I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read internet forum posts asking what the best handgun is for a beginner or the best “one” handgun for someone to own. Here’s my definitive two-part answer.
This is easy. Here, I say the best one for you is the one you want and the one you’ll enjoy shooting. It’s the one you’ll look at and think “cool… I own this.” Anything else will have the appeal of a new spatula and will be treated as such. So, get the one you want. Wait, that’s not the advice you were looking for? Oh, you wanted to know what to buy. Silly me. continue reading; I love spending other people’s money.
“Get the Glock,” says one poster. “A 1911 is the best,” writes another. “The ‘insert my favorite biased choice’ is hands-down the winner,” reads one more post. Well, here’s my advice. Get a 4″ .357 magnum revolver with adjustable sights from a major manufacturer. Ooooo… how boring! Yes, it is boring. It’s not fancy. It doesn’t have levers that decock, fancy two-piece triggers, integral lasers, or built in coffee grinding devices (don’t laugh… it’s been done). What it does have is everything you need and nothing you don’t. It has six shots… well enough to handle any hunting, defensive, or informal target shooting/plinking application. It has a cylinder that rotates in a boringly reliable manner. It can fire light .38 special loads that will kick about as hard as an exhausted gnat or full-power .357 magnum loads that will take down whitetail deer, unwanted home intruders, or fully-armored cans of beets. Adjustable sights let you calibrate to the exact point of impact, and the fixed barrel produces accuracy that you won’t get from 90% of automatic handguns. Oh, but here’s the best part. The trigger, in double action mode, is simple: pull and it fires. In single action mode, a good revolver will have a trigger that rivals those of hunting rifles and puts most “fancy” autos to shame. In summary, the whole package is amazingly simple to learn, operate, and will provide as little or as much power in an accurate and robust platform that will outlive you and your kid’s kids.
So, there it is. My recommendation for your one handgun. Notice that I didn’t say it had to be a specific manufacturer or model, but my personal choice would be the S&W 686, followed by the Ruger GP 100. S&W 19 and 66 are also excellent choices. Colt King Cobras and Pythons are great as well, but command a premium price. Stay with one of these manufacturers and chances are you’ll be happy (I’m a S&W fan but to each their own).
Note: before anyone retorts that this won’t work for tucking into their tighty whities for concealed carry or for taking down 5,000 pound steroid-enhanced grizzly bears in the Northwest Territories, keep in mind that this is a general recommendation for the new/casual shooter who wants a versatile handgun as a “jack of all trades.”