Amidst the chaos of the last few months, gun sales — particularly of handguns — have jumped up considerably. There are several reasons for this, including fears of social unrest and concerns about potential new firearms restrictions. Not surprisingly, many of these sales are to existing gun owners, adding to their collections. However, an increasing number of these buyers are hunters who’ve long owned rifles and shotguns but now want a pistol or revolver for the purpose of carrying.

Most interesting are the men and women who have never owned any firearms at all. The majority of those in this group are also choosing handguns rather than rifles or shotguns. Gun dealers I speak with tell me that self-defense is the most common reason. And the numbers in states like Pennsylvania would support that.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, alone, permit applications have spiked to nearly 71,000. That’s up from the average of 11,500 recorded each year between 2017 and 2020. Philadelphia also saw an increase in homicide victims, with a record total of 562 in 2021. According to former Philadelphia police officer John Sullivan, the upward trend that started with COVID-19 gun-buying continues as people take extraordinary steps to protect themselves.

“The perception of crime in Philadelphia from the people that I’ve talked to is greatly increased,” Sullivan said.[1]

Try Before You Buy

OK, you’ve decided to buy a gun. With so many manufacturers offering a bewildering array of types, models and calibers, choosing the right handgun can be a chore, even for an experienced shooter.

Be warned: A well-meaning friend or relative may eagerly try to persuade you that his or her favorite handgun is the one for you. You can be polite, but do your own research before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.

Ideally, find a firearms professional, such as an instructor or a savvy gun store owner. Make sure it’s someone you can trust, as some salespeople at gun stores are more interested in upselling you to a much more expensive gun than you need than helping you find the best gun for you.

If possible, you should live-fire the same type of gun you intend to purchase. Some ranges rent guns just for this purpose. This can be quite enlightening. For example, everyone’s tolerance for recoil is different. The same gun that is pleasant to shoot in 9mm may be way too snappy for you in .40 S&W.

I often bring a broad selection of pistols and revolvers to my classes for new gun shoppers to see what guns fit their hand sizes. This also allows them to shoot the options for real on the range.

Train and Practice With Your Handgun

We at the USCCA understand that defensive shooting is different from target or recreational shooting. So even if you are experienced with firearms and especially if your goal is to carry a gun in public, training is a must. Just be sure you find a man or woman who specializes in concealed carry and/or defensive firearms training.

Remember, we all need recurrent training. No matter how good we think we are, we can still benefit from a second set of eyes. Practice is what you do between training sessions. Drawing from concealment and shooting rapidly and accurately are perishable skills. They require regular and consistent repetitions to maintain your abilities at a high level.

Practice like your life depends on it. After all, one day it might.

[1] Audrey Conklin, “Philadelphia firearm license applications see nearly 600% increase: report,” FoxNews.com, March 23, 2022, https://www.foxnews.com/us/philadelphia-firearm-license-applications-increase.