My Continued Handgun Search – Part 1, by The Novice

I have been on a quest. It is the search for my ideal handgun. The ideal handgun for me may not be the same as the ideal handgun for you. If you have not yet found your ideal handgun, then perhaps the story of my search will give you some ideas and inspiration for your own search. If you have already found your ideal handgun, you may at least find this story to be entertaining.

Most modern handguns have an intrinsic accuracy that is more than sufficient to meet my needs. The problem is that I am not a human Ransom Rest. I can take two handguns with the exact same intrinsic accuracy and fire one of them much more accurately than the other. If I practice a lot and concentrate, the difference in my accuracy between the two guns may become smaller. But in a high stress situation, I will have a natural tendency to be more accurate with the gun that fits me the best.

The anticipated use for the handgun also impacts which one is ideal for me. For example, do I want to use it for competition, plinking, hunting, home defense, concealed carry, open carry, etc.? The gun I am looking for is for both plinking and home defense. For these uses, a larger frame and longer slide and barrel may give me better results than a smaller package.

On July 27 and July 28, 2019, SurvivalBlog.com published an article describing the beginning of my search. “A Beginner’s Handgun Journey” tells about my first handgun purchase, my efforts to master basic handgun skills, and my experiences with how well various handguns worked for me. It tells how I acquired a Smith and Wesson SW22 Victory, how I could shoot that gun more accurately than any others I had tried, and my search for a handgun in a self defense caliber that I can shoot as well as I can shoot the SW22.

Based upon the experiences described in that article, I concluded that there are a number of factors that make the SW22 work well for me: it fits my hand well, has an excellent trigger, good sights, and a long sight radius. I decided that those were the characteristics I should look for in my ideal handgun in a self defense caliber.

The Candidates

I decided that the next two handguns I would like to test were the Walther PPQ 5″ Standard and the Canik TP9SFL. The Walther and its Turkish imitator both have replaceable backstraps which allow a customized hand fit. Both have reputations for having excellent triggers. Their long slides give each a good sight radius. Their sights might not be as easy for my aging eyes to acquire as the fiber optic sights of the SW22, but that remained to be seen. Although the PPQ and TP9SF are both available in target versions, I decided that the standard versions might be more suitable for field holster carry conditions.

Rental?

Up to this point, I had either purchased or borrowed each handgun I had tested. I was not aware of anyone who could loan me either the PPQ or the TP9SFL. The process of buying, testing, and reselling is cumbersome. Rental seemed like a more efficient option. There is a range in my region that rents handguns, so I checked out their inventory. Unfortunately, neither the PPQ 5″ Standard nor the TP9SFL were available for rental at the range.

T&E Requests

I knew that manufacturers and distributors will at times loan handguns to those wishing to review their products for publication. With that in mind, I contacted Walther and Century Arms. (Century Arms is the American distributor for Canik). I asked to review their respective products for an article that I wished to submit to SurvivalBlog.com.

Century Arms ignored my request, possibly because Pat Cascio had already reviewed the Canik TP9SF for Survivalblog on April 24, 2017. His excellent article played a role in directing my attention to the TP9SFL.

Walther responded to my request promptly with information about placing a T&E order. This information left me in a bit of a quandary. Walther is kind enough to allow reviewers to purchase review samples at VIP pricing following testing. I compared the VIP pricing with the best pricing I could find online. CDNN Sports had the Walther PPQ 5″ Standard for $50 less than Walther’s VIP pricing. Since Walther currently has a 30 day money back guarantee, I could purchase the handgun from CDNN Sports, test it, and if I liked it keep it for $50 less than if I purchased it at VIP pricing directly from Walther. If I didn’t like the handgun I purchased from CDNN Sports, I could return it to Walther for a full refund.

With this in mind, I contacted Walther’s marketing department to see if they would match CDNN Sport’s pricing. That department regretfully informed me that they were not authorized to do so.

At this point, I needed to evaluate the probability that I would keep the handgun after testing. If I thought it most likely that I would keep the handgun, it would be less expensive for me to purchase it outright from CDNN Sports. If I thought it most likely that I would return the handgun after testing, it would be more convenient to borrow it via the T&E process directly from Walther.

After due consideration, I decided that there was a 51% chance that I would want to return the handgun after testing. I am currently committed to not increase the quantity of guns that I own. But I remain open to increasing the quality of the guns that I own. Because of this, buying a new gun carries with it a commitment to sell a gun that I already own. I liked the Walther P99 for which the PPQ 5″ Standard was a potential replacement. I hoped that the PPQ would merit taking the P99’s place, but felt it was very slightly improbable that this would be the case.   With this in mind, I completed the T&E order with Walther. In surprisingly short order, I received the message that a PPQ 5″ Standard was on its way to my FFL.

