August 08, 2006

Violence Begets Violence Part Four: Hand Tools

"One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that 'violence begets violence.' I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure — and in some cases I have — that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy." -Jeff Cooper, "Cooper vs. Terrorism", Guns & Ammo Annual, 1975

I used that quote in the first three posts of this series (which may be found here, here & here). If you haven't read them yet then by all means go take a glance.

Now let's look at some specific hand tools with economy in mind. I'll assume that you've figured out which purpose, cartridge & type of weapon will suit your needs best. I'm going to start out discussing handguns.


A lot more money than necessary can be spent on a handgun (or any firearm for that matter). Then again how much can you say confidence is worth? The top dollar custom & semi-custom handguns have a few bells & whistles that may or may not be available on their lower priced cousins. One thing the upper end handguns have in common is that they're expected to perform reliable & consistently (read accurately) & that's generally what they do. an out of the box $250 gun isn't going to exude the same confidence in form or function as a handcannon that you just laid $2,000 in a custom or semi-custom shop's hands for. Look at it this way, would you feel better about buying a car & immediately driving it across the country if you paid $200 for it or $20,000 for it? The same rationale usually applies to firearms. It’s true that you get what you pay for but at times some of us simply don’t have the means to acquire a top of the line firearm. But there are some handguns that with little or no work can be as reliable as the top of the line models & accurate enough for your needs.

I know little of revolvers so take my reasoning with a grain of salt, but Taurus makes a decent line from all I've heard. Their concealed carry line starts at roughly $400. That’s MSRP so expect to find it for a little less at your friendly neighborhood gun store. For comparison Ruger's double action revolvers start at around $550 MSRP. A Smith & Wesson K or L frame starts at close to $600 MSRP.

The trigger on a Smith is a thing of beauty from all I've heard. Ruger revolvers are built like tanks. But for a bit less the Taurus should give you an acceptable trigger with enough durability for all but the serious competitor (by serious I mean you send 5 digits worth of cartridges down range each year from a certain type of firearm & they usually spend more on their firearms anyway).

Taurus also has a decent line of autoloaders. Their 24/7 line starts at about $500 MSRP. The Millennium Pro's start at $400 or so.

Ruger's P-series pistols should be around $500 MSRP on the low end. The Smith's start in the low $600's.

Kel-tec is another company you might wish to check out. They make reasonable priced (starting at the low $300's) polymer frame pistols.

Hi-Point. Love them or hate them but they offer the most affordable new production pistols that I know of. The MSRP of their .40 S&W is $239. They're cheap in both cost & appearance. You will not be showing this thing off at the country club, but I've seen them go for less than $200 at gun stores. If your budget is very tight this might be an option for you. I've heard a few bad reviews of the Hi-points but I've heard more good reviews. My advice with this (or any other firearm) is to try several brands & types of cartridges & see which ones it feeds reliably and then see which one of those is the most accurate. Then practice with it. I wouldn't buy a Hi-point if I planned on throwing a few thousand rounds or more downrange per year, but if I didn't have much cash I wouldn't feel bad about having one on my nightstand.

But perhaps the best deal on the market right now is the EAA Witness. It's really a Tangfolio imported by European American Armory as the Witness. The Tangfolio is a copy of the CZ-75 which itself is a design heavily influenced by the Browning High Power & Sig-Sauer P210. MSRP on a steel framed full size Witness is around $429. I've seen this translate into $360 or so with my friendly neighborhood gun dealer. For comparison a Browning Hi-Power will run you $820, a Sig P226R will run around $915 & a CZ-75 will cost you $509.

A word about ammo: 9mm, .40 S&W & .45 ACP are relatively cheap. It is not as cheap as .22LR though. A number of companies make conversion kits for some of the above mentioned pistols. They replace the barrel, slide & magazine & let you fire .22LR ammo. So instead of $10 for 50 rounds of 9mm you can pay $10 for 550 rounds of .22LR. The recoil, point of impact & practical range will be different than the centerfire cartridge, but it will go a long way in helping you develop & maintain the basics (sight picture, trigger control, etc...). Plus you can have a lot more fun with 550 rounds than with 50. So consider getting a .22LR conversion kit if you don't already have a .22LR pistol.

These are merely suggestions. If you have your heart set on a $900 semi-custom pistol by all means have at it. But if you're on a budget & looking for something new then consider one of the above companies. Most make full sized models to keep around the house or car as well as compact models for carry if you're so inclined.

Since handguns are in essence a compromise we’ll look at extensions next.

Posted by Publicola at August 8, 2006 04:30 AM | TrackBack

What, no Glocks? Glocks are hella tough, reliable, and mechanically simple to operate and maintain (for a semi-auto) - all pluses for the novice. They're available just about everywhere, too.

Granted, a new Glock is a bit higher in MSRP than the ones you quoted, but it's not all that much more in real life pricing. Or you can get a used one for about (quick look on Gunbroker) $100 or so below new. While I guess it's *possible* to get a used Glock in bad mechanical condition, I don't know if it's all that likely.

I'm not just cheerleading here - I know Glocks are not the finest firearms ever to grace this earth and there's controversy regarding their safety design. But given their wide acceptance, relatively low price, dead-solid reliability (possibly excepting certain caliber loadings) and simplicity of operation - IMO they're a very viable choice for the newbie interested in self-defense with a handgun.

Posted by: Cliff S. at August 9, 2006 04:33 PM

Nope, no Glocks. They're a bit pricier than what I was going for & even if they weren't I don't recommend them. Polygonal rifling plus an unsupported chamber? Not to mention they're uglier than hell. & a safety on the trigger? All of those combined to disenchant me with them a long time ago. By all means use them if you want to, but I don't & I don't recommend them to others. if you want those glock-like features that are so often touted then get a revolver. If you want an auto-pistol then get an auto-pistol, not a glock. Now if you want a hand grenade... :)

Posted by: Publicola at August 10, 2006 04:01 AM

You covered the low to midpriced range well, and had some great suggestions. Though you left the high-mid to high end off.

You did not mention sig sauer, Heckler and Koch, kimber, Springfield Armory, beretta, smith and wesson. I am sure i missed someones favorite.

Taurus recently came out with a 600 dollar 1911. The xd by springfield will run 500 to 600. The M And P by smith and wesson is listed at about 630. Beretta has the Px4 listed at 600 and the 92/96 Series listed at 650 to 850.

I think many of those guns are perfect for the serious beginner whose budget is not as restrictive.

Posted by: cube at August 20, 2006 03:24 PM