Choosing a Pistol


Pistol Prowess Home What Gun Should I Buy?

Revolvers are typically cheaper than semi-automatics, require less training to handle safely, and are more reliable. Though a short or "snubnose" barrel is much more concealable, a good basic revolver choice for the beginner would be a .357 magnum revolver with a 4" barrel from Colt, Smith and Wesson, or Taurus. Choosing the .357 magnum caliber allows the user to select ammunition, from .38 special to full powered .357 magnums. The .357 magnum revolver is still the mainstay of many police departments nationwide. Because .38 special and .357 magnum are popular calibers, ammunition is relatively inexpensive.

Guns chambered for calibers less than .38 special are often smaller and easy to conceal, but they generally are underpowered for self-defense applications. Data collected by the FBI and other researchers show that even the standard .38 special only has marginal performance in actual shootings. .38 special +P ammunition is available and provides a midpoint between the standard .38 special and hot .357 Magnum calibers.

Old-style "cowboy" single-action revolvers are a poor choice because they must be thumb cocked for each shot and are very slow to reload.

Semi-automatics provide several advantages over revolvers: larger ammunition capacity, faster reloading, and a flatter profile. The major disadvantage of any semi-automatic is that it requires more training to use and own safely. Accidental discharges are more common with semi-automatics because most have lighter triggers than revolvers and have more complex loading and unloading procedures. The correct procedure to unload a semi automatic pistol is to first, DROP THE MAGAZINE and then pull the slide to the rear to eject the round in the chamber and visually inspect the chamber to make sure that it is empty. All too often novices get these steps out of order and are surprised when their 'unloaded' gun "just goes off".

Semi-automatics come in three action types: Single action only, double-action/single-action, and double action only. The double-action only semi-automatic has a heavy trigger pull for each shot, like a revolver. This design is inherently the safest for a novice shooter. Double action only guns are produced by Smith and Wesson, HK and many others. While the Glock is not technically DA-only, it falls into this category of revolver-like semi-autos. The Glock has been chosen by many police departments nationwide and has a reputation for reliability and ease of operation.

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