Your First Handgun – Revolver or Semi Auto?

So you’ve decided that a handgun is the way that you want to go for home defense, but are unsure of which direction to go in. You may have revolver or semi autoheard good things about semi-automatic pistols, and they sure are popular these days, in a variety of calibers. You might have also heard some positive things about the trusty old revolver, and though they are not as popular with the masses these days, there are those who swear by them.

Of course you might have heard some disparaging remarks about both styles of handgun as well. Today we are going to attempt to compare revolvers or semi autos, specifically in regards to home defense, and look at some of the pros and cons of each. Hopefully by the time we are done, you will have a better idea of which option is right for you.

The Revolver

Depending on who you ask, a revolver might be described as the perfect handgun, the end all-be all of reliability, or as antiquated trash best left rusting in a museum someplace.  When looked at in a home defense setting, the revolver does have some things going for it that a semi-automatic pistol does not, but then again the same can be said of the reverse.

The first thing that the revolver has going for it is reliability, that statement is not an exaggeration; a revolver is flat out a more reliable weapon than a semi-automatic pistol, if only because it has fewer moving parts that can screw up. They don’t have a tendency to jam, and a miss fire or dud round is taken care of by simply pulling the trigger again, rotating the cylinder and bringing a fresh bullet under the hammer. There are those that claim that revolvers are more accurate as well, and this might have a small kernel of truth to it, in that revolvers, especially those of large caliber, tend to have a longer barrel than a semi-automatic pistol, and barrel length helps make a weapon more accurate. On the other hand, revolvers tend to have a heavier trigger pull than semi-autos, particularly double action revolvers are used in a double action manner, and thus there is a tendency for the action of pulling the trigger itself to pull the weapons aim off slightly, so in the end the question of accuracy is really a wash.

The Semi-Automatic Pistol

What the semi-automatic pistol lacks in reliability, and do not get me wrong, I am not saying that they are always going to screw up, just that they are inherently more unreliable than a revolver because of their construction, they make up for in other ways. First they tend to be easier to shoot, with a lighter trigger pull. Second they frequently hold more rounds in their magazine than a revolver’s six in the cylinder. Not only do they have more ammunition per magazine, but semi-autos are easier to reload quickly in a stressful situation, assuming that you have extra preloaded magazines around. Semi-automatic pistols are by definition semi-automatic, meaning that they can fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, you’d think that this would be an advantage, but most modern revolvers are ‘double action,’ which amounts to the same thing.

On the other hand, if the semi-automatic pistol does happen to malfunction, it can often be difficult to fix quickly, especially if the fixer is under stress, such as during a home defense. Although unlikely to come up in any given situation, if it does happen it can be disastrous for the chances of a successful home defense.  The semi-auto’s safety feature can sometimes cause problems for the inexperienced in a stressful situation as well.

With that said, a semi-automatic pistol can be an excellent weapon in defense of the home, especially in the hands of one experienced with its care and use. The old reliable revolver is also an excellent choice for home defense in most situations. Which one you choose really comes down to personal choice as to which weapons limitations you are more comfortable living with, or you could get one of each.


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