Beginner’s Guide to Owning a Firearm

This is a guest post by Rico Dominguez

A Normal Guy’s Beginner’s Guide to Owning a Firearm for Self Defense.home invasion

Just recently after a burglary in which aside from a couple computers and a TV, my beloved dog, Luna was stolen; I began to be drawn into the world of personal, home defense. Slowly I began to realize the security weaknesses of my home. And so began my journey to be prepared for if something unfortunate were to occur.

After my recent entrance into the world of firearms, I have come to some conclusions about which are best for all-around entry level home defense, considering a home and a family’s skill level.

I had never thought about owning a firearm my whole life. I was mostly a liberal, and thought in general, guns were dangerous… until the day I felt helpless and brutalized. I never knew just how easy it is to kick in any door. Within seconds burglars were inside my home. And only minutes later my life would be changed with a forever-sadness of losing my beloved, 8 year old dog, Luna. She was my girl, and we have never found out what happened to her.

My first suggestion to anyone is to get metal security doors installed on any door that is easily approached to be kicked in.

.38 Snub Nose Revolver

After much research I decided to get a .38 snub nose revolver. I chose this because my girlfriend and I had no experience with firearms, and I wanted something reliable and simple. I was not ready for a semi-automatic pistol.beginner's guide to owning a firearm

A revolver, though it only holds 5 to 6 rounds, is fool-proof.

First, a revolver can be seen, visually to be loaded or unloaded by looking at the cylinder and opening the cylinder with the push of a button. With a semi-automatic, there is no way to tell if there is a bullet in the chamber unless you drop the magazine out and then pull back the slide.

There are no safeties on a revolver to engage or disengage. In a crisis situation where one probably isn’t thinking clearly, a safety, which does not allow the weapon to fire until it is switched off, is one extra step that could prove disaster.

On a revolver there is no slide to pull back to put a bullet into ready position to be fired. (This is called racking the slide to chamber a round. And some people have trouble finding the strength or dexterity to pull the slide back adequately.)

Also a revolver is forever ready to be fired one-handed if an arm is disabled due to injury from an attacker. Racking a slide on a semi-auto requires 2 hands, or special training resembling circus contortionist techniques to learn how to rack one-handed.

A revolver has a heavy trigger pull, so that in a stressful situation, or with an inexperienced user, it would be more difficult to accidentally fire the pistol.

And lastly, in a semi-automatic, if there is a problem with the bullet not actually firing because of a bad ignition or a weak/partial bullet discharge, the slide on the semi-auto will not go back with enough force to load another bullet to be fired, potentially leaving you defenseless. With a revolver if there is a bad bullet, just pull the trigger again, the cylinder spins and fires the next bullet.

On the other hand, semi-automatics can hold up to 3 times more bullets than revolvers, if one wishes to take the time to learn how to use a semi-automatic properly. Perhaps a 2 gun combination in the home, of a simple revolver and a semi-auto for a more skilled person to use could be a way to go.

Considering all this, for my first home defense firearm, I chose the .38 caliber.

Many experts say that any firearm is better than no firearm, but that a minimum self defense caliber would probably be the .380 ACP. This is considered the smallest caliber to use.

The next step up from a .380 was the “.38 Special” round. It was a good balance between caliber and controllability for me and my girlfriend, who were both brand new to firearms.

I purchased a Smith and Wesson 637 “Airweight” snub-nose, 5 shot revolver. And I loaded it with normal .38 special hollow point bullets.

Since the time when .38 was widely used by law enforcement and was underpowered, bullet technology has come a long way. For .38 Special, it is advised to have all-lead semi-wadcutter hollow point. There are normal pressures, and there are what is called +P pressures. A +P is hotter, faster and makes more recoil. A faster bullet will transfer more energy into a target, thereby producing more punch or potential stopping power.

Many say that shot placement and follow-up shots are more important than bullet size; this is usually the 9mm crowd, of which recently I am also a member. Bigger is not necessarily better. Unless you are well trained to use a big ol’ .45, it is better to think that it is not the size of the bullet that matters, but where and how many times it is used. (I try to convince my girlfriend of this all the time)

However for controllability, a regular pressure, less recoil, non +p bullet with a good hollow point, will be better for someone who is not familiar with guns, if having to suddenly use it in self defense.


Recoil is an issue. The ultra small and light weight J-frame revolver is an amazing conceal carry firearm, however a small J-frame revolver that can be easily slipped into a pocket will kick with more recoil than a larger, heavier revolver. I found this out by experience after purchasing my small, J-frame revolver. The recoil was not insane, but after shooting 20 rounds at the range to get a feel of my firearm, I thought it was a bit more recoil than I wanted. I had never fired a gun before, and so I was not trying to be macho. I wanted a practical firearm that my whole family could use in an emergency, even if they had never fired a gun.

Nowadays, from personal experience, I would go with a larger, heavier revolver. The next step up would be something like a Ruger SP101, beginner's guide to owning a firearmwhich is heavy for its size but still small enough for someone with smaller hands to adequately control. And the weight is good, as it helps control the kick of the gun when fired.

So I started looking into a revolver that is chambered to fire a .357 Magnum bullet. The good thing about a .357 chambered revolver, is that it is also capable of firing the less powerful .38 Special. (A .357 can fire .38 Special. However, never fire the reverse, which would be a .357 out of a .38 only pistol. A .38 Special revolver is not built to withstand the higher pressures of a .357)

And so now my home defense choice for my family would be a medium sized revolver, chambered in .357 Magnum, but loaded with .38 special all-lead semi-wadcutter +p hollow points.

