Train (mostly) with a big gun, even if you carry a little one

Like most “gun people”, I am often asked by newbies, “What gun should I buy?”.  Even if this person’s lifestyle or body type, or any other reason, will prohibit them from carrying a service-size pistol for self defense, I always advise them to buy one first.  Specifically, a striker-fired, polymer-framed, back strap-adjustable, consistent trigger-pull service-size pistol.  These are the easiest guns for most people to shoot and to learn on.  Someone will develop shooting skill with this type of pistol much more easily than with a smaller gun.  Then, after they have developed a sufficient level of skill, they can buy a smaller gun, one they can more easily carry, and the skill they developed with the large gun will transfer to that gun, although their performance will be more limited by it.  The reverse isn’t true.

Imagine if I wanted to learn high-performance driving.  I’d be best to learn on a modern, full-size sedan rather than on a sub-compact or some rickety third-world heap in which I may actually need those skills.  The skills I develop on the larger car will transfer, albeit diminished, to the smaller car, but I could never develop that same level of skill on the smaller unit.

This same reasoning applies to experienced shooters, too.  Yes, the traditional advice to train sufficiently on the gun you actually carry is absolutely sound.  But you can best expand your skills with a service-size handgun…and then transfer them to your smaller carry gun(s).  That’s why most of my shooting these days is done with a G19, FS M&P, or SIG P320, although I often carry a Shield or Bodyguard.  But I do make sure I get in sufficient trigger time on those, too.

Finally: I’ll hit this point often and hard: if you carry a gun for self-defense, you have to know the law. Invest the money you’d spend on shaving a tenth of a second off your splits with Andrew Branca’s book or seminars — it’ll pay far greater dividends. Visit this link to learn more, and use the discount code “streetstandards” for a 10% discount.


2 thoughts on “Train (mostly) with a big gun, even if you carry a little one

  1. Sound, practical advise. Mechanical skill development using full size handguns transfers to other smaller handguns of si liar design. I have found this true over many years of teaching. Since the vast majority of combat shootings are close quarters , a smaller carry handgun will work fine so long as the proper methods have been taught to and practiced by the user of the handgun.

    Ralph brings this common sense approach to everything he writes. It is refreshing to read material that reflects reality. Great job, Ralph👍


  2. […] For decades I’ve said that we have to train in bad weather (for all the obvious reasons), but that it’s hard to learn in bad weather.  I never wrote an article about it, and Grant Cunningham has beaten me to the punch.  Good piece – give it a read.  The logic here is similar to the logic of developing skill with a full size gun even if you carry a smaller one, as I wrote about below. […]


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