Believe it or not, some folks just don’t like guns. Let me be more specific: there exist pro-gun, pro-2nd Amendment people who don’t like guns. Say what? Talk about oxymoron, right? You’d better believe it, though, these folks are out there, and they might be your relatives, friends and in fact, may even be you!
What these folks all have in common is that they are roundly pro-gun, but they suffer from some hang-up on getting and using a gun themselves. Maybe it is fear, a bad experience, or some other reason that has them anxious and fretful, but the fact remains that they are just plain having a hard time getting behind the gun.
This is obviously a problem because firearms are ounce for ounce one of the very best defensive weapons available to your average citizen. The fear and anxiety these people feel definitely hampers or even halts their progress from unarmed victim-in-waiting to trained and capable defender.
Over my lengthy career in the gun sector, I have helped many people that fit this description to a T, and if you are one of them, or know someone who is you have come to the right article.
Today, I’ll be expounding on the trouble pro-gun but gun-shy people suffer and what guns are best to help get them locked, loaded and shooting.
The Trials of the Gun-Shy
I have used before the term of “pro-gun gun-hater” to describe the people I referred to who have some fear or avoidance of firearms for their personal use, but have no problem with guns ethically, socially or otherwise. A better term may simply be gun-shy, as that sums up the dilemma perfectly; some people are just hesitant pick up a gun in the first place.
But even so, I am writing this article because of one of the most common problems for the chronically gun-shy (and to them, a huge problem): they have decided or been forced to get a gun.
Boy, do they feel up against it now! Whatever the reason, circumstances have conspired to see them go against their personal desires on owning a gun. It is worth emphasizing that these people are not your garden-variety “gun person.”
They are not even enthusiastic amateurs. They are not even rank neophytes (yet), as prior to The Push, learning to use much less choose a gun to rely on for self-defense was never even on their radar. Yet I talk to people almost every day who arrive at exactly that realization.
In my opinion, the “why” of their snag is less important than the “what” I am going to do about it, but it is worth trying to understand their specific pain to better help them get the best possible tools.
I regret to report that a fair few of them have made what I call the “close call conversion,” meaning they survived an attack or were nearly attacked, and this has led to the trial-by-fire revision of previously held beliefs about guns in civilian hands. Fear and the determination to never be victimized again have done more to turn them to guns than could a hundred conversations with gun-owning associates and family members.
Some of them simply suffer from some kind of confidence failure. They think that guns are too big a responsibility or that they are simply not qualified and cannot become so. A few of our gun-shy peers in this group suffer from a sort of lost cause effect.
Other people they know have been shooting and training far longer than they have, and they feel they are too far behind to attain proficiency and the respect of those peers; they fear failure and being viewed as incompetent. Some people are just plainly afraid of guns: the blast, flash and operation of a gun overwhelms their nerves, and this verge-of-panic has turned them off.
Some of our friends may have had a bad experience with a gun, something like an accident or a close-call, and even for staunchly pro-2A people, the snake-bite effect is very real, and this prevents them from getting back on the horse.
Of course, we must not forget that a big portion of shooters simply suffer from a lack of strength or coordination, either from infirmity or injury, and properly handling and operating a gun is painful or excruciatingly difficult for them.
And then of course we all have That One Friend, or a hapless family member, who is into guns, likes guns, wants a gun, but is an inveterate slug that will not practice or train and damn near nothing will motivate them to attain proficiency with their firearm.
Since the true adherent honors the path with deeds, I lump these sods in with our other troubled would-be gun owners as they are best served safest by certain guns over others.
Getting the Right Tools in the Hands of the Hesitant
If you are reading this article from a perspective of long experience, considerable practice and plenty of knowhow, hear me! Listen up!
Sure, you can have a chuckle thinking back to your days as a rookie, or your friends who cannot quite seem to bend a gun to their will and not the other way around. Fine. But you should care about everything that I am saying on the topic.
