The following article was written by someone on another list, that i think bears repeating Where do I begin? Every person who is known in their circles as "the gun guy" gets this question with some amount of frequency. Maybe it's a boss that knows you shoot, or your wife's cousin that comes for dinner and sees a magazine on the coffee table, or even an acquaintance at church or a neighbor. Very few people looking to buy their first firearm in adulthood are looking to do so for the pursuit of sport but instead have a perceived need for a defensive tool. Increased threat of natural disaster, family changes making a man feel responsible for others, global economic problems making them fear increased crime, a neighbor or friend getting robbed.... the impetus is varied but the intended use, self and family defense, is the same. I'm writing this in an attempt to be able to give people a link that gives them as much information as possible while intelligently explaining the reasoning for my advice. I could very easily just say "go buy an xyz" and very often I do so conversationally. The written word allows me to expound, and the web format allows me to include informative links for more information. My hope is that this is a soup-to-nuts answer to the above question and that you find the information contained herein to be useful. Please read it all the way through, as what I consider to be the most important advice is at the end. What do I need to know first? You first need to know the same thing that you need to know last, before, during, after, and any time that firearms are involved, and that is the four safety rules. Those Rules, as laid down by Col. Jeff Cooper <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Cooper_%28Marine%29> , are: 1. All guns are always loaded! 2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy! 3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target! 4. Always be sure of your target! The National Rifle Association has distilled this down to three, but I prefer Cooper's four 1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. 2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. 3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. The genius of Cooper's rules is that you have to violate at least two in order to have a real problem. For example, if your finger finds it's way onto the trigger and presses it when you're not ready, as long as you have the gun pointed in a safe direction and are sure of your "target", the result is not catastrophic. Commit these rules to memory. Do not violate them. Ever. Every stupid thing and "cleaning accident" you read about in the news paper could be avoided by strict adherence to these rules. What bad advice might I get? There are many varied stock answers that many people will repeat, often without evaluating those cliches and assessing whether or not they are still (or were ever) true. Let's first examine some of those cliches so that we can see if they apply. "Everyone should start with a .22 caliber rifle." When discussing the subject of starting out children in the shooting sports I agree completely. However when talking about adults starting out looking for a defensive tool the idea of starting with a .22 caliber anything is a complete waste of time. Reduced cost of ammo, reduced recoil, reduced initial cost of the firearm, etc. are all used to justify this advice, and are all applicable when talking about children with a lifetime of shooting ahead of them. Grownups, on the other hand, are on a compressed time-frame, typically have more funds available, and are bigger and stronger and thus able to deal with the increased recoil of a centerfire firearm. Starting them on a .22 rifle and then expecting them to progress could take months or years and is unnecessary and counter-productive. Adults are better served by getting right to the point and beginning their training with the gun they intend to use for the task at hand. "Get yourself a .357 revolver." There are lots of alleged reasons for this advice. From relatively inexpensive startup costs, to the ability to shoot .38 for reduced recoil and cost in practice ammo, to perceived reliability, to ease of loading... while all may have some merit they ignore the major problem with this advice, and that is that the double-action revolver is one of the most difficult firearms to shoot fast and accurately. Couple that with the added advice to get a "snub-nose" or other short-barreled version and it only gets worse with a shorter sight radius and smaller and harder to use sights as well as increased recoil in the smaller and lighter frame. And anyone that has taken a revolver-specific class, or participated in any revolver-heavy event can tell you that these guns are not more reliable than a quality semi-automatic over the course of the same number of rounds. And while loading a cylinder may be physically easier than loading a magazine, magazines can be pre-loaded making reloading when it matters a much easier task. Unfortunately this advice gets especially directed towards women where the negatives (increased recoil, long heavy trigger pull) make the gun very difficult for women to shoot. "Shotguns are best for home defense." This statement in and of itself is debatable, but even if true it misses many other points. First of which is that for any non-military user the handgun is a far more versatile tool than any long gun. Once purchased for home defense and with proper training, licensing (where needed), and the addition of a decent holster the handgun can be used for personal protection outside the home as well. Even without a concealed carry permit many states allow for handguns to be kept in vehicles provided they are properly secured. Shotguns are also often proclaimed as needing