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The ABC’s of buying a handgun

July 23, 2010
By ANDY NELSON-ZALESKI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - Buying a handgun for the first time can be daunting - and definitely not cheap.

New handguns range in price from $250 to $2,500. And to complicate the matter even further, there are many different manufacturers and choices.

There a several hundred handgun brands including big and small gun companies. Several of the big handgun manufacturers are Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Colt and Kimber, to name just a few.

Article Photos

A Kimber Custom II 45 Auto Colt Pistol semi-automatic handgun is shown here at Wilderness Sports in Ishpeming Wednesday. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

But the best handgun is the one you know -?one you chose to fit your needs and purposes - according to Ernie Lindsey, manager of Wilderness Sports in Ishpeming.

There are two main types of handgun styles: revolvers and semi-automatics.

A revolver includes a rotating cylinder that is engaged with a hammer every time the trigger is pulled. The cylinders themselves contain five or six chambers with each housing its own round. Revolvers are generally cheaper to purchase than semi-automatics and start around $250.

Fact Box

"Hunting, target and personal protection are the three big applications for a handgun."

- Ernie Lindsey, manager, Wilderness Sports, Ishpeming

The benefits of a revolver are ease of use, reliability and greater choice of ammunition calibers. Additionally, they are typically easier to learn how to use and normally easier for a person to operate.

Disadvantages of revolvers are that they are slower to reload and more difficult to conceal.

Semi-automatic pistols, meanwhile, fire a single round each time the trigger is pressed, without the need to turn a cylinder or draw back a hammer. Ammunition is fed into the firing chamber by a spring-loaded magazine, usually loaded in the pistol's grip.

The gun's action automatically extracts and ejects the brass casing while chambering another round.

These types of handguns are the most popular with some of the reasons being the larger number of rounds held, accessories and ease of concealment.

Normally a semi-auto magazine holds 8 to 10 rounds, but there are magazines capable of holding 15 to 30. They allow for faster reloading and due to their slenderness, are easier to conceal.

There are some drawbacks to semi-automatic handguns. These types of handguns are more sensitive to ammunition type. Some types of semi-automatics are more prone to jam with certain types of ammunition.

Handguns are purchased for three basic reasons.

"Hunting, target and personal protection are the three big applications for a handgun," Lindsey observed. "There are two types of target pistols. One is for more serious competition style shooting and the other is used for plinking or recreational shooting."

Target handguns are designed for precise shot placement. These types of handguns can be an investment for the more serious shooter.

Hunting-style handguns may be used to take different types of game, from squirrel to deer to wild boar to bear.

Lindsey said that many people prefer hunting with handguns.

"Like myself and others, it is the only thing they will go out to hunt with," he said, noting that he has been hunting bear with a handgun for years.

Hunting handguns bulky and often heavy because the gun is chambered with a larger caliber round, requiring a heavier frame and barrel. They also can be equipped with optical scopes for improved accuracy.

As far as personel protection is concerned, the rise in crimes such as home invasion and assault has resulted in more and more people chosing to purchase handguns.

"We never had an issue with two-legged prey. The need for personal protection around here used to be bear and mountain lions while fishing, picking berries or while out at camp," he said. "More and more, people are purchasing handguns and applying for a concealed weapons permit to protect themselves."

Regardless the purpose and use or application of a handgun become familiar with the gun.

"You should be able to use it safely and efficiently," he added.

Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is



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