The Tactical-Practical Handgun, a buyer’s guide for Lebanon

October 7, 2018Uncategorized

Many of us love shooting the latest incarnation of our favorite blaster, with the super-tuned trigger, fiber optics or competition-ready red dot sights, and compensator. Yet, few are those who actually conceal carry that same gun and default back to a pocket pistol or something more comfortable.

Clint Smith said “Handguns should be comforting, not comfortable” and while any firearms instructor worth his salt agrees with that, those who carry for a living or protection would definitely prefer a handgun that is both comforting as well as comfortable.

Let us first define the terms Tactical and Practical, before delving deeper into what makes a handgun both practical as well as tactical:

 

Tac·ti·cal: (adjective) relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to achieve a specific end.

Prac·ti·cal: (adjective) concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

 

Hence, our new adjective Tactical-Practical requires something or some set of behaviors that are both carefully planned to achieve a specific objective while being rooted in reality. Let us now consider what handgun falls under that specific definition. The following requirements must be met:

  • Reliable and tested in real world environments
  • Adequate in terms of caliber and capacity for situations a civilian is most likely to encounter (from criminal assaults to active shooters and terrorist attacks)
  • Concealable with ease in Appendix or side carry
  • Affordable both in initial cost, magazine and spare parts, as well as ammunition expenditure both for carry and practice

 

One of the best articles on handgun selection was written by Master Sergeant Paul Howe (Delta Force, retired). I strongly recommend you read it here before proceeding: http://www.combatshootingandtactics.com/published/training_bullets/handgun_selection_Jul_2015_TngBullets.pdf

 

In summary, a tactical practical handgun has to be medium to small sized, reliable, not less than .38 Special in caliber, affordable, and with available magazines, parts, and ammo.

Sadly, in Lebanon, handgun and ammo prices are through the roof. On average, expect to pay 1$-2.5$ per round of ball ammo. Fancy hollow-points are rare and if found, even pricier. Also, one cannot purchase guns and ammo except through the black market, where scammers abound unless one is armed with knowledge and wits.

Let us examine a few contenders, using reliability as the most important factor (Prices and availability as of October 2018):

  • Baikal Viking 446C: a reliable 9mm Double Action / Single Action handgun that is sadly fairly large but light and relatively inexpensive (around 2000$ new-in-box). Magazines cost 150$ apiece. No spare parts available
  • Browning High Power: A Single Action workhorse that is reliable, relatively inexpensive (2000$ for a well-preserved gun), has adequate capacity but is large and heavy. Magazines cost 50$ apiece. Spare parts are plentiful and affordable
  • Glock 19 Gen 3: A superb striker-fired 9mm pistol, compact enough for concealed carry but sadly costing around 3000$ for a used model. Magazines cost 100$ apiece. Spare parts available at somewhat affordable prices
  • Glock 26 Gen 4: The best striker-fired 9mm option in terms of size and concealability. Sadly, its new-in-box 4300$ price tag makes it unaffordable to most people. Magazines cost 80$ apiece. Spare parts available and somewhat affordable
  • Makarov PM: The Double Action / Single Action Glock-like reliable relic of the Cold War, chambered in 9×18 Makarov, offering decent capacity, stopping power, size, and price (1000$ for a decent condition version). Magazines cost 100$ apiece and are available. Spare parts are seldom available and are expensive
  • Smith and Wesson Model 36 J-Frame: A classic small-sized Double Action / Single Action revolver giving you 5 rounds of .38 Special, costing around 1500$ for a specimen in great shape. Spare parts are out there at decent prices.

 

Unless you are a fairly tall individual, let us eliminate the Baikal Viking and the Browning High Power from our list, as those are too large for adequate conceal carry. Let us also get rid of the J-frame because of its limited ammo capacity. This leaves us with the Glock Brothers and Comrade Makarov.

 

Glock 19 Gen 3:

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive 9mm ammunition (Around 1.2$/ round)
  • Capacity of 15+1 (Backup magazine can be 15, 15+2, 17, 17+2, or 33 rounds)
  • Striker-fired
  • Comes with 2 magazines of 15 rounds capacity each
  • Easily fixed
  • Easy to shoot
  • Accepts accessories
  • Spares and magazines easily acquired in Lebanon

Cons

  • Relatively large
  • Doesn’t fit all hands
  • Expensive handgun
  • Slightly Bulky

 

Glock 26 Gen 4:

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive 9mm ammunition (Around 1.2$/ round)
  • Capacity of 10+1 (Backup magazine can be 10, 10+2, 15, 15+2, 17, 17+2, or 33 rounds)
  • Striker-fired
  • Comes with 2 magazines
  • Easily fixed
  • Easy to shoot
  • Spares and magazines easily acquired in Lebanon

Cons

  • Extremely expensive handgun in Lebanon
  • Rare
  • Leaves pinky hanging (Mitigated with grip extensions)
  • Slightly Bulky

 

Makarov PM:

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive handgun
  • Capacity of 8+1 (Backup magazines are thin)
  • DA/SA Mechanism for extra safety
  • Easily fixed
  • Slim line pistol
  • Easy to shoot
  • Spares and magazines can be found in Lebanon

Cons

  • Expensive 9×18 Makarov ammunition (Around 2$/ round)
  • Comes with only one magazine
  • Capacity of 8+1
  • Difficult to reload quickly with regular grip (Mitigated with FAB Defense grip or using the keyring or paracord trick)

 

Let us compile the advantages and disadvantages of each, taking into account the costs of three total loaded magazines, and 250 rounds of backup ammo:

  • The Glock 19 would cost: 3000+(250×1.2)+100+55=3455$
  • The Glock 26 would cost: 4300+(250×1.2)+80+37=4717$
  • The Makarov PM would cost: 1000+(250×2)+100+100+50=1750$

 

If we factor in 1200 rounds of practice ammo per year, total costs become as follows for year 1:

  • Glock 19 would cost 3455+1440=4895$
  • Glock 26 would cost 4717+1440=6157$
  • Makarov PM would cost 1750+2400=4150$

 

Suppose another 1200 per annum for Year 2, costs per gun would go up to 6355$ for the G19, 7597$ for the G26, and 6550$ for the Makarov. As you can see, the outrageous Mak ammo prices will make the old Soviet workhorse too expensive to shoot a lot starting the second year.

So, if you are going to be shooting more than 1000 rounds in a year, it would be more economical to pay more initially on the Glock 19. If, however, you are willing to dry fire a lot or use Paul Howe’s excellent 5 and 1 drill to conserve ammo, then the Makarov can be a logical choice.

A middle ground would entail purchasing a Glock 19 for Every Day Carry when conceal carry licenses are active in Lebanon, shifting back to the Makarov when those are suspended and personal protection trumps abiding by a law that disarms good citizens. In case you are arrested at a police or army barrage and the weapon is found, you would be on losing around 1300$ with the Mak rather than 3200$ with the G19.

In the end, it all depends on the circumstances and the context as guns are TOOLS NOT TOYS.

Make an enlightened and educated decision and remember that a weapon is part of a weapon system that includes mags, ammo, parts, as well as wear and tear over time.

Stay a predator to Evil.