Opening the Box

I picked the gun up at my FFL, took it home, and opened the box. The box consisted of a sturdy looking case. The latches were an improvement over those on the case for my P99. The PPQ case contained the firearm, a lock, documentation (manual, safety booklet, and warranty registration information), a target pierced with five shots from the gun fired from 15 meters, two magazines, a speed loader, and three interchangeable backstraps of which the medium sized backstrap was installed on the gun.

My first impression was that the gun was heavier than I expected. I have already mentioned that I own a Walther P99. It is very similar to the PPQ 5″ standard except that it has a shorter slide and barrel. The extra one inch of barrel and slide made a noticeable difference in weight.

First Shots

I grabbed some ammo and set up some targets on the range behind my barn. I began by dry firing the gun 10 times to get a feel for the trigger. I felt a slight hint of grit on the first dry fire trigger pull, but the other nine were much smoother.

I then fired 10 shots each of four different kinds of ammo. For reasons that may soon become apparent, I will call them ammo A, ammo B, ammo C, and ammo D.

I first fired 10 rounds of ammo A from 15 yards. I put nine out of 10 rounds within two inches of the center of the target. This was the best group I had ever fired from a gun that I was picking up for the first time. I was happy and filled with anticipation. When I had first fired the SW22, I had put 73 out of 90 shots within two inches of the center of the target. During my most recent outing with the SW22, I put 85 out of 90 shots within two inches of the center of the target. It looked like the PPQ might give the SW22 a run for its money.

I then fired 10 rounds of ammo B from 15 yards. I put only three shots within two inches of the center of the target. I was disappointed. Ammo B was one of my favorites. I thought it was a shame that it did not work well in the gun.

I then fired 10 rounds of ammo C from 15 yards. I again put only three shots within two inches of the center of the target. An unpleasant suspicion began to nibble at the back of my mind.

I next fired 10 rounds of ammo D. I put six out of 10 rounds in the four inch circle.

I then tried again with 10 more rounds of ammo A. I put only three rounds in the four inch circle. The unpleasant suspicion was becoming a certainty.

Next I dry fired the gun 10 times. My suspicions were confirmed. To my horror, I noticed subtle hints of flinching. I did not have an ammo problem or a gun problem. I had a flinching problem.

My self image was bruised. I realized that I am the type of person who has a startle reflex to loud noises and fast movements near my face. I realized that I am recoil sensitive. It was difficult to cope with the recognition of flaws like that. I also realized that probably one of the biggest reasons that I can fire the SW22 more accurately than any handgun in a self defense caliber is that the low recoil and quieter report of the .22LR produced less flinch than the larger calibers.

Even more painful than the damage to my self image was the public shame. I had borrowed the gun from Walther with the understanding that I would write a review of the gun and submit it for publication. An honest review of the gun involved acknowledging in a public forum that I flinch. The story of my search would provide more information than I had bargained for.

After firing several more groups, I had put a total of 42 out of 90 rounds within two inches of the center of the target. It was not an auspicious beginning.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)




16 Comments

    1. Perhaps my tongue was a little too subtly in my cheek when I mentioned “flaws”. Thanks for the link to the drill. It looks very helpful. I will have to give that a try.

  1. Don’t know yet what part 2 of the story holds, but at first glance I would encourage you to spend more time and money on quality training rather than obsessing over the perfect handgun.

  2. Guns are like shoes. Or Tools. Different roles and needs dictate different firearms. If you try to run, dress shoes are not the best choice. Nor should you try to hammer a nail with a wrench. Workable, but not optimum.

    First decide what you want/need that particular firearm to do. Then fill that need.

    And like the previous two comments: $800 of training will make you a better shooter with a $400 gun than $0 training and a $1,200 gun.

  3. The most important part of a pistol is having good sights that have both elevation and azimuth adjustment…regardless of which firearm or ammo you choose. Once you are adjusted properly, use the same ammo consistently and your shooting will improve.

  4. “Doing what I can with what I got.”

    “Adapt, overcome, improvise.”

    “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

    Shooting paper is seldom a good indicator of one’s ability to use the tool well to defend themselves. Using real world simulation to train the mind (and body) to respond to a threat in a practical and effective manner will be the tell of a warrior. No one has ever been an effective warrior straight out of the box. It takes a lot of time and effort to get good, and even then, there’s no guarantees.

