A Rant About Firearms Salesmen

A few weeks ago, I had some remarks about the kind of nonsense that it seems so many women have to put up with when shopping for firearms. I was specifically annoyed with how so many salesmen direct women to revolvers.

It’s not just revolvers! In fact, there’s tell via The Firearm Blog of a woman’s attempt to purchase a suitably-equipped Mossberg 930 (likely similar to this) and the clerk, in my opinion, overreacted grossly and accused her of being a criminal. No doubt, the clerk assumed that because she’s a woman, she couldn’t possibly be buying it for herself.

Ignore for a moment that it would not, in fact, be the FBI who would be engaged if the clerk’s suspects the woman was straw-buying, it would be the BATFE.  It would, however, be within the jurisdiction of the FBI to investigate the clerk for gender discrimination as that would fall under a civil rights violation. But I digress.

So, this morning, we stopped by a local outdoor store to lay hands on a few Glock options. Actually, I went in for something else and figured while I was there, I’d fondle a few pistols. I had two specific models in mind, as I’m considering adding both.

“Morning.”

“Can I help you?”

“Sure,” as I approach the 9mm section, “I’d like to have a look at a Glock 26 and a 19, please.”

Clerk opens a cabinet, finds a 26, clears it and hands it to me.

I fondle the firearm as I’d done before and ponder adding it to the safe. The price was a bit higher than just a few months ago. I make a mental note to update my compact 9mm page.

I ignore the standard “How much are you looking to spend” and “What are you going to use it for” questions.

“I do like that — grip is a touch shorter than I recall. I might be back later to fill out the 4473… Oh, do you happen to have a G19 in?”

“I think you should consider the XD… it’s a better gun.” He pulls an XD from the cabinet and starts singing the praises of it. Grip safety, extended magazine options, interchangeable backstraps and frankly unimportant things that the XD comes with.

“Well, I would like to try the 19 on for size…” I trail off as I point to the G19 in the cabinet right next to where the 26 was.

Clerk reaches into the cabinet and withdraws a G17. “I don’t think we have a 19 in at the moment, but here’s a 17 — it’s a better gun than the 19 anyway… you’d be happier with this one… it’s a full-size…”

Oh, really? Somebody who knows me better than I know myself, eh?  This is getting entertaining.

“Well, let’s have a look then,” I say. As I’m trying the fit, he reaches into the cabinet a bit further down, “No, the 17 is entirely too large for my needs. How about the 19?”

He hands me an XD. Sigh. I do show enough courtesy to at least look it over, “Yeah, don’t like that at all — the stock sites are no better than my P11 — and far worse than those on several other pistols. It’s much wider than the Glock line — even their full-size options.” I hand it to my wife, whose hands are smaller than mine and ask her what she thinks of the much wider grips*. I continue, “It’s also a few hundred more. The 19, please?”

He relents, and finally hands me the G19.

Fits like a glove. And I’ll be buying one. Elsewhere. I didn’t tell him that part.

“Thanks for your time.”

The takeaway from this morning’s interaction, which really served to reinforce what I’ve known for a long time: don’t assume that just because the guy sells firearms that he has any clue about which product is best suited to you.

He’s not an expert. He’s a salesman. It isn’t his job to educate you or train you or teach you about firearms. It’s not his job to be expert in any aspect of the products behind or over the counter.

There are racks and racks of product in the back room that they need to sell. And if a salesman can use a bit of psychology to move the undesirable products to one demographic and the more expensive products to another demographic, they will.

The salesman’s priorities are pretty much in this order:

  1. sell the product
  2. up-sell when possible
  3. clear the shelves (see #1)

That’s it. They’re just salesmen.

*I don’t think she was impressed.

Range Time

I took the family up to the hills to shoot yesterday. It’s a bit of drive from here to get to a good, safe, “free”, forest location to shoot. It’s about an hour and half drive from home, but it’s a good spot to shoot. And if we wanted, we could camp there, too.

We got all the way up there, got the kids situated and the truck unloaded. Assembled the new target stands and positioned for the first practice. I organized my shooting and reloading stations, and loaded up assorted magazines. I went to put up my targets… wait… where in the world are my targets?

They were stored safely in the garage at home.

