Sunday, February 27, 2011

Handgun Selection: Be Careful Not To Hamstring Yourself

I wanted something that was relatively versatile. Something I could use for IPSC, which was reliable, easy to strip and maintain, and which shot relatively well straight out of the box. I also wanted single-action. I was aware of the drawback to using minor ammunition (ammo that doesn't necessarily have the same stopping power as some of the larger calibers, which results in points differentials in competition), but I thought, big deal, just aim straighter because it is a lot more affordable than the larger calibers. Also I had past experience with 9mm, and was happy with its power.

I, however, wasn't aware of how the IPSC rules classify handguns, or how their actions may affect my decision. I used to be partial to a Beretta 92 FS, but it was more expensive than what I ultimately decided on, and it is a double-action (the first shot is with the hammer down), which I didn't like.

My next option was a Glock 17 Gen 4. The price seemed right, it was 9mm (considered a minor power factor), it has a reputation for reliability, and although technically double-action, to the layman this is virtually undetectable, which essentially made it appear single-action to me. The down side was the discomfort of "not having a safety" (which later becomes a partial upside, but requires retraining when you switch handguns), and I had never owned a gun where I couldn't see the hammer. Anyway, this ended up being my final choice, given the plethora of accessories for the Glock, including the carbine conversion kits, drop-in triggers and the like.

On a side note; you will notice that handguns in the USA are significantly cheaper than in Canada. Don't bother sourcing one in the US. The bureaucratic paper trail is onerous, and it is expensive. Once you factor in all the fees, you are better off buying locally.

It turns out, one of the downsides of many handguns is that they are poorly supported in Canada, at least that seems to be the case. You may be all googly-eyed at wanting to do many things, only to discover nobody carries upgrade parts. Also, don't rely on any counter staff to help you with your choices, they just aren't knowledgeable enough in your chosen endeavour.

As for the USA, some of their legislation is as daft as ours. It is virtually impossible to import gun parts anymore. And don't even think about buying them whilst you are down there. Although it is legal to bring them in to Canada, under US law it is illegal to take possession of them. So if you are bust with parts in your possession there are dire consequences.

So in the end you are stuck with an essentially stock standard handgun, and you hope nothing breaks, or you eventually start swinging towards handguns that are well supported (especially if you stay within IPSC circles). There is no sense trying to be a maverick, although I do think a dedicated Glock Shop would work (any takers?).

At no stage, in choosing a handgun, did I factor in trigger pull, upgrade potential, compensator compatibility or the cost of parts. Badda bing, I had my handgun, and now it was IPSC time. Just needed to do the Black Badge.

In closing; if you are considering getting a single stack 45ACP, think carefully. Yes, it is well known and easy to get parts for. Yes, you can tune the gun nicely, if you can find a gunsmith. But you will only be able to load nine rounds (assuming you change your magazines to the eight round variety, plus one in the chamber). This means you will always be at a disadvantage to those that can load an extra two rounds. Also, the single column 45ACP is a single action, which means you have to compete in the Standard class, which in itself isn't a big deal, but there are better suited firearms (namely double column). You could compete in the Open class, with a 10 round magazine (if it is shorter than 170mm, which I think it is), but then you would need to pimp out your 45ACP, with a trigger job, large magwell, red dot sight, a compensator, some gunsmithing and perhaps a competition barrel. The problem becomes one of cost versus performance. You will be at a disadvantage relative to the race guns. The 45ACP is a low velocity cartridge and it will not generate enough gas to work the compensator effectively, so your recoil will be greater than the dedicated race guns. Also the slide will cycle slower too, and ammunition is expensive. So essentially you will be restricted to competing in Standard as a Single Stack competitor.
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