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Old June 4, 2011, 10:18 PM   #1
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Defense Handgun...which way to go...

I already have a small frame revolver I use as my carry, and a large frame revolver I use for home defense. I'm wondering though, is there a preference between revolvers and semi-auto pistols for home/self defense?

Off the top of my head here are my thoughts:

Revolvers - Limited shots, lengthy reload, pretty consistent firing

Pistols - Lots of shots, Easy reload (with pre-filled clips), concerns about jam ups and mechanical failures

Just looking for opinions on which way to go with defense guns. Suggestions?
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Old June 4, 2011, 10:21 PM   #2
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I guess for concealed carry self defense I could also add in the 1 or 2 shot derringers, though i don't know about them simply because the lack of available shots.
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Old June 4, 2011, 10:31 PM   #3
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Here are my thoughts.

Revolver - simple operation, not sensitive about ammo, available in more powerful cartridges (not really a factor for home defense but a big plus in the woods)

Auto - higher capacity, less recoil

For me, I prefer a revolver. If I am woken up in the middle of the night, all I have to do is aim/point and squeeze the trigger. I also don't have to buy a bunch of high dollar ammo. All I need is a few rounds to verify POI. If I can't stop someone with 6 rounds of 357 magnum then I should have practiced more and learned how to shoot. I also happen to have 6 rounds of 45 Colt right there as well.

Under different circumstances, especially where gang activity is an issue, the higher capacity of a semi would be a big advantage.
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Old June 4, 2011, 10:35 PM   #4
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With most good brand name semis-auto like Sig, HK, and Glock (many others), reliability is not an issue.
It is true, that some type or design/make may require more breaking in than others but once break in period is done reliability as compared to revolvers is no longer an issue.
It is also true that revolvers are more forgiving of ammo quality. Keep in mind that with SD/HD firearms - people must use quality ammo. Ammo does not have to be super high quality or super expensive but has to be proven to be reliable with the selected pistol.

I keep a DA/SA semi-auto or my 1911 SA for HD. At the range, my revolvers tend to be shot more than my semis but this is primarily because I reload 38s.

Last edited by pilpens; June 4, 2011 at 10:41 PM.
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Old June 4, 2011, 10:47 PM   #5
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I'm wondering though, is there a preference between revolvers and semi-auto pistols for home/self defense?
For me, the 1911 is about the perfect defensive handgun.

Since all of my children are now adults, I'm thinking about making my home defense gun my Remington 870 12GA with a magazine extender (my social shotgun as they called it at Gunsite) so it holds 9 rounds of 00 buckshot. Shot for shot, it is much more of a stopper than any of my defensive handguns.
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Old June 4, 2011, 11:02 PM   #6
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home defense handgun

A number of good points have already been made. I believe the best choice is the type of handgun with which you are most comfortable, and can shoot most accurately. Reliability is probably not a big issue, although it is true that the SA pistol will theoretically have slightly more potential for a malfunction than a revolver. While some may be more comfortable with a high capacity magazine than with 6 (or 7) rounds, I'm not sure that is really important. As you can see in police shooting data, the no. of shots fired by police in a police/perp encounter is rarely greater than 6.

Over a 13 1/2 yr period the average no. of officer shots fired was 2.86, and the average total no. of shots fired per incident was 3.82

Likewise, the Metro-Dade Police Department Statistical Abstract of Shooting Incidents, 1988-1994
Average no. of shots fired by police from revolvers was 2.5
Average no. shots fired by police w. SA pistol was 3.2
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Old June 4, 2011, 11:10 PM   #7
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The laws of physics sort of dictate how small a firearm can be before it's too small to deploy. In some cases the smallest 9mm autos are nearly the same size as Derringers:
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Old June 4, 2011, 11:15 PM   #8
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If I thought I needed a high cap, like in the ghetto an auto, if I didn't and I don't, I carry a revolver for SD an HD.
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Old June 4, 2011, 11:53 PM   #9
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any good auto is so reliable that it's almost a non-issue when choosing one platform over another. I have an assortment of both but I generally go with revolvers for more powerful cartridges like .357 mag and .44 mag when I'm up in the woods and need some oomph. I go for autos when I'm concerned about trouble from smaller critters. I guess it depends on what I think I might have to protect myself from and the situation I think I might find myself in. autos are preferable for their higher capacity and faster reloads NTM very few revolvers allow you to mount a light on the gun. also with an auto there are good choices in the $300-400 range if you're on a budget where a good revolver that cheap will have to be found on the used market.

we can debate auto vs revolver until the end of time but in the end it will always come back to the gun that you feel the most confident with and shoot the best
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Old June 5, 2011, 02:02 AM   #10
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High Cap 9mm Semi Auto for home defense (even though I believe a shotgun is the best for home defense) and a snub nose .38 for CC personal defense. Just my preference.
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Old June 5, 2011, 02:11 AM   #11
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I'm a sucker for the high capacity autos. My PX4 gives me 15 shots (two and a half revolvers) of very potent 180-grain .40 Federal HST
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Old June 5, 2011, 04:03 AM   #12
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I swap between my glock and my revolvers. Glock has never failed me and has faster shots and reloads, but a revolver is typically less likely to fail in any way. I have seen a revolver fail, but the person was actually lucky that it did.
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Old June 5, 2011, 04:19 AM   #13
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I say go with what you will carry the most. The gun I carry the most is my S&W 642. I have pocket holster for it and it just slides into my front pocket if I need to run the store or just step outside for a while. It's not my first choice but I do carry it more than any other gun.
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Old June 5, 2011, 05:24 AM   #14
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Yes, I have a preference.