As a seasoned and savvy shooter, you will doubtless have friends, family, coworkers, associates, perhaps even people you trust and count on as part of your inner circle who fit the description of the gun-shy people I am trying to help with this article.
You may have plenty of great suggestions for beginning shooters, but a recommendation made for an enthusiastic and excited newbie who will practice every week and a terrified single mother with a bad wrist who needs something to fend off a raging ex-husband is entirely different.
Please don’t trot out your platitudes and “No True Shooter” proclamations; it is falling on deaf ears and will probably just add up to even more stress on an already fraying set of nerves. That stuff does not help here, only when trying to correct and cajole our own. These folks have their own path to tread in their way. I cannot walk it for them and neither can you.
All that matters is helping these people get into a gun that they can rely on, use well and use with confidence. The End. We must help them on their terms and worry about bringing them into alignment with best practices down the road, if ever.
This can be tricky if you are the “shooter” or “gun guy” in your circle. Your expertise will be sought out since you are an accessible authority and, most of the time, human nature has shown us that very few can resist expounding on a their vast store of knowledge and experience when the opportunity arises.
But if the only help you can offer the gun-shy is Brand X or Brand Y with no ”why” that will work with their needs, you are not helping your charge.
We must be willing to drop our dogma no matter how aligned with best practices and the current state of the art it is. Listen. Understand. Address their problem, first and foremost. Your wondrous store of wisdom is wasted on those who would rather be anywhere else than standing there, considering a gun.
If you are one of the people I have been referring to in this article and have made it this far, good, and thank you. I hope your spirits are buoyed so far by the knowledge that there are gun people out in the world who can understand and help you work through your unique reservations and challenges. And you can and will work through them! Let’s keep going.
The Sufferings of the Gun Shy
No matter how they came to their current predicament, most gun-shy and soon to be new shooters can have their hang-up broadly categorized into one of several “ailments” that can be treated with the prescription of a gun suited to them.
Presented in no particular order.
Significant Fear of the Gun – These folks suffer from serious fear of the gun itself, and become visibly anxious, even edging closer to panic, when they must handle or be around them.
While fear for the new shooter gives way to respect with experience, people suffering with serious anxiety will often have trouble following directions and thinking clearly when it comes time to use the gun. Motor skills may even be affected.
The best cure is time, patience and gradually increasing exposure, but any gun chosen must be very safe while also being as mild to shoot as possible; recoil and report are Public Enemies No. 1 here.
Physical Disability – Injury or infirmity can make operation of a gun, any gun, challenging or even impossible for some people. Lacking the strength and coordination to load, unload, fire and manipulate controls can prove frustrating or even pose a safety risk.
Learning the best techniques for using a gun will always help, but the type and characteristics of the gun also make a big difference; semi-autos are often a bad choice, as retraction of a slide and loading of magazines are both procedures that are uniformly difficult for people in this category.
Lack of Experience – New shooters in this category simply have no time using a gun. Whatever the case, they have no frame of reference and no idea what to expect from their firearm. For these greenest of the green, emphasis must be placed on getting them into a gun that will not overwhelm them while still supporting them with robust safety features.
Among our gun-shy new arrivals, these people are able to plausibly make use of the widest variety of guns to good effect.
Lazy or Unmotivated – Often the most frustrating and difficult to cure. Whether they are unwilling or unable makes little practical difference on the outcome; no matter what they stand to gain from practice, even dry fire training, they are unwilling or not interested to put in serious and consistent effort.
Note that some people who are flatly unwilling to learn anything beyond the bare necessities may not be served well by a gun at all: they could be a greater danger to themselves than a potential attacker.
It is essential that their guns be as safe and simple to use as possible. Not always the easiest objectives to balance. Rule out entirely complicated designs and actions with extra steps.
Also rule out any gun that is too easy to shoot unintentionally. No gun is proof against incompetence, but some guns are more forgiving of this clumsy or negligent handling than others and so we should choose accordingly.
There are guns out there suitable for everyone on this list.
