I remember waking up Christmas morning as a child with the most diabolical smile on my face. There was no greater feeling than opening those presents to see what new toy I could play with. As a firearm enthusiast, I get that same feeling every time a new gun comes in, although that feeling is a lot more complex than it appears.
Any informed gun owner knows that purchasing a firearm can be a daunting task. Walking into a gun shop is like walking into the family run Mexican restaurant that has 584 options on the menu. Standing in front of the board, you realize that while everything looks similar it also looks good. Additionally, after you purchase your burrito, similar to a firearm, if you do not treat it correctly it could cause serious damage to you and others.
Without getting to far into the weeds, I am going to discuss the differences between the two primary designs with handguns – Semi-Automatic and Revolvers. While there are thousands of firearms in as many different models as you can think of, all handguns generally boil down to these two categories. Before making a purchasing decision, ensure that you know what you are looking for and have done sufficient research. Otherwise, you might end up with a $700 paperweight.
There is a common myth that revolvers are immensely more reliable than semi-automatic firearms. The reason that I say this is a myth is simply because modern firearms produced by reputable manufactures have come a long ways over the past century. After hundreds of thousands of rounds down range, I can safely say that if a semi-automatic firearm is maintained properly and taken care of, that these semi-automatic pistols are comparable to revolvers.
This factor is vitally important when it comes to self-defense situations. Lethal encounters statistically occur extremely quickly. When this happens, the human body goes into survival mode. Tunnel vision sets in. Cognitive abilities are focused in on what is in front of you. The only thing that doesn’t change is your firearm. Purchasing and maintaining a reliable firearm will ensure that should you find yourself in this situation mechanical issues are one less thing you have to worry about.
No person has ever said “I should have brought more ammo to that gun fight.” Hopefully you never find yourself in a situation where that thought would cross your mind, but bad things happen to good people