How to Choose Your First Semi-Auto Handgun

By Steven Behnke
Posted in #Guns
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How to Choose Your First Semi-Auto Handgun

January 13th, 2023

6:08 runtime

What is the best semi-auto handgun to buy as your first handgun? That is a loaded question. However, we can dive in and narrow the search down. When picking your first semi-auto handgun, there are a couple of things to consider.

first semi-auto handgun
How do you select your first semi-automatic handgun? The author offers some considerations and recommendations.

Some of the most important things to consider are purpose and cost. My intention isn’t to tell you exactly which handgun you need, rather to help you decide what is best for your situation and desire.

Purpose

The first consideration is Purpose. What is your intended use for this handgun? Do you intend to conceal this handgun for self-defense? Do you want something that you can just bring to a range and enjoy? Do you want something for home defense? Do you want to start training for competition?

These two pistols are excellent defensive tools (XD-M Elite Tactical OSP 9mm, rear; Hellcat Pro 9mm, front), but each offers its own unique advantages.

A firearm is a tool, and tools are designed for specific purposes. Finding that purpose will help you narrow down the search. In this article, I selected several different semi-auto handguns to take a closer look at.

Cost Factor

The second consideration is cost. I am not talking about just the cost of the gun itself; I am talking about magazines and more importantly … ammunition. Ammo is expensive, and practice is essential. If you decide on a firearm that uses more costly ammunition, you might not be as likely to practice as frequently as you should. Less practice time could compromise your level of proficiency.

springfield 1911
For more than 100 years, the 1911-style pistol has been an exceptional combat arm. It still holds a place in the 21st century.

To keep things in perspective, in this crazy day and age with ammo costs, 9mm is about 2/3rds the cost of .45 ACP, and .45 ACP is about 2/3rds the cost of 10mm. Modern defensive 9mm loads can be very potent and have impressive ballistic performance, so you might not need a “bigger bore” round.

Firearms to Consider

I have put together a list of four semi-auto handguns. Each of these guns have unique traits that serve a purpose.

xd-m elite osp
The XD-M Elite Tactical OSP 9mm is a great choice for home defense, and even for CCW if you can conceal it.

XD-M Elite Tactical OSP 9mmThis gun is packed with features. Between the threaded barrel, extended magwell, optics and full-size frame, this tactical nail driver really has it all. The relative drawback of this gun is the large size. If your intention is to carry concealed for self-defense, or you just don’t need all those features, this might not be the best option. However, if you do not intend to conceal and want a very high-performance firearm that won’t cost an arm and a leg, I would give this a serious look.

Garrison 9mm 1911I am a sucker for 1911’s. They are classy, elegant, and have a design that dates back over a century. 1911 firearms have incredibly smooth triggers and are typically constructed of all-metal components. A 1911 can be an absolute pleasure to shoot on the range and even to start dabbling in some single-stack competition.

springfield garrison
Chambered in 9mm, the Springfield Armory Garrison offers the great ergonomics of a 1911 with the soft recoil of a 9mm.

The Garrison, chambered in 9mm, makes this 1911 a very soft shooter. This can lead to more practice time due to the level of comfort it brings. The downside to any 1911 (in my humble opinion) is the limited capacity. The Garrison 9mm 1911 has a 9+1 round capacity, which is limited when compared to modern double-stack options. If your intention is for home defense, a range gun or even to conceal, this could be a great pick.

XD-M Elite Compact 3.8” OSP 10mmThe 10mm is an extremely powerful round that really excels in semi-auto handguns. In my opinion, this is great for self-defense in the wilderness where two- and four-legged predators can be a threat. Of course, this can be used for any self-defense situation.

xd-m elite osp 10mm
Modern pistols like this XD-M Elite 3.8″ OSP combine excellent accuracy, superior ergonomics and unquestionable reliability for self-defense.

The two major drawbacks with a 10mm for a first handgun are the stout recoil and the general cost of the round. 10mm costs quite a bit more than a 9mm to feed, and the recoil can be a bit tiresome for an inexperienced shooter. Though this firearm performs well, it might not be the best option for your first. But if you want something for bear country, then have at it!

Hellcat Pro 9mmSpringfield has been making the Hellcat for several years now. It is a tried-and-true model. For a concealed carry option, the Hellcat Pro really excels in that category. Due to its compact size and excellent capacity of 15+1 rounds of 9mm, the Hellcat Pro really makes a great firearm for someone that wants something for everyday carry or general self-defense.

The major drawback of any compact pistol is the recoil. Though this is a 9mm, the small frame and light weight characteristics combined can make this gun a bit snappy compared to something like the Garrison or the XD-M Elite Tactical OSP.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, consumers have some great options out there. However, before you buy you need to remember a firearm is a tool. Defining the purpose of that tool is a critical step when deciding what your first handgun should be.

Don’t get me wrong, shooting is very enjoyable and one of my passions in life. Just because a firearm is a tool does not mean that tool can’t be enjoyable. Something that is often not taken into consideration is the likelihood of practice time. A firearm is useless if you are not willing to practice in order to become proficient. Pick what best suits your needs, and make sure you want to practice with it.

Editor’s Note: Please be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about our daily articles, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in and discuss this article and much more!

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