Here are some suggestions:
Ignore the one-line or one-word answers. While they may be offered with good intent, many strike me as the author simply trying to be cute.
Obviously pay no heed to the "It sucks" or "It rocks" message-type responses for the same reason as above.
Understand that most of what's written as fact is often opinion. That they can be one in the same can confuse the issue, but quite often they're two very different animals. Telltale signs that one is trying to represent opinion as fact might be phrases like "Everyone knows that…" or "Intelligent people understand that…" and so forth. They're implying that if you disagree you must not "know" or be "intelligent".
Another "favorite" are those who cannot stay on topic or actually answer the original poster's question. Here is an imaginary such post...though I'll bet most of us have seen nearly this very same thing for real.
Original Post: "I am financially strapped at the moment. I cannot afford to buy any firearms but do already own a Brand X 9mm pistol. I live in an apartment and would like to get ideas on what ammunition is effective for self-protection in this caliber."
So, here we go and there will be several posts trying to share opinions and suggestions with the original poster, but sooner or later, here it comes:
"Get a 45"?
What do we get from this? That the 9mm is utterly worthless and/or that the 45 (probably ACP) is the be-all/end-all? Perhaps, but what I see is someone either so damned stupid that they couldn't remember that the poster was "financially strapped" or so arrogant that he actually believes that his "divinely inspired" answer is actually worth something. Speaking only for myself, I do not even bother with these people.
Try and ascertain from the poster's words if he's actually shot the pistol or revolver that he is claiming is either good or bad. Some are just parroting what they've read or heard.
I don't place much faith in people who say that only one way is the "true" way to accomplish a specific goal. In other words, if a person asks about a defensive handgun for the home, I tend to disregard those answers in which only that writer's choice will do. It represents either that he knows no other approach or assumes that because that works for him, it will for you also. A certain make and size pant will fit me very well. A different make and size might be in order for you. In this instance, we see that what is best for us individually may or may not be the same. Even if the sizes are, the style from the other maker might very well not be acceptable. People are simply different and because of that we find different approaches and variations to about everything in life, including handguns.
I do not visit sites in which people "talk down" to posters for simply asking a question. It seems to me that the ones most prone to this are those discussing terminal handgun effectiveness. That does not mean that a person cannot actually pick up useful information at such places; it does mean that folks poorly treated probably will not contribute even when they have useful information.
There are certainly things to which a strong negative response is warranted, but such should not routinely be rude or insulting. For example, if a beginner asks about carrying a 1911 on "half-cock", he should be advised (strongly) not to do this as it is not safe, but he doesn't need to be called names or treated like a moron. Other aspects of handgunning that are "non-negotiable" might include the basic rules of safety or listed maximum loads for those interested in handloading.
We need to understand that a specific question can be asked from one frame of reference and will likely be answered from several others. Here's an example. "What is the best carry gun for self-protection?" Probable answers will include "Get a Glock", " a Keltec P32", to specific makes of other handguns. People having similar questions will usually read these related threads; it saves having to ask the question themselves and be open to the rudeness far too common on many sites. The person asking the question is probably in the same situation as most of us, not really too likely to be a violent crime victim, but responders might very well be folks who go in harm's way daily such as police officers. A courier of precious stones in a big city might very well have a different answer than a fellow who carries out of concern for two-legged scum but is in the wild and considers animals as well. His concerns for such things as over-penetration or "firepower" will probably be very different from the jewelry store owner in Los Angeles. We need to frame our questions in order to ferret out the more useful responses relevant to our individual circumstances.
Which caliber is best? Which action-type is superior? Who is the best gunsmith?
All of these topics will result in a myriad of answers. Try and figure out which best relates to your own level of shooting, what you're comfortable with and can afford, or what work you might want to have done on your handgun. An elderly man or woman who shoots little might be better served with a 4" .38 revolver while a Hostage Rescue Team member would need something else. A high-dollar Les Baer 1911 might be just what the doctor ordered for a fellow…except that he simply cannot afford it with 4 kids and a sick wife. You get the idea.
Understand that when asking about specific guns, accuracy, and longevity, most respondents will not have owned enough of each to make statistically valid statements concerning such questions, but you will probably see a trend from those answering the question at hand. Pay attention to that in my opinion. Understand that some terms like "accuracy" mean very different things to different people. Bullseye match competitors' accuracy requirements will be very different from the person carrying concealed on the way home from work through a gang-infested section of a big city at night.
If you have gained the information you seek concerning buying a gun, picking a load, or what custom touches to add, it's time to ask yourself what you really want and are comfortable with. It really doesn't matter if the responses are 90 to 1 in favor of a 1911 .45 for defense if you are not comfortable with all that goes with this decision, i.e., cocked-and-locked carry, a fair amount of recoil, and so forth. That a .357 magnum has more "stopping power" than a .38 Special is moot if you find the recoil of the latter more than you can presently handle? An S&W 6" barrel revolver is almost always easier to shoot accurately than the snub, but this doesn't matter if you are required to carry discreetly without benefit of a jacket. We have to look at the information we get in our individual frames of reference and limitations, be they financial, legal, or otherwise.
Do not be afraid to buck the trend in some instances. Most would agree that at the present time, the old revolver has lost ground to semiautomatics. What if you simply do not trust semiautos? Nothing in this world says you have to have one. What if you have an ailment that makes more than very modest recoil painful? Your choice for a standard pressure 9mm or .38 could be the right one. What if your present financial situation simply does not allow for an expensive quality handgun? A Makarov 9x18mm or Bersa .380 ACP might be the best realistic solution.
Get information and ask questions. Don't think that because "everyone" is going with this or that gun that you necessarily have to. Custom touches may or may not be "right" for your individual situation or needs. Likewise, chose that with which you are comfortable and safe. When this is done you will probably enjoy using it. With proper practice comes competence and with that comes peace of mind.