Smith & Wesson Model 3953

I recently heard some advice from a group of fitness experts that went something like this: Some types of exercise are better than others, but if you want to stay in shape, just find an activity you enjoy. If you don’t like the kind of exercise you’re doing, you probably won’t stick with it and any exercise is better than no exercise.

There’s a lesson there that I think carries over into the world of defensive firearms. Watch the video below for my thoughts, or keep reading for the full transcript.

A lot of you guys have been asking me whether I’m still carrying the Beretta PX4 Compact that I reviewed about a year ago. The truth is that between doing reviews and other research, I don’t usually carry the same gun for very long. I still think the PX4 is a great gun and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, but I have not been carrying it.

For the last few months, I’ve actually been carrying a Smith & Wesson 3953. These were discontinued several years ago along with all the rest of the old Smith & Wesson metal-framed semi-autos. Unlike most of those guns, this one is double action only instead of double action/single action. It’s a compact single stack 9mm with an 8-round magazine. This gun is almost the same size and weight as the PX4 but it holds about half as much ammo. So it would be fair to ask why I’m carrying something outdated like this when there are other options that are obviously so much better.

I could give you all kinds of little reasons why I think this gun is a better choice for me right now than a higher capacity double stack or a modern pocket-size single stack. But ultimately, the reason I’m carrying this gun is that I just really like it. It’s reliable and accurate, and I have found that I shoot it really well. It’s like a 9-shot 9mm revolver with a really nice trigger. When I’m at the range and I actually find a few minutes to spend on some real focused practice, the 3953 is the gun I want to shoot, so that’s the gun I’ve been carrying.

Some people look at their defensive firearms without any emotional attachment at all. It is just a piece of safety equipment like a fire extinguisher or a seatbelt. As long as it works, they don’t care what it is. I admire that, but I have a difficult time adopting that mentality myself. Most of us who spend any significant time developing defensive shooting skills also view shooting as a hobby. There are a lot of times when that hobby is at odds with the goal of personal protection. Most shooters would probably rather buy another gun they don’t really need than spend that money on a case of practice ammo or a good training class.

But shooting for fun and building self-defense skills don’t have to be mutually exclusive — those two things can compliment each other. In the case of your carry gun, for example, if you enjoy shooting that gun, you’re going to be a lot more motivated to practice with it. On the other hand, if you have a hard time getting excited about going to the range because black plastic is boring to you or because your carry gun is too small and it’s hard to shoot — those things are going to keep you from practicing.

I think it’s probably better to trade that gun in for something that interests you, even if it means giving up some minor perceived tactical advantage like losing a few rounds of ammo capacity or slower split times or going to a smaller caliber. Or, you know, if covering your gun with a fuschia leopard print Cerakote is going to get you excited about taking it to the range, that might be money well spent, too.

I certainly have some opinions about what kind of guns are going to be ideal for most people but I am willing to ignore a lot of that as long as it’s reliable, safe, and it helps motivate somebody to be a better shooter.

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