The 7 Best Guns for People Who Don’t Like Firearms
All of the guns in the following section are handguns. That is for a reason. It has been my experience that gun-shy shooters will almost never even consider choosing anything larger than a handgun for self-defense.
Long guns, to them, are the province of hunters and “real” shooters, not them. The majority will treat their gun as they would any tool kept behind glass in case of emergency; they’ll largely forget about it until they need it at which point they will go screaming for it and do their best.
This is another nuance that affects my recommendations: guns that fit into the “fire-extinguisher” role, i.e. often forgotten until needed, must be especially resilient to neglect and lack of periodic maintenance.
All of the following guns are well-suited to the needs of the nervous new shooter. Viewed by someone who is a locked-on, hard-charging, fire-breathing avatar of destruction with a gun, they will probably come across a little oddly. Remember what I said earlier: their problems and their solutions are not the same as motivated, enthusiastic shooters.
So while they are all entirely appropriate for civilian self-defense, broadly speaking, you can still consider most of them sort of special purpose guns; not the first choice IF you are a switched-on civilian shooter or a gun-toting professional. But all are durable, reliable and entirely capable of doling out lethal wounds to someone who would harm you.
#7 – Smith & Wesson Model 10, .38 Special or any other similar medium frame DA revolver
Ideal for all kinds of wary, inexperienced and uncommitted shooters, the classic .38 revolver is peerless in this category. A quality .38, of which the Model 10 is one of the most prolific handguns ever made, is akin to the kindly, gentle old mare that new horse-riders start on: she is not going to go too fast, buck you, or surprise you, but she will get you where you need to go and get the job done.
Revolvers’ unique combination of a dead-simple manual of arms and forgiving operation makes them a great choice for anyone who is unwilling or unable to put in the time to learn how to run a semi-auto well. I am not saying that the semi is necessarily hard, only harder than a revolver.
Revolvers also have an edge in this situation by being a little more resistant to neglect and lack of care (lubrication) compared to semi-autos. They are more fragile compared to their semi-auto kin, but considering the intended use and likely firing schedule of most newly-minted and formerly gun-shy shooters, this is far less of a concern.
DA revolvers are painless to load and unload for the uninitiated, and very simple to shoot- simply pull the trigger all the way. No safeties, no decockers, no magazines. The whole thing is self-contained.
Now, they are not easy to shoot well compared to almost any other semi-auto, but I would rather train a new shooter on managing a DA pull and keeping their finger off the trigger as the prime directives versus all the other eccentricities of a semi when I know that they will likely not be doing any more practice after I cut them loose.
.38 Special is not the mildest cartridge on the block, but mated to a modestly sized gun it is nothing that will punish even nervous shooters, and you always have the option of going down to very mild wadcutter loads if needed.
#6 – Ruger LCR, .22 LR
Ideal for shooters who physically struggle to operate larger guns of any kind or who are too scared of more powerful pistols, this LCR variant is small, light, concealable and has many desirable features for our purposes.
Now, you will rarely see any expert recommend a snubbie revolver for new shooters, ever. Snubbies are guns for experts, not beginners, and you pay for that small form factor with a heavy trigger, sharp recoil and limited capacity. Hard to shoot and limited ammo does not inspire confidence, eh?
The LCR .22 ducks all of those problems. The line as a whole is very light thanks to its half-polymer and alloy construction, but the diminutive chambering means recoil is a non-factor. It also means this little wheelgun can fit an 8-shot cylinder in the same space as a larger one. The result is a gun with little recoil, minimal blast and adequate capacity that is easy to shoot well thanks to its nice trigger.
For those who lack the strength or coordination to manage effectively a larger gun, even a large revolver, the LCR .22 is a likely a perfect fit. .22 LR is not a famously effective cartridge, but it is certainly dangerous, and quite lethal with good ammo and good hits. It is chosen here for its mild report and recoil, even in a handgun as small and light as this.
#5 – SIG Sauer P250, 9mm Para.
