Thursday, March 22, 2012

Small (Shoot-A-Lot) Pocket-Pistol Shopping

Research, On-line and Off-line Handgun Shopping
I did a lot of research selecting a small handgun that I can carry all the time. Trying to reconstruct my thought process and my trip to two stores is like trying to remember what happened the day of and during a bad car wreck. So here goes:
Duel Purpose
I feel like Alton Brown - always having to have my guns and other tools be "multitaskers." My P95 had to be a house gun and a CCW. My pocket knife had to be utilitarian and tactical. And now my small handgun has to be a pocket pistol and my range-time tool. But I don't think that I am much different than a lot of other gun owners.

In some instances it makes sense. If you shoot your carry weapon at IDPA, then you are ready to go on the street (But some say IDPA is just a game that you are trying to win, so why not use the tool that lets you win - a full size gun. And others will say, "Carry the full-size gun on the street, too."). But are you going to completely deconstruct and reconfigure your 870 house gun to take it into the field?

Either way, with limited funds, and wanting to actually put some range time into the gun I plan to carry all the time (when it is impractical to conceal a "service" handgun), I set about researching and shopping for a small caliber gun.

Intended Use:  One: Deep-concealment pocket carry. Two: Inexpensive practice.

Caliber: I considered a 9mm (Kel-Tec PF9 was foremost on my mind), but the ammo costs the same as - well - 9mm. I considered a .380 (Kel-Tec P3AT, I.O. Hellcat (refined Hellcat II just introduced), Taurus PT738), but the ammo costs the same as - you guessed it - 9mm. I considered a .38 (Charter Arms Undercover), but the ammo costs a little more than 9mm. Also, those guns are a little bit larger than what I knew I could always carry, except maybe the Kel-Tec P3AT. I have real reservations about smaller calibers, but I wanted something cheap to shoot. So I looked down the food chain at the real babies, too. I considered .25 ACP for better reliability, but it costs more than .22LR and has poorer ballistics. So if I would go that small, then it would be .22LR.

The Real Contenders (Round One - The Webisphere): One: Taurus PT22. Two: Taurus PT22 Ply. Three: Charter Arms Dixie Derringer .22LR/.22MagFour: North American Arms Mini-Revolver .22LR/.22Mag. Five (kinda): Jimenez J.A. 22. Six: Cobra Derringer .22Mag, 9mm or .38 (I know the 9 or .38 goes against my criteria above, but a little practice should pay off a lot - in pain).

The was the Shopping-and-Pricing-On-line Round. I eliminated the Jimenez pretty quickly, because none of the big online retailers carry it. And I questioned its reliability, uh, because it's a really cheap gun. I really want to get a Cobra Derringer, but I just don't think I would ever go into any gunfight with just two rounds in a gun with reloading procedures that resemble field stripping. But I still see getting one of those Cobras some day.

I really settled on the Taurus PT22 and PT22 Poly with the Dixie Derringer being a strong contender. And I know that the Dixie Derringer also has a reloading procedure that resembles field stripping.

I priced the guns, and was ready to either buy from a store or have them receive what I want from an online retailer.

The Real Contenders (Round Two - Brick and Mortar):
I picked a day to go out and shop, but there was a catch. My kids had a play date, but it wouldn't work that my two year old went to it. So I scooped up my little sleeping toddler and headed first to the pawn shop.

The pawn shop had a much smaller assortment than I expected and no new firearms, but I got to handle a couple firearms. I quickly almost eliminated the mini revolvers, because on cocking a North American Arms .22LR/.22Mag, my middle finger kept catching on the trigger. Also, the thing just seemed so fragile, and the hammer would not rest in the slots machined between the chambers. The Dixie Derringer would still be a contender, if I could find one at the other gun store.

I also checked out a Taurus .380 ACP revolver. Nice, light, but not in my price range or ammo selection. They offered to order a Dixie Derringer, once I explained what it was, but the price was higher than I wanted. Also, I learned that they accepted guns from Bud's Gun Shop for a $50 fee ($30 more than their fee listed on Gallery of Guns), and they said that the other gun store did not accept guns from Bud's Gun Shop.

At the gun store, they had the PT22 and PT22 Ply. I also saw the PT738 .380 ACP "Slim"  pistol, and it was cheaper than the PT22 Poly, but I had read many more poor reviews of it than the PT22 Ply. I handled the PT22 and PT22 Poly, and the PT22 Ply won hands down. Some complain that the grip is thick, but it fit my small hand perfectly. I was a little put off by it's delicate looking internal parts, but the gun was impressive overall.

Right before I finished looking, my daughter woke up. But she was amazingly quiet. "An armed society is a polite ..."

I asked the salesperson if it was okay if I pulled the trigger. The salesperson ignorantly said OK, and I ignorantly went ahead and did it (Don't pull the trigger on a rimfire without a dummy round in the chamber). At the last second I picked the stainless slide for an extra $10. 

I also picked up a box of CCI Mini Mags.

Moral of the Story: If I would have saved all the time that I spent researching, comparing, and pricing and just worked more hours on my second job, then I could have afforded to buy a second gun.  

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