Defend Yourself: Choose a Revolver or a Semi-Auto?

Both semiauto handguns and revolvers are excellent choices for personal defense, and each has advantages and disadvantages.

Semiautos offer larger ammunition capacity and the ability to reload more quickly than revolvers. Their drawback is that they are more prone to malfunction. Dependent on proper ammunition power levels and properly functioning magazines, they require regular cleaning. Revolvers are less finicky. You can clean one, load it, toss it into a drawer and ten years later expect it to fire all rounds. That’s not true for semiautos—this can be an important factor in a home-defense handgun that may sit a long time without being shot.

Semiautos are available in a wide variety of sizes and designs. The .380 ACP caliber is considered to be the minimum effective power level for personal protection. Increasing power levels are found in the 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, .45 ACP, and 10mm. The larger the caliber, the greater the recoil. That’s a factor to consider.

Double-action revolvers are available in a variety of calibers; the .38 Special and .357 Magnum are very effective and available in guns ranging from 2-inch barrel “snubbies” all the way through the larger-framed models with barrels in the 3- to 6-inch-plus range.

The key to selecting your handgun should hinge on four questions: Does it fit my hand? Can I operate all the controls? Can I hit anything with it? And, if it is to be carried concealed on your person: Is it comfortable enough to carry concealed all day? The best way to answer all these questions is to try before you buy. Many gun shops with attached ranges have rental guns. Some shooting schools will provide guns. Fellow shooters at a gun club may have models you are considering and will likely let you try them if you ask politely. A personal-defense handgun is very personal. Find the one that suits you best.