The first debate before purchasing an automatic handgun is the best caliber. If you can only own 1 handgun, the best caliber is probably the 9mm (9X19). The 9mm has plenty of stopping power in a personal defense situation. It also has less recoil than a .40 or .45. The last reason that a 9mm may be a best choice for a single handgun owner, is the price of the ammo. It is the least expensive of most handgun ammo in a personal defense size. For a carry gun you might want to consider a .380 due to the weight of the gun and ammo. I found that the only gun I will carry on a regular basis is my Ruger LCP .380. Anything else weighed too much or was too bulky and therefore uncomfortable enough to discourage me carrying.
Because of the price of ammo (and other factors) my latest addition to my handgun arsenal is a Kimber Stainless Target II. I have always wanted to own a 1911 style handgun and when I ran across this one at a good price, I couldn’t resist. This is my best looking handgun and the easiest to shoot. The gun is stainless steel resulting in it being heavy so it has very little recoil.
For shooting in IDPA I normally shoot my Glock 34 9mm. This is Glock’s 9mm competition size pistol with an extended barrel. The extended barrel gives you a slightly longer sight picture for hopefully better accuracy.
I also own a 9mm Glock 17, which is the most widely used law enforcement pistol worldwide. Because of its great reliability, above-average magazine capacity of 17 cartridges in the standard magazine and its low weight, it is an excellent choice if you can only own one pistol.
I also own a Sig Sauer .380 model P232 and a Heckler and Koch (H&K) model USP .40S&W and a Ruger LCP .380.
The first handgun I purchased was the Sig Sauer .380. I selected the gun based on it’s size and grip. I was looking for a smaller gun that would fit my hands. The .380 has good stopping power if you have the right load in a personal defense situation.
However, the .380 does not qualify for IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) competitions. When I got involved with the IDPA, I had to get a larger caliber handgun. I was vacillating between the 9mm and the .40 S&W. Given the information above on why the 9mm is the best overall caliber, you may be wondering why I was considering a .40S&W? The reasoning behind the debate is that the 9mm is just slightly larger than the .380 that I already own. In fact, the .380 caliber is technically called a 9mm Kurtz or 9mm short. The diameter of the .380 is the same size as the 9mm, but the shell is shorter. Therefore, if I was going to get another auto, I wanted to consider the .40 S&W so I would be stepping up more in caliber than the 9mm.
As I was debating the issue, it was solved for me when the Jackson Police Department switched form H&K’s to Glocks. They were selling all their H&K’s and I was able to get a one for way below retail and it just happened to be in the .40 S&W caliber. It is a great gun. It was brand new, had night sites and came with 3 high capacity (13 rounds) magazines and a leather holster. All in all it was worth around $950 and I got it for $300. I couldn’t pass up that deal!
My Ruger LCP .380 is my carry gun. I found that all my other guns are too heavy and I would end up leaving them at home instead of carrying them. The Ruger LCP is light enough that I will carry it. And a smaller caliber carried is better than a larger caliber left at home.
Regarding gun makes, there are quite a few choices. Sig, H&K, Beretta, Glock, S&W, Springfield, and Kimber are all good handguns. The Glock is the gun of choice at most of the IDPA competitions. The reason the Glock is the gun of choice is threefold. First, it is less expensive than the other guns mentioned. Secondly, it is a very dependable gun and rarely jams. Lastly, it has the same trigger pull for the first as well as the last shot. This makes it easier to shoot. However, more and more gun makers are starting to add the same type trigger pull to their gun line-up and this may change.