little to no training because they are just "point and shoot". Not only is this pure nonsense that doesn't stand up to logic or reason, the pump-action shotgun can be very difficult to learn to manipulate under stress, the heavy recoil of virtually any shotgun load worth using for defense makes it difficult to control, and the large size of the firearm makes it difficult to use in the close quarters found inside a home without training. "Go shoot a bunch of guns and pick the one that fits your hand best." This one still gets a lot of play, even from folks that should know better. I certainly sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn't it? Everyone wants to be comfortable, don't they? Well I say that's hogwash. First and foremost you may or may not know the first thing about firearms and chances are good that you don't. If you don't know anything, how do you know if you're holding the gun correctly? And if you're not holding it correctly, how do you know if it will be comfortable once you have it right? Combine that with the fact that any quality firearm is going to have had thousands, if not millions, of dollars spent making sure it fits the widest variety of hands possible. While one gun may give you a more natural point of aim that isn't the only criteria for choosing a gun. Many people will tell you that it is, and that you have to buy the gun that you can shoot the best. Well the gun I shoot the best is an AR-pattern carbine, but that's kind of a difficult gun to carry concealed into the local Home Depot with me. While comfort and "fit" are important they can largely be changed with proper training and are not the only criteria with which you should be concerned. What should I get then? My suggestion is to start with a pistol, preferably a large-capacity, polymer (plastic) frame, 9mm pistol. My recommendation is for the Glock 19 <http://www.glock.com/english/glock19.htm> , Smith & Wesson M&P9 <http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10001&storeId=10001&productId=45932&langId=-1&isFirearm=Y> , or the Springfield Armory XD Service <http://www.springfield-armory.com/xd.php?version=72> . Any of these pistols will serve the buyer well whether for a home defense, concealed carry, car gun, or sport shooting end use. While many first-time gun buyers initially think that they are only interested in "having a gun in the house", many will go on to obtain their concealed carry permit, take part in various shooting sports, or wish to keep the pistol in their vehicle either on a daily basis or just for long trips. Buying "smart" the first time ensures that you're not re-buying later on and, just like cars, guns do depreciate the minute they leave the showroom floor. Some people may object to the choice of 9mm, either preferring a larger caliber for so called "stopping power", or a smaller caliber for a smaller gun or for "recoil control". While there may be some application for this logic, starting out with a 9mm gives you a good caliber for a variety of uses, and hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been killed by 9mm bullets and a similar number of competitions have been won with the same caliber. The ammunition is also readily available, relatively inexpensive, and has a broad range of choices from lower-recoil target ammunition to a broad range of defensive or other special-purpose loads. How do I decide which one to get? Go shoot them and pick the one that fits your hand best! and then factor in things like cost, number of rounds carried, weight of the gun, overall thickness of the gun, how it fits your wife's hand, what your friends own (it's easier to get help if you have a buddy with the same make and/or model of gun), which one looks the best, etc. Everyone is different, and everyone's criteria is different. Only you can decide which pistol meets your needs. However there is one fundamental difference in those three pistols I listed, and that comes down to how they address the safety. The Glock series of pistols has no external safety besides the one between your ears. Many new shooters will have a psychological problem with this. It may be helpful to remember that revolvers were the choice of law-enforcement departments for over 100 years and they didn't have external thumb safeties. It may also help to put your mind at ease to know that the trigger on a Glock is somewhat of a double-trigger affair whereby it cannot be pulled unless both pieces of the trigger are pulled at once. If not, there's certainly nothing wrong with that, and the Glock may simply not be for you. Of course, like all modern quality firearms (including the other two suggestions) it has internal safeties built into the gun to keep it from going off if dropped. The Smith & Wesson M&P series of pistols also defaults as a no-external-safety pistol. However, they do offer a model that has this feature. This safety is frame-mounted and is located right where the right thumb of your shooting hand (provided you are right handed) will naturally rest when firing. The safety is also removable from the gun by a gunsmith or armorer if you later decide that you do not want or need this functionality. The M&P also has it's own version of the double trigger, as well as the drop safeties. The Springfield Armory XD line also has a double trigger and internal drop safeties, as well as it's own variation of an external safety. The XD has a "button" (for lack of a better term) at the rear of the grip right where the web of your firing hand makes contact with the grip of the gun. The gun will not fire unless this button is completely pressed in to the frame. An incomplete, or inconsistent grip will prevent the button from being pressed and the trigger can be pulled over and over again but the gun will not fire.