Took five seconds to do the **face**palm** and consider my options.

Fortunately, it’s a national forest, and a pretty good location to shoot, so I still found plenty of atypical targets because so many other people never learned how to pick up after themselves. Full and partial clay pigeons, old shotgun shells, somebody’s old Christmas ornaments, a few planks of wood that somebody had brought up and abandoned as firewood.

So, in the end, I still found a way to run through some assorted calibers and even applied some of the things that I’d been considering since the amazingly rusty, terrible ClusterF__k shooting job I did last Sunday with Double-Tap.

Still, I think I did a better job in general.

A couple takeaways from this trip:

  • watch that front sight
  • assemble a ‘target kit’: a box, tote, or other suitable transportation solution for them and get some steel plates in a few different sizes, a few cans of marking paint (black, orange), and build some 18″ wide target stands for use with cardboard IDPA targets
  • focus on the front sight
  • I need a larger “range bag” — or, rather, maybe a rolling toolbox to keep ear protection for the kids, cleaning equipment, adjustment tools, stapler and staples, and a larger first aid kit, etc.
  • do some more dry-fire, watching the front sight
  • clean-up tools: garbage bags (because so many people don’t clean up after themselves), a garden rake or two, and a bucket for brass.
  • maybe I should focus more on the front sight on the handguns.

Unfortunately, with as busy as I’ll be in the foreseeable future, I won’t get out to shoot until the snow starts flying in October or November. In the interim, I can at least spend a few minutes here and there preparing for the next trip.

Some Compact 9MM Concealed Carry Options

I’m often asked a question very much like this: “What’s the perfect gun?”

The answer I usually give isn’t ever what they want to hear because there’s no specific answer. Instead, I end up asking them more questions to find out what they want to do. Then they walk away with more questions of their own.

But, because my last little rant was about how I think unscrupulous dealers and salesmen, in my opinion, appear to be directing a specific demographic toward what I believe to be lesser-powered firearms for self-defense, let’s keep with that theme and look specifically at some options for everyday carry.

Here’s my own list of requirements, in no specific order, for compact carry guns: 
  • I’m not recoil-sensitive and I’m comfortable with many more energetic calibers, but let’s focus only on the 9mm.
  • It cannot be so small that it’s uncomfortable (or dangerous!) to grip effectively and shoot.
  • Given a similar firearm size and function, primary capacity wins.
  • Overall cost — who isn’t on a budget these days? Let’s say no more than $500.
  • Fit and finish — it may be lightweight or even have a polymer receiver, but it needs to be well-made.
  • Availability of holsters and replacement sights.

What Do You Use?

My defensive firearms:

Kel-Tec P-11 9MM. My primary reason for carrying this particular pistol is because it was offered to me at an incredibly low price, and was in a useful caliber. The P-11 is a small-frame semi-automatic, has no mechanical safeties to fumble with other than the reasonably stout Double-Action Only trigger, and uses compact 12-round magazines. It also has very nice three-dot sights. For the price I paid, and all features considered, this is my Go Everywhere pistol. It does have a few quirks — all firearms do — but I’m pretty comfortable with it.

I also often carry an inexpensive Commander 1911 in 45 ACP. I very much like the 1911 as it has a single-action trigger, very effective caliber, and fits much nicer in my hand. However, it is nearly a full-sized handgun and there is a great deal of energy in that 45 ACP cartridge. And, as is the nature of 1911s, it has a single-stack magazine, which means that it carries far fewer cartridges than the double-stack in my P-11; as a Commander-sized 1911, I’m limited to 6+1 in the pistol, plus whatever magazines I can carry. Those shots need to count every time.

But a 45 ACP isn’t for everyone and today we’re looking at compact handguns for smaller-framed adults.

A Few Options

This is not the only list of compact 9MM pistols that are available. It’s just a starting point of some of the compact 9MM pistols that I’ve had some direct experience with.

Photos shown are not representative of the physical differences in size between each of these pistols. Take the time to check out your local dealers and try the fit of each pistol in your own hands to see how they fit you and how you fit them.