For new shooters who desire a semi-auto and are not entirely committed to improving their skills, the P250 is a uniquely good recommendation.
This recently discontinued gun hit the market way back in 2007, and was much touted for its groundbreaking modular design that allowed users to swap sizes, calibers and even frame dimensions as will so long as they had the components.
This nifty design was not enough to make the gun a success, despite some high-profile (but short lived) government agency adoptions. It just did not seem to stand out or offer any major advantage over competing polymer framed handguns. It was also conspicuous for being a double-action-only hammer-fired pistol in the middle of some pretty ferocious competition among striker-fired wonder guns.
The P250 is sort of remembered as a pit stop on the road to the P320, a gun that shares much design DNA with P250 but is striker-fired and was adopted not long ago as the U.S. Army’s M17 handgun.
But all the trivia notwithstanding, this ho-hum also-ran hides a few awesome benefits for certain shooters; it is very easy to load thanks to an easy-to-run slide, and pretty safe thanks to a long, but smooth, DAO trigger.
The P250 lacks a manual safety, but the long trigger pull provides plenty of resistance and more importantly feedback to an errant trigger finger that “something ‘bout to go boom.”
This can help prevent negligent discharges while still keeping the gun ready for instant use, a lot like a traditional DA revolver. Even better, the P250 is in all other regards a pretty decent pistol, and certainly one capable of being shot well by a newbie.
The trigger is smooth with a crisp, distinct break, and brings to the table all the other perks of a semi-auto, namely plenty of ammo on board and less recoil than a comparable revolver. The package is rounded out by good sights and customization capability to tailor the size of the slide and grip to the shooter.
As I mentioned above, this pistol was discontinued in 2018, but there are still plenty of pistols, magazines and other components out there if you want one, and SIG will still support you at the factory. A great pistol for people who struggle to run a semi-auto!
#4 – Smith & Wesson M&P380 Shield EZ, .380 ACP
Smith & Wesson’s M&P series of striker-fired handguns are among the best of the breed on the market today, and have been for some time thanks to their excellent reliability and handling qualities.
Despite these characteristics, they are not much help to many shooters that are the subject of our article today since, for them, they suffer from many of the same flaws that most semis do: being hard to operate and very punitive on clumsy handling.
At least, they were, as the introduction of the little brother of the M&P family has changed all that. The M&P380 features some significant mechanical changes to enhance ease of use while retaining the ergonomics and control features that helped make the M&P line so successful in the first place.
The most obvious change is the addition of a large grip safety lever that also, when depressed, drastically reduces the amount of force needed to run the slide. This is assisted by a light recoil spring and small protrusions (colloquially called ears) at the rear of the slide to help keep the hand in place, a feature cribbed from H&K’s VP9.
The M&P380 keeps the easy in EZ with more assist features: the magazines feature pegs on either side of the mag body that protrude from the follower.
Much like common .22 pistol magazines, these allow someone loading the magazines to brace them against a flat surface and pull the follower down with their opposite hand before simply dropping a round into the stack, a much easier proposition than fighting the follower alone with the new round.
All of this is rounded out by an optional manual safety for shooters that want it, a good trigger, and light-for-class recoil for a pistol chambered in .380ACP; not a cartridge know for blistering recoil, but in typical guns of this category that utilize a blowback action it can be sharp. The M&P380 EZ avoids this by making use of conventional Browning locking, and that helps tame the felt recoil somewhat.
This is a very safe and easy to use pistol, and another great contender among semi-autos.
#5 – Ruger 22/45 Lite Mark IV, .22 LR
While most shooters regard .22 handguns as little more than toys, training tools, and small game getters, the modern offerings from several manufacturers will have you rethinking that position post haste.
The best among the modern breed of .22 semi-autos is Ruger’s 22/45 line, which have for some time featured the control layout and handling characteristics of larger service pistols in a reliable, durable rimfire package.
