Clifford W. Saylor

Firearms Instructor


Handgun Selection

Hey everybody! Finally, the Arizona temperatures are down and it’s actually pleasant to go to the shooting range again. It’s time to dust off the handguns and put some bullets downrange!

This month I want to talk about selecting a handgun. For the sake of this discussion I will be talking primarily about personal protection guns, but the same principles apply to hunting or target shooting guns. Selecting a handgun is kind of like shopping for clothes, the gun has to be right for you if you are going to enjoy shooting it, and if you are going to shoot it proficiently. This means that you have to select the firearm, not your husband, boyfriend, best friend, or the salesman at the gun store.

The first question to answer is semi-automatic or revolver? They both have advantages and disadvantages. You have to decide which is best for you. A semi-automatic generally has more rounds of ammunition in the magazine than a revolver has in the cylinder. But, semi-automatics are prone to jamming if you don’t keep them clean or if you limp wrist and allow muzzle flip when shooting. Also, you can get revolvers that have enclosed hammers and can be fired from inside a purse or pocket without jamming like the exposed hammer or slide on other guns.

The next thing to do is to handle several guns. The gun has to fit well and feel good in your hand. This is a key to good marksmanship. Try several. They will all feel a little different. But, like anything else, you will know when you pick up the right one.

Now, you have to address caliber. This is important for a variety of reasons. Recoil is always an issue. How much recoil are you capable of handling and willing to put up with? Remember, the first shot is always the most important, but, follow up shots can be life savers, so getting back on target quickly is very important. In essence, pick a caliber you can shoot comfortably and put the bullets where they count! BTW, I don’t like feather light guns. The recoil is far more severe with a light weight gun than a heavy one, so beware the feather lights.

Cost is an issue, not only for the firearm, but for ammunition. What is your budget for both? I suggest that you purchase two guns. One is to carry as your protection gun. This should preferably be a 9mm or .38 Special at a minimum. If you favor the .380, .40 or .45 calibers, or a .357 Magnum, go for it! But, you should also buy a .22 caliber gun that functions the same as your carry gun. Here’s the deal, if you are in a personal protection shoot situation and you can’t hit the bad guy with the bullet, you might as well be carrying a boat anchor. You will practice with the .22 because the cost of ammunition will be far less as compared to your carry gun. And, you will make up the cost of the second gun in ammunition savings for practice shooting. And, you have to practice or you just won’t be any good with the gun.

Finally, when you go out to shoot, always remember TAB+1: Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. Be sure of your target and beyond. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot!

Have fun, be safe, and I’ll see you next time at the Corner!



Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Cliff Saylor is the owner and lead instructor for Sun Country Outdoor Adventures. Classes off ered include all types of firearms, personal protection classes, and outdoor skills classes including mentored hunts. Introductory handgun classes are Cliff ’s specialty. Cliff can be contacted by email at