A good semi-auto is not supposed to fail as long as the shooter is consistent and always uses the same trusted ammo. All points except reliability are in favour for an auto: less trigger pull means higher accuracy fire, less recoil means more repeated hits and higher capacity and faster reloads mean longer autonomy. I consider a small frame 38 special revolver ideal as a backup handgun though.

with pre-filled clips
you just made me shiver, auto-pistols use magazines.
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Old June 5, 2011, 05:30 AM   #15
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Really, it is up to you. Lots of good points made already and it really comes down to what you are comfortable with and what you shoot the best.

If you prefer revolvers, don't get hung up over reload times. I've read some place that must SD shootings average 5 shots fired.

If you want a semi auto, do your research and buy one with a good repuation and then make sure its reliable.

Not matter which route you go, find some good SD ammo that works in your gun and practice, practice, practice.

And, as pointed out, they are mags or magazines, they aren't clips.
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Old June 5, 2011, 06:35 AM   #16
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Ford vs Chevy, take your pick. Simple as that. Software > hardware, so if you are more confident in your abilities with a wheel gun, carry the wheel gun. If its an auto, use an auto. Confidence is pretty darned important when you are fighting for your life.

less trigger pull means higher accuracy fire
Not necessarily. Assuming adequate hand strength, I've personally found weight and length of pull to not be an issue, assuming smooth operation, a clean break and minimal over travel.

When I first fired my NIB Springfield 1911, a platform known for it's light, short trigger pull, at first I didn't know whey my groups resembled shotgun patterns. Then I noted the trigger was actually pretty awful. Very gritty and wobbly with a rough, inconsistent release point. I had the trigger cleaned up and tuned, and my groups shrank dramatically (still not as small as a medium or large frame revolver with a clean trigger though ).
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Old June 5, 2011, 07:12 AM   #17
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I think that it comes down to personal preference. I prefer and feel comfortable with a revolver. The lack of capacity doesn't really worry me as a civilian. However, if a high capacity semi makes you feel comfortable then go for it.

Just make sure your good with what you got.
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Old June 5, 2011, 07:56 AM   #18
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I carry a 2" 357 revolver with 5 shots as my CCW, and when I carry my back up gun it is a 38 derringer with two shots.
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Old June 5, 2011, 08:15 AM   #19
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I should have made myself more clear, I meant in a SD situation, where you wouldn't pull the trigger slowly but have to fire quickly. If I shoot a DA pistol for target shooting, I don't find the hard pull to get me off my target, but that's because I pull it slowly to adjust my aim if necessary. In my experience, pulling a DA trigger fast will always generate some sort of wobble (at least more then even a squirky 5 lbs SA trigger).

Maybe you experienced revolver shooters have less issues with a long heavy pull. But physically, pulling a 14 lbs trigger a long way requires more muscle movement then pulling a 3 lbs trigger half an inch.
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Old June 5, 2011, 09:05 AM   #20
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A handgun for every problem...

I have different handguns for different purposes, ranging from NAA PUG .22 magnum to a Kimber Pro CDP II .45 ACP. From smallest to largest:

NAA Pug .22 Mag-5 shot ultra small revolver for situation where carrying anything else is impossible or not practical.

Ruger LCP .380 ACP-Everyday pocket carry. I load it with Hornady Critical Defense loads. I forget its in my pocket sometimes. I love and really trust this gun.

Ruger LCR .38 SPL +P-Coat pocket revolver & truck gun. Revolvers rather than auto guns are essential for such situations.

Walther PPS 9mm-IWB carry, my #1 gun in jeans weather. Its light and incredibly accurate.

Kimber Pro CDP II .45 ACP-Reserved for home protection, and IWB when I "really" feel I need to carry a big gun.

Taurus 740 Slim .40 S&W-I don't use it for defense. Its my "cheap, shoot it until it breaks & then throw it away" range gun. It kicks like a mule, the sights are horrible, the barrel is not tight in the slide, it disassembles differently every time, overall difficult to shoot; so its a great training weapon. Amazingly though, it eats all I feed it, and has never had a failure.
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Old June 5, 2011, 10:05 AM   #21
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Shotgun is much better for HD IMO. If you must use handgun then I suggest a large semi-auto like S&W M&P or Glock with pic rail for a light, so you dont have to tie up a hand holding a flashlight. But Shotgun is by far the best HD choice. As far as choice I carry both semi's and revolvers. My semi's have proven themselves through practice to be relieable. I wouldnt have a gun that I didnt have full confidence in.