Kel-Tec P-11: $275

Already mentioned this one earlier. Double-action only and does have a relatively stout nine pound trigger pull for each shot. No mechanical safeties — just like those cute little hammerless revolvers that the gun store guys keep trying to get you to buy. The difference here is that this has better than twice the capacity. Pick up a pair of 12-round after market magazines for this one and you’ll have a heck of a regular use pistol. [Edit: I just learned that the P-11 accepts the S&W 15-round magazines. Kel-Tec even offers an extension sleeve for those magazines to use effectively in the P-11. Magazines here. Extensions here. Another option here.]

Kel-Tec PF-9: $300

The PF-9 is a single-stack 9MM pistol and is rather slim — she comes in at about 7/8″ thick. At an eighth inch thinner than the P-11, the PF-9 still gives the owner 7+1 capacity. After-market magazines are still limited to only the 8-round variety.  The PF-9, like the P-11, is Double-Action Only. The trigger is only 5lbs instead of 9 like the P-11. There are no mechanical safeties on the PF-9. For those with the tiniest of hands, the PF-9 may feel just about large enough to grip effectively.

Diamondback DB9: $350

Curiously, Diamondback only makes two pistols: the DB9 and the DB380. The DB9 is available in all-black, or with an orange, teal, or pink receiver! That said, I would only have one of the multi-color options as a novelty firearm, preferring instead black only for defensive purposes. Windage adjustable rear sight for a little tunability.  The DB9 is quite small for a 9MM and due to its size — and the laws of physics — it is a bit punchy. Somebody who’s recoil sensitive may want to consider a larger-framed pistol. The DB9 is a single-action-only pistol and does have a rather long trigger reset: a full squeeze for the shot, then a full extension for the trigger to reset for the next shot. There’s no slide lock on the DB9 — after the last shot, you’ll only get the click of the hammer falling. Still, at $350, it’s a rather good pistol.

Ruger LC9: $380

Has a thumb safety of the same function as the 1911 platform — but much more stout. Fits my hand quite nicely. Windage-adjustable three-dot sights. Large, tactile loaded-chamber indicator on the top of the slide. Single-stack magazine in a 7+1 configuration. In my experience, the Ruger firearms are quite well-made. Two things I don’t like about the LC9: magazine disconnect, so it cannot fire without a magazine seated; and its disassembly pin, which is rather small and in my opinion could be very easily lost. Keep your disassembly and cleaning area clean, well-lit, and organized with this little guy.

Glock G26: $500

What can I say? It’s a Glock. It’s in 9MM. The difference here is that this one is a compact so it has a shorter grip and a shorter barrel. The G26 is delivered with a 10-round magazine with options for 12, 15, 17, 19, and 33-round varieties. Glocks are indeed sturdy and reliable. They’re also relatively inexpensive as far as handguns go. My primary quibble with Glocks is their laughably-named “safe-action trigger”, which is a mechanical safety on the trigger itself, which in my opinion, really defeats the purpose of “safety”; on all guns, keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re on your target and ready to shoot. Otherwise, they’re definitely well-made and reliable. You’ll also have no trouble finding a purpose-made holster for your new pistol.

S&W M&P Compact: $500

This one is on the borderline price range. While the S&W website has it listed at $719, the real-world price is closer to $500. We’ll go with the latter. The M&P Compact is available with a standard 12-round magazine and with some aftermarket upgrade options available. No mechanical safeties on the M&P Compact, but it does have one of those curious trigger-safeties. Near as I can tell, the purpose is to prevent you from squeezing the trigger unless you’re squeezing the trigger. A great many competitive shooters prefer the M&P line — and if it’s good enough for competition I think that’s a testament to its suitability for the task.

The Results

Okay, so what’s the perfect 9MM carry pistol?
I have no idea.
Of course, this isn’t an actual review nor is this necessarily a list of what you should get. These are just a tiny selection of some pistols in the compact 9MM category that may provide you with a starting point while you’re out window-shopping at your local dealer.
Now, if I were to rank these in my order of preference, most to least, I’d probably order them thus:
  • G26
  • P-11
  • M&P Compact
  • PF-9
  • LC9
  • DB-9
Well, that is damned odd. After all of this and how long I’ve been bad-mouthing Glocks, it looks like I’ve come to the conclusion that I should add one to the safe in the future. Never thought I’d see the day.
Watch your front sight.