“The best gun for you is the one that will fit your hand.”

I have heard this sentence (or a version of it) more times than I can count. But what does it actually mean? You want a gun that feels good in your hand, a gun that seems to nestle perfectly into the natural curves and contours of your fingers and palm. But there is so much more to it than just this catchy blanket statement that so many of us gun owners have inserted into our everyday gun conversations.

Let me liken it to the similar conversations we often have about shoe shopping. Just like with choosing a firearm, you do not want someone else to choose your shoes, do you? They may know your size, your style and even your typical go-to selections, but they cannot effectively try shoes for you. You have to try them. You have to put them on. But there’s more to it than that. We don’t just wear shoes as accessories to decorate or cover our feet. We wear shoes to walk, run, race and play. We wear shoes for comfort or for function. Here’s the key: We use them. That involves more than just slipping shoes onto the feet. They’re not just for looks. We actually have to go about our everyday lives with them on. If the heel is too high, we may stumble. If the shoe is too loose, we may slip. If we have a certain pattern to our walk, we may blister.

Well, guns are not for looks either. They are very important tools that we can carry for protection. We need to be able to use them and not just wear them. That involves more than just slipping a gun into the hand. So, beyond thinking about whether a gun fits you, be sure you consider all the things!

For instance, size matters. A gun that is too big or too small will be uncomfortable and difficult for you to hold and operate properly. Consider ergonomics and what is comfortable for you. This involves proper grip for one-handed manipulation and for both hands in a two-handed grip. Is it single- or double-stack? Can you get a proper grip and control the firearm effectively? Is your grip consistent and firm, or do you have to adjust your grip every time you shoot? Also, consider the frame and barrel of the gun. Find something that sits comfortably in your hand, that is not too heavy and that provides for a natural point of aim when shooting.

Here is another consideration that should be pretty obvious but may be overlooked or neglected: Do you like the trigger? Can you reach the trigger effectively and efficiently? We know that proper trigger manipulation can help with successful hits on target. But if you struggle to reach the trigger or if you have too much of your finger curled into the trigger guard (or if it’s just too heavy or too light), you’re at a real disadvantage. It may sound a bit like Goldilocks, but you are looking for something that is just right.

There are other parts of the firearm that need your attention as well. On a semi-automatic, can you reach the magazine release to easily load and unload the gun? If the firearm is not set up to be ambidextrous, there may be special considerations for lefties. And what about the slide stop? Can you reach it and work it properly? (There are possible special considerations for lefties on this too.) While we’re on this topic, can you rack the slide? Do you want to rack a slide? And if there is a safety, are you comfortable with it? Can you work the safety properly and consistently?

Can you see and use the sights? Granted, in a self-defense situation, you will probably not have the chance (or the presence of mind) to use the sights, but if you can’t use them in a controlled training setup, then you should consider alternatives. Use a color, size, style and height that works best for you. How do you know what works? Try them. Try lots of them. Do some research, and make a selection. If the sights can be changed, keep that in mind. You could always make a different selection later on.

Beyond the various working parts on the gun, can you manage the recoil when you shoot it? What caliber is it? How much does it weigh? Remember that small, lightweight, short-barreled guns, even those of modest caliber, often have unpleasant recoil. So, while a gun might feel great in your hands when you’re standing at the store, it might feel terrible when you’re shooting at the range. Practice with and test out any gun you are interested in owning. You don’t want to find out after the fact that you’re not comfortable shooting it.

You should also ask yourself if you can conceal and carry your firearm effectively. I have several guns I shoot well and that I love to shoot, but they are not easy for me to conceal on my body. So, I’ve had to designate some for competition and some for everyday carry.

That’s where the ultimate consideration comes into play: Where can you compromise? No matter what firearm you choose, you will likely have to make a compromise somewhere — whether cost, size, caliber, capacity, concealability, model, make or even feel. If you remember to think about more than just the fit of a gun, you are likely to end up with a firearm that you enjoy shooting and that will provide you many years of service.