Several weeks ago I published a short article on choosing a defensive handgun that was, in a tongue and cheek manner, implying shooters need a Glock 19 and on a more serious note a peer handgun of some sort on par with the Glock 19.
In that article, I cast a fairly wide net on the definition of a ‘peer firearm’ and covered a broad selection of 9mm handguns I’d call Service or Duty 9mm’s
Here’s the list by manufacturer. It isn’t an all-inclusive sampling but covers the styles I was talking about.
- Glock: G17, G19
- Sig Sauer: P226, P229, P320, SP2022
- Smith & Wesson: M&P9
- Heckler & Koch: P30, USP9, VP9
- FNH: FNX9, FNS9
- Walther: PPQ
- CZ: 75B, 75BD
- Ruger: American (in theory, very new pistol)
- Springfield Armory: XD, XDG (Mod2), XDM
- Beretta: 92, 92FS, 92G, M9A3, PX4
Rob Pincus, a well-noted shooting instructor, took issue with my article and posted about it on Facebook. I follow Rob, and so does my publisher, so we saw his post about my article.
A discussion ensued and in short, I do not agree with Rob. It’s a simple difference in opinion.
I do see Rob’s point. I listed twenty-four firearms under the monikers Simple, Consistent, and Reliable. I stand by those descriptors, but the firearms are not created equal in those regards, they just fit a baseline minimum, and the rest is buyer preference and comfort.
So let’s break these twenty-four down further into three tiers. Tier 3, Tier 2, and Tier 1 with Tier 1 guns exhibiting the most simplified and streamlined characteristics overall as defensive firearms. Firearms not listed but exhibiting parallel characteristics can be tiered accordingly. This is not intended to nor should it be taken in place of individual shooter comforts and preferences. I would much rather train somebody who brings a Tier 3 gun or any sidearm for that matter, and who shows up ready to learn and grow as a shooter than turn them away because they didn’t bring a Tier 1 gun.
Beretta M9A3 (92, 92FS)
Beretta PX4 Storm
These firearms in their most common commercial variants are Double Action/Single Action (DA/SA) and have manually operated safeties. They also have a decocker feature to safely reset the trigger and hammer forward to the double action position (minus the CZ75B)
While these firearms are well built, reliable, and are often very comfortable for shooters, they are the most mechanically complicated of the listings by having the widest array of possible manipulations.
The DA/SA trigger has two distinct pull weights and reset points. The first pull weight is usually between 9-12lbs with a long trigger travel. After the first shot and slide cycle, the hammer remains set, and the trigger pull weight and travel both significantly decrease. If the shot does not fire the reset for the trigger is all the way at the front of its original travel distance. Shooters choosing a firearm from this tier have to learn both trigger pull weights, resets, and the individual idiosyncrasies of the gun.
Added to that learning requirement, the firearms have manual safety controls. That lever on the weapon that enables and disables the function of the gun adds additional mechanical complication and steepens the learning curve for the firearm. The same lever often acts as the decocker on the firearm as well and steepens the learning curve for the firearm even further. If by sweeping the safety too far the firearm can drop from the expected single action shot into double action that changes what the shooter needs to expect from the firearm while taking their next shot especially if it wasn’t done intentionally.
Military and LEO organizations have often requested and sometimes required this list of features for their service sidearms. This was never due to the designs being simpler or superior and mostly due to the concepts of liability for negligent discharges or a perceived consistency with a different service weapon.
I consider these Tier 3 guns to be fine self-defense firearms should the individual buyer desire to make that choice. However, buyer beware that these are the most complicated end of the spectrum. Buyer’s choice but learning these guns is more challenging and involved, end of discussion.
NOTE: Certain production models of Tier 3’s, especially of the H&K pistols, can be placed in Tier 2 or Tier 1 respectively based on features.