And with something like the Ruger SP101, later I can try .357 ammunition at the range to see how I feel about the recoil. But I’ve read that it is still a bit much out of such a small revolver.

If there is a commitment to eventually fire .357 Magnum loads, I would recommend an even heavier revolver, like the Ruger GP100 or the Smith and Wesson 686. Heavier guns handle recoil much more controllably and hold 6 bullets or even 7 bullets in the case of the S&W 686P. Furthermore, to fire a “.38 Special” out of a larger revolver such as a Ruger GP100, the recoil would be very minimal. Even a higher pressure +P .38 bullet would be very controllable. This would allow a more potent .38 self defense load with controllability.


Next is ammunition. It would be good to get regular, round-nose, full metal jacket (FMJ) ball ammunition for target practice, and also the more expensive, self defense hollow point ammunition. Use the FMJ round nose ball ammo to practice the function of firing your gun.

Note: a full metal jacket “round nose” bullet is highly likely to pass through a target and travel beyond to possibly hit innocent bystanders. Always only have hollow point bullets loaded in your firearm for self defense.


Go to your local range and become familiar with how your gun operates when it is fired with both your target-practice ammunition and your moving target drillsself defense ammunition. Self defense ammunition will probably have more kick to it, so it is advisable to always practice at least a bit with your chosen, self defense round to be familiar with how it feels and to make sure your firearm shoots it properly. Some guns are finicky about what ammo they will eat. Revolvers are pretty good about firing any brand, but it is a good idea to test-fire any ammo to be absolutely sure. Whatever ammunition you choose, get the best quality you can afford. A life is worth infinitely more than a $60 box of top notch .38 hollow points such as Speer Gold Dot 135 grain +P… or Remington 158 grain all-lead semi-wadcutter hollow point +P.

It is a good idea to practice at the shooting range as much as possible, to keep your muscle memory as fresh as can be.


Everyone in your homestead should be familiar with your firearm and know how to use it properly. Teach your Children. Children who learn what guns are, what they can do and how deadly they can be, will be infinitely safer than a child who is kept ignorant and views the gun as a mysterious object on which to be secretly experimented. Also if your child is ever in the company of other kids who discover a gun elsewhere, your child could save other’s lives, by having learned the grave consequences of a gun’s lethality. And by following the rules of gun safety.

The four rules of gun safety are:

1. All guns are always loaded. Treat every gun as if it is loaded, every time.

2. Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. Imagine there is a laser beam that shoots out of the barrel, and it will cut anything in half that it crosses over.

3. Never put your finger on the trigger, or in the trigger guard until you have your gun raised, with your sights on the target and you are ready to fire.

4. Be absolutely sure of your target, know what is between you and your target and very importantly, know what is behind your target.

Get into the habit of following these rules every time handling any firearm. We tend to get lazy from time to time. If your good habits are there, and you slip and break one or two rules a few years from now, as long as at least one of these 4 rules is kept, it can avoid a terrible mistake that could result in tragedy and death. So always follow these 4 rules, and teach everyone who might have access to firearms these rules, and to always, always follow them as well.

Keep the firearm loaded in your home and in an easy to access location. An unloaded firearm, especially a slow-to-load revolver is useless in a crisis. If there are children, get a push button combination safe, so that you may have the firearm in hand within seconds if needed, but a child or unauthorized people cannot get to it unsupervised.

Wherever you keep your gun, make sure it is never left in plain view or in a top drawer where a burglar would look first. If an intruder enters your home, and gets into your bedroom, it is important that your gun is not in view, so that if you are asleep, the intruder will not be able to grab your firearm first and use it against you.

Keep a flashlight with your gun, so that in the dark if you need to, you can identify between a threat and a family member. Some lights will mount to your revolvers depending on what model. A flashlight will also give your position away to a potential threat, so that is a factor to be aware of.

I never sleep in total darkness, and have the far wall of my bedroom backlit with a LED night light. It is enough for my eyes, once adjusted in dark, to discern a person with whom I would be unfamiliar. Each individual has to decide what is safest and works best for them.

Know the Law

It is highly advised from a legal standpoint to never alter your home defense firearm in any way, other than maybe to add a flashlight or have night sights that glow in darkness. For if you feel that you must use your firearm to defend yourself, you may end up in court. Any modification to your firearm that could paint you as a bloodthirsty gun-nut should be avoided, such as pictures of bloody skulls on your grips, a “ninja death warrior” bayonet, engraved quotes like “Come and get it” “I’m ready” “Wait for the flash,” or even a hair-trigger modification.

Know all the laws in your state about owning, transporting and using firearms. Be well versed in what the law says in your state about home defense situations. The best thing to do, is to spend the $70-$100 consultation fee to talk to a self defense lawyer who is an expert on the local laws. This will give you the confidence you need to be a responsible gun owner. Think about joining the NRA and USCCA which provided insurance in the case of a shooting incident.

Get and familiarize yourself with the book “In The Gravest Extreme” by Massad Ayoob. It is a short, easy to read, very comprehensive guide to firearms and self defense. In this book, Ayoob, a lifetime firearms expert, describes many aspects of before and after defending yourself and your loved ones; from what to do and what not to do, to legal issues, to clearing your home with intruders present if need be, etc… This is an invaluable resource that all gun owners should own and read.

The idea of a home invasion, burglary or criminal confrontation is a truly terrifying thing. Many people would rather not contemplate it and unfortunately become victims. However I feel that it is better to be prepared just in case the low probability event occurs that criminals decide they want to overpower and hurt you and your loved ones.

Let us know in the comments if there was an incident or moment that changed your mind about having a gun in the house.

Photo Credit – Aida


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