. … You’ve got to protect yourself at all times.

These instances of defensive gun use show why the right to keep and bear arms is so critical to the security of a free state.

The Second Amendment is not a historical curiosity to be studied from afar, but a real and ongoing safeguard against crime and tyranny in lives of Americans.

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Time to realize the true value of the Second Amendment

On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights became part of the U.S. Constitution—and 150 years later President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15 Bill of Rights Day. As we celebrate the 227th anniversary of the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, there's no better time to reflect on the role they play in protecting our individual liberties and limiting the power of government. Among others, the Bill of Rights protects the right to free speech, the right to freedom of worship, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to due process of law.

Continue reading for a closer look at the history of the Constitution and the Second Amendment, then head to for a quiz from the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio that will test and refresh your knowledge of the signing and adoption of the Bill of Rights.

Originally published on on September 16, 2016.

The United States Constitution: without question, the most significant and influential document in our nation’s history. This deed laid the foundations and built the framework for our government, and more importantly, established the freedoms and inalienable rights of our nation’s citizens. No other document has had the lasting impact and effect on the course of this country.

As we continually see the virtue, intention and integrity of the Constitution placed excruciatingly beneath the magnifying glass by politicians, pundits and persons of all backgrounds, the vision of our forefathers can be lost or obscured. “Progressive” political thinking has taken to historic revisionism, warping interpretations of our Constitutional edicts to fit the globalist agenda.

This absurdist redefinition of the Constitution has never been more prominent or vindictive than the attacks on our Second Amendment, which ensures our right to keep and bear arms. For reference’s sake, here’s the amendment as it reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

To some, that’s plain English. However, few passages in the context of American law have been more contested and scrutinized than the Second Amendment, with arguments about the true definition of the “well regulated militia,” and even what “keep and bear arms” means, legally speaking.


I’m no Constitutional scholar, nor am I a lawyer, but what I can tell you is this: the forward-thinking men who assembled to craft the Bill of Rights did so in the wake of bloodshed, battle and innumerable risks taken to win their freedom. It wasn’t a discussion over dinner, nor was it an exercise in diplomacy. It was men and women coming together to protest, stand up to and fight back tyranny from oppressive overlords attempting to jostle freed men on marionette strings from across an ocean. 

Freedom was won with war, promised with words, and is protected by armed citizens.

The authors of the Constitution knew the folly of unchecked power and limitless intrusion into the lives and rights of free people—just look at the Bill of Rights. The very First Amendment guarantees your freedom to say what you want without consequence from the government. The Third Amendment guarantees the government cannot quarter soldiers in your home, as the British did leading up to the American Revolution. The fourth guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and mandates the requirement of warrants to be sanctioned and based on probable cause. These are fundamental tenets of freedoms we champion loudly even today, and are rapid off the tongue of those who feel their freedoms have been encroached upon.

Why is the Second Amendment any different? Why are the surrounding rights untouchable, but the right to keep and bear arms—a right, mind you, that was installed to help free people protect the other amendments and themselves against the snapping jaws of tyrannical overreach—subject to repeated re-interpretation? Where did the misappropriation of this right as a safeguard solely for hunters come from? What is the basis for picking and choosing which guns our forefathers were talking about when they penned “arms”?


Consider the alternative to a Second Amendment. With no right to keep and bear arms, what stands between you and the unchecked power of a government out of control? What do you think would happen to your beloved freedom of speech, press and assembly, freedom from illegal search and seizure, freedom from your home being hastily converted into barracks, and freedom of religion without the reality that your right to own firearms to repel these overreaches?
Freedom was won with war, promised with words, and is protected by armed citizens.

The authors of the Constitution included the right to keep and bear arms because they saw first-hand a life under the crush of tyranny. Americans fought and died to beat back the scourge, and the leaders of our new nation were determined to prevent this from ever happening again. Their intentions were clear: the people should have the right to be armed to defend themselves against threats, even if the threat is the people chosen to govern them. These men effectively bestowed absolute permission for the citizens to fight back against them should they or their successors ever cross the threshold of democracy into totalitarianism.

And to think, so many Americans want that right limited or revoked. It doesn’t make sense. 

What does make sense, however, is our Constitution. 2018 marks 231 years since the document was created, and to this day its principles serve as the foundation of American law and order. The reasons for which the Constitution was written haunted its authors. With the bloody grasps of the Crown stained into their memories, they were propelled to protect their future. It’s up to us to remember their sacrifices, honor their efforts, and ensure their vision carries on unmolested, delivering the future of our nation they promised us.