People start learning to shoot handguns for many reasons. These days, it seems to be mostly for defensive reasons. Folks are afraid and that is sad, but a good gun, coupled with developed skill in its use, can be mighty comforting. Defensive handgunning separates into two general categories—concealed carry and home or camp defense. Without digressing into a lengthy discussion of various characteristics, the obvious rule is that a concealed-carry gun should be small enough to be habitually carried, while the home-defense gun can be anything up to a veritable howitzer. I advise the use of DA/SA revolvers for beginning shooters in either category.
Some shooters buy a first handgun as they start with one of the many forms of competition. For that, you just have to pick out something that fits the parameters of the particular sport. But what about the many shooters who simply want something simple and easy for teaching beginners and shooting informal matches? For shooters in this category, there’s nothing quite like a Thompson/Center Contender. Warren Center’s innovative design has been with us for a half century and has been used for a great many things. A lot of new shooters started with this simple, safe, accurate and versatile break open single shot.
The macho guys may have a problem with a single shot. Hitting is hitting and the tin can won’t care if the bullet that sends it flying came from a 12-inch Contender barrel or a 2-inch S&W snubby. If the Contender makes learning the basic skill easier, what difference does it make? As in so many sports, learn the basic skill and go from there. I freely concede that the Contender is not the best choice for a fighting gun, but it is a great gun with which to get started. Since the gun has an interchangeable barrel and caliber feature, it can also change character in a minute or two. From a .22 Rimfire to a high-velocity varminter to a whitetail hunter to a heavy slugger, the Contender (and spare barrels) can do it all. It is a hell of a gun, as well as one that had an enormous impact on both the handgun optics and handloading businesses.