What Handgun Should I Carry?

It seems a simple question, and one we hear quite often, several times a day, in fact. And the question is a trap for those trying to answer it. There is infinite opportunity to answer incorrectly, and almost no chance of success without a lot more information. Before I can even come close to steering you towards an appropriate handgun, I have to ask, “Why do you carry a handgun?”
I always enjoy the responses to that little question, “Why do you carry a handgun?” It’s a very small question, with opportunity for a very large answer, and very, very few can offer an accurate answer to this little question. My friend, Tom Givens, has a great answer. His reply is always, “So I can shoot people!” Tom is an honest man with a pragmatic view of the world. You can’t expect an answer this blunt from anyone else. Most answers include something about “self-protection.” Fine, now we have a place to start. Protection from what? Are there bears in your trash dumpster at night? Brown bears of black bears? Are there packs of feral dogs running in your area? How about mountain lions? Is there a mountain lion stalking your livestock on the back 40? While this may seem silly to urban dwellers, I have worked with people who have all of these reasons to seek a new handgun.
The majority of people I deal with are urban dwellers. Most of the population of the US today are urban dwellers, so that’s not a surprise. Urban dwellers, generally, need protection from urban dwellers with evil intent, so Tom’s answer is the correct one. So, we carry handguns so that we can shoot people. Now we’re narrowing the scope dramatically. We’ve just removed the Desert Eagles and X frame S&W products from our search criteria. They’re pretty silly big and heavy for our purposes.
To what purpose will we be required to shoot people? Self-protection is not an answer. That’s where we started this logic train, and we won’t be circling back there. To answer this, I’m going with my friend Brian Mitchell’s words, “To control my immediate surroundings.” I like this answer! We feel a need to control our immediate surroundings to ensure our own safety. So what do we consider our immediate surroundings? Arm’s reach? An elevator interior? My office, or the whole building? I think the right answer to this, for urban dwellers, should be 2 car lengths.
Consistently, parking lots are the most dangerous places we visit. The muggings, car-jackings, kidnappings, rapes, etc. occur on parking lots. Even though each of these crimes is an arm’s reach affair, I want the ability to deal with threats to 2 car lengths away. My attacker may announce his intent from that distance, or his team of criminals may hang back at that distance. I simply think it prudent to have capability to engage them effectively.
Two car lengths, 15 paces, I suggest to be our standard for our performance with a handgun. For most urban settings, I think this is a solid minimum accuracy requirement. So all the way back to “what handgun should I carry?” Something that allows YOU to make solid hits on a thoracic cavity at 15 paces.
I don’t know how well you see. I don’t know how well you shoot. I don’t have a clue how well you handle stress. And I can guarantee you that that cigarette lighter sized pistol with tiny sights and a horrible trigger won’t allow you to do this. You need a pistol with useable sights, and a controllable trigger. You need something that allows you to make good hits at 15 paces in a timely manner. If you carry less handgun than allows you to do this, it is merely a symbol of a pistol, a talisman. All it will do for you in the real world is offer a false sense of security.