    If you know you can hit what you are aiming at, then you need two things to become a warrior: Effective training, and practice. You don’t get results without a generous amount of both. That takes commitment. The pay-off is proficiency regardless of platform. Essential skills and knowledge will provide the foundation you need to be able to pick up any firearm with a familiar function and do what needs to be done with it. How it feels in your hand will matter less and less as your general proficiency improves. I’ve been shooting for 40 years, at least 20 of which have been competitively, and I still have to manage flinch control and proper form and hold. Shooting well requires skills that fade with time if not constantly maintained.

    If you are shooting 2″ at 15 yards with a pistol, any pistol, then you have the requisite talent. To develop the skill to do so consistently will only come with the mandatory training and practice that EVERY shooter worth a damn must go through. Whether or not you can perform under fire is a whole other matter. YMMV.

  5. Although Taurus has had quality issues, and deserves the criticism, heck even Sig as had an issue or 2, their CG2 is an upgrade of the faulty Taurus PT111 G2, is enjoying good reviews, and proving to be a bargain for under $200. Although I have not personally tried this yet, but will, according to many YouTube videos, the CG2 can use Glock magazines, and Pmag makes a 32 round mag that works in the CG2. I personally prefer the CG2 over any of the Glocks for many reasons, such as it fit me well, the mag release is superior, it is concealable, and one third the price. And there is more, more better things about the CG2. What is better than a Glock? Three CG2’s. The CG2 is not perfect, but the price is. And it does the job better for me than does any of the Glocks, even if the Glock was the same price.

    If we seek to arm our selves, wouldn’t it be better to have 3, instead of 1? Wouldn’t it be nice for the whole family to have something? Think of the cashe and stashing possibilities as well. As the Walther P38 is still copied, and now everything is a knock off and comparison to the Glock, how much better is the Glock? Glocks are good, but are over priced. Glocks are only guns, they do fail, just like any other gun. Had to fix a new Glock the other day with a FTF problem. The owner had not lubricated it in years. It was clean, but dry. That could happen to any gun, but if it was a Glock, they would be ashamed to complain about it. If was a Taurus they might just complain.

    For the price, I would review the many You Tube video that perform exhaustive reviews. At sub $200.00, the price, the risk to try, is low, and it would be easy to sell it off, if the gun did not please you. I suspect however, the you would hand on to it. The price for the performance is impressive.

  6. Attend the MAG40 training by Massad Ayoob. He and his instructor colleagues will get you to the point where some of your concerns go away. That will let you focus on other matters such as better situational awareness. Good luck.

    Thanks for being humble and admitting your learning curve. That’s always key to continual improvement.

  7. As I return to whence I started 45 years ago to the .45ACP, (after wandering amongst various calibers such as .22 mag, .38, 9 MM, .40, .41, .44 Mag, and wheels and slides through the decades), the best thing I did was to go to an indoor rental range 3 hours away and do a shooting comparison.

    Using their same range-approved ammo for all guns, I tested myself on 8 different models and makes of the (non-1911) .45 ACP semi-autos there for concealed carry.

    Yes, different ammo makes a difference in accuracy on a selected pistol, but testing all 8 models using the same cheap target ammo gave me some startling comparisons using out-of-the-box pistols.

    Both the Glock 21 and 30 were good in accuracy but the Glock 21 (the one I own) has such poor trigger pull, it contributes to huge shooter error, as did the P365 which has the worst error-inducing pull of all eight pistols I used that day.

    The most accurate by far is the XD Full Size with 4″ bbl. The red fiber optic front sight played a significant accuracy role in the low-light indoor range. The groups fired with the XD were more than twice as tight. Groups at 20 feet had a 1.5 inch grouping consistently, shooting 5 rounds per target, and repeated on four additional targets, standing unsupported with regular 2-handed combat stance.

    For you 1911 lovers, I first started on the 1911 and carried it as an officer. I shot expert with it on the US Army standard combat pop-up range, and I do own a 1911 that I like. But I cannot count it a good EDC concealed carry for me personally, which is IWB.

    Based upon my experience and ability and needs, I have the Glock 21 for EDC and the XD Full Size for my alternate. If I had the funds, I would get the Glock 30 for backup. The recoil is not anywhere near the problem I had feared, and is similar to the G21.

    I pick the G21 for my future EDC due to it’s quicker realignment onto the target and dependability, but after trying all eight .45s, realize it’s trigger pull is pretty dismal and I am looking to get it modified. Until that happens, I am carrying my Canik TP9SF which is amazingly dependable and accurate for a $300 EDC.

    As others state above, it ain’t about how good the gun shoots, it’s about how good you shoot the gun. IRL.

    God Bless

  8. Thanks for taking the time to write this article. I enjoyed it very much and it is an excellent job of demonstrating good writing on an interesting topic for the preparedness community.

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