Their Lite variants are excellent for our troubled shooters because they are, well, light, as well as being easy to operate and a cinch to shoot very, very well. Even better, the latest guns in this lineup all feature the same options that you’d expect on more powerful combat handguns, things like optics mounts, under barrel rails and more.
If you can overlook Ruger’s racy aesthetic machining and wild color options, you will find .22 pistols that already shoot like gangbusters can be taken even farther with the addition of lights, lasers and optics if you so choose, just like a bigger pistol.
All of the 22/45’s keep with Ruger’s classic design: instead of slide that moves back and forth containing a barrel, the 22/45s all have an upper receiver, like a rifle, that contains the barrel within.
The barrel is serviced by a reciprocating bolt that is only interacted with externally by way of two wings at the rear of the gun. Like a slingshot, they are pulled to the rear and released to cycle the gun.
This and the other controls on the gun are easily reached and actuated with little practice and none of them take much force, making it a great choice for those with less strength.
Despite all of its obvious perks, you’d be foolish to discount these slick pistols as anything less than shooting machines! With the addition of a light and miniature optic, you can get all the capability that modern handguns have to offer and you can shoot them as fast as you can run the trigger with hair splitting accuracy.
Don’t let the wild looks fool you: these guns are excellent contenders for defensive pistols, and highly reliable with good ammo.
#6 – Beretta Px4 Storm Type C
Beretta’s Px4 series handguns are some of the greatest DA/SA handguns that seemingly no one wants. That is a shame because they are accurate, reliable guns with an uncommon rotary locking system that lends them good shooting characteristics.
Nevermind that long story for now, because DA/SA handguns are rarely good choices for the people on our mind, being one of the more complicated pistol actions to use.
Curiously, Beretta is keeping up their tradition of advertising these guns as poorly as possible by keeping the unique and awesome C-type Px4 a closely guarded secret.
The C-type Px4 is unique among all the other variants for being single-action only, but one without a safety. How does it accomplish this? When charged, the hammer is held in a half-cock notch and is only fully retracted to the rear by the press of the trigger.
This does two things for the shooter: first, it makes for a consistent trigger press, one that is not too heavy, and not too light, and of intermediate travel. It helps to think of it like a nice, light revolver trigger.
Second, the consistent action trigger means the safety and decocker are eliminated completely. Mag in, charge the gun, done. All safeties are passive, and the hammer is bobbed for snag-free convenience. The edge of the hammer has a red “cocked” indicator to allow the user to verify the status of the gun in an instant.
So the sum of all this is a pistol that is highly reliable, a good shooter, simple to use and easy to operate thanks to its low-force springs and tall, sculpted slide being easy to grip. A sleeper gun, but one well worth seeking out if a “proper” semi-auto is desired.
#7 – Ruger GP100 (Model 1757), .22 LR
If there was ever a gun that came with a set of training wheels, it is this one. The GP100 is a famously tough, heavy, steel .357 Magnum that is the workhorse of the Ruger wheelgun lineup. A stomping magnum handgun is rarely a good choice for beginners, but what if were to take that beefy frame and stuff it full of .22’s..? Hm…
The result is a revolver that has hardly any recoil at all with a capacity that exceeds some semi-auto pistols- 10 shots! Cushy rubber grips and all the ease of use and reliability that recommend revolvers for the less experienced are fully intact with this fine wheelgun.
This is one handgun that offers the most to the least experienced or confident shooters. Its only real drawback is its weight; tipping the scales at nearly three pounds, this is one gun that can be highly fatiguing to hold up at arm’s length. But, for any but those with a significant lack of strength, its safety, certainty, ample capacity and ease of use more than makes up for that.
It is a lot of gun, but a pleasure to shoot and highly dependable.
Those who fear picking up a gun, or feel they cannot make use of one, need not go without them. By paying careful attention to your specific needs and requirements, you can find a gun that will help you, not hurt you.
You have my assurances there is a gun out there for you, no matter what is holding you back personally from taking the plunge. Take what you learned and the recommendations I made in this article and you’ll be closer than ever to arming yourself. Good luck and good shooting!