In Defense of Buying a Generic First Gun


Many new gun owners, especially those that get into shooting as adults, start their journey with some sort of centerfire handgun. A lot of drama can go into selection of that first gun as people consider use, fit, budget, and even the “cool” factor of one brand or model over another. I’d suggest, though, that all of that analysis paralysis is better applied to your second gun. Hear me out:
As a new shooter, it’s really hard to know and understand all of the factors that can go into making a gun ideal for you and your purposes. For instance, when someone is getting into guns because they want to carry for self-defense, they have a tendency to want something small and easy to conceal. While it’s true that it may be easier to hide a smaller gun, those little pistols can be difficult to learn how to shoot well and therefore aren’t ideal for someone just getting started.

j-frame revolver

J-frame revolvers are still popular carry guns, but they’re really hard to master

In fact, if you are learning to shoot a centerfire pistol, the most forgiving option will be a full-size handgun of some type because compact and subcompact guns will have more perceived recoil. It’s also easier to start with correct technique on a larger gun, even one that is ‘too big’ (within reason), then apply the necessary modifications to manage a smaller gun. As for caliber, I recommend 9mm for the balance of recoil, price, and availability, as all of those qualities will make it possible for any shooter to train and practice more than other centerfire options.
Assuming you're still on my logic train, then the question is which of the many excellent service and target pistols would make for a good first gun. It’s true that almost any modern handgun will function reliably, for most owners. However, instead of trying to find the perfect snowflake gun, I recommend picking between one of the major full-size, striker-fired pistols in 9mm: a Glock, a Smith & Wesson M&P, a SIG Sauer P320, or perhaps a Springfield XD. Or as I like to put it, buy an M&Glock320XD.
Glock 19

The Glock 19 is a popular first gun for good reason, and is very close in size to the Glock 17 (credit: Jon Hauptman)

Not only is it easy to find an M&Glock320XD at affordable prices new, you can also get high quality used ones at reasonable prices. Perhaps as importantly, if you decide later on to sell yours, popular models are easier to find buyers for – perhaps even another new shooter like you once were. It’s even possible that there won’t be much of a drop between original purchase cost and later sale price.

This Smith & Wesson M&P was one of the first handguns I bought, and one of the first I sold

Another advantage of the M&Glock320XDs are that they are relatively easy to learn how to shoot. In addition to the lower perceived recoil and reasonable ammunition prices, they have straightforward controls and operation. Mastering a traditional double action is certainly doable, but the consistent and usually lighter trigger in a striker-fired gun makes for a shorter learning curve, as does not having manual safety or decocker levers to figure out. It’s not that they’re hard, but why add more complexity when learning an already brand-new skill?
Then after you’ve gotten more comfortable with your first gun, the M&Glock320XD aftermarket is quite robust. That means it’s easier to buy holsters, sights, and other accessories, along with various performance upgrades like basepads to increase magazine capacity, magazine releases and wells to make reloading less error-prone, or trigger parts to tune weight and feel. These are often available for other models, but usually only from limited vendors or at higher prices. Starting with a more common gun will let you experiment with less hassle, at a lower cost.
SIG Sauer

My P320 has been upgraded with a Spring Precision magwell, mag release, and basepads, as well as Grayguns internals to lighten and improve the trigger pull

And if you have problems with your gun, before or after making those changes? The M&Glock320XD community is vast and some of the members even know what they’re talking about. That means more resources for troubleshooting, and more people and places to go to when looking for input. While this can lead to information overload and a variety of misinformation, your odds of finding reliable data are higher than when your questions are about an obscure firearm that few people own or shoot.

This is a Chiappa Rhino revolver. How easy do you think it is to find troubleshooting information about it if it breaks?

If, after all that, you find that you don’t like that generic first gun, then you’ll not only have a better idea of what you will want in your next gun, you’ll also be able to get most of your investment back on your first. Convinced that the M&Glock320XD is the way to go for a first gun? What was your first gun? Do you still have it? Tell us in the comments.

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