Last edited by coop2564; June 5, 2011 at 10:17 AM.
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Old June 5, 2011, 10:25 AM   #22
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To me it's not as much how reliable is the gun--as many have stated, most name brand autos are pretty good these days--as it is "how reliable are you?" I don't even (necessarily) mean how technically proficient, though that's certainly important, but given a bump in the night even range-and SD class-seasoned shooters can go fumble, with adrenaline rushing, low light, etc. I think I'm proficient with my auto, but is it in battery, what's the mode, if it has a safety is it engaged, etc etc. A good DA revolver simply doesn't have these issues, as has been stated. SO, my first go-to is a Smith .357 loaded with warm +P.38s, my SECOND is the .40 auto just if needed beyond the revolver--and that (maybe) includes first attempt at speedloader--if needed. If I fumble that (in a hypothetical HD exercise) the NEXT step is reach for the auto. Actual ideal first go-to--given time--is the 16 pump in the corner.
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Old June 5, 2011, 01:12 PM   #23
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Revolver vs. Semi-Automatic is one of the oldest and most hotly debated topics in the world of handguns. Really, there is not cookie-cutter right or wrong answer as the best choice depends on the individual and his or her unique circumstances. Both types have distinct advantages:

Advantages of a Semi-Automatic: greater capacity, faster and easier reloading (assuming availability of pre-loaded magazines), better recoil-to-power ratio, less expensive to manufacture than a revolver of comparable quality, cheaper and easier to repair or rebuild.

Advantages of a Double Action Revolver: Less sensitive to ammunition type, misfires more easily remedied, less likely to malfunction when fired at contact distance, less likely to malfunction when fired from inside or under a garment, better power-to-size/weight ratio, simpler manual of arms, elimination of magazine-related malfunctions, less prone to malfunction due to spring fatigue, generally more accurate with major calibers (fixed barrel vs. tilting barrel), greater adaptability to hand shapes and sizes (greater availability of aftermarket grip shapes and sizes), easier to verify loaded/unloaded status, faster and easier to reload with loose cartridges, not sensitive to a weak or improper grip, easier to retrieve spent shell casings (mainly an issue for handloaders).

Only you can determine which platform best meets your needs. After careful examination of my own circumstances, I have chosen a revolver. My reasons are as follows:

I live in a relatively low-crime area where gangs and multiple-attacker situations are extremely rare. There is, however, a growing meth problem in my area so an attacker who is under the influence of a mind-altering substance is not at all out of the realm of possibility. I am a fairly large individual (6'4" and roughly 300lbs) and I've come to the conclusion that since people are more reluctant to attack someone bigger than they are, the most likely person to attack me is going to be someone who is as big or bigger than I am making for a rather large individual. Because of this, the extra power and penetration that is available from a revolver is advantageous to me as I need a gun that will penetrate deeply and readily break bone.

I also note that when a violent crime does take place in my area, it typically happens over very short distances and goes down very quickly. This makes the lack of sensitivity to a contact shot an advantage for me.

Finally, a revolver offers me a wider array of cartridges in the same basic platform. All of the revolvers that I rely on for self-defense are Smith & Wessons. This means that whether I'm using my .38 Spl pocket gun or my .44 Magnum bedside/woods gun, the manual of arms is identical for all of them. I can choose from four different guns from my collection and still only have to master one basic set of operations.
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Old June 5, 2011, 02:26 PM   #24
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Forget the Derringer, They are as big and heavy as a pocket pistol and only have two shots that usually don't shoot to the same point of aim. Between revolvers and semi autos there is no right answer, it is what works best for you. I own and shoot both and would trust my life to a good quality revolver or auto. It is the person not the tool that counts, learn to shoot which ever one you chose, get training and practice,you will be good to go.
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Old June 5, 2011, 02:49 PM   #25
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I feel revolvers are better for home defense.

Do you have a wife or live-in girlfriend? Is she strong enough to rack the slide on an auto? How strong are her wrists? Strong enough that she won't cause an auto to jam?

I have zero confidence that my wife could defend herself with her Hi-Power. It is all she can do to rack the slide, she never practices with it, and when she does, she gets stovepipe jams from limp wristing sometimes.

With a revolver, most of those problems go away. Then, it is just down to her aim.

She we decided the best bet for her is 22LR in her Buck Mark with good ammo.

I keep an SP-101 with laser grip, and I feel I have the best chance with that. I'm a heavy sleeper, and it is likely that I will be groggy and may not have proper technique for an auto. Groggy and having to remember about safeties, arm straight, wrist locked, etc. is just not realistic for me.

Failure drill is easy with a revolver; just squeeze the trigger again. If I'm injured in the right arm and am down on the floor in a bad position, I can still shoot it lefty and again don't have to worry about my wrist.

I also don't think it is likely that I'll need more than 5 rounds. As a cop here once said: "I'll run out of time before I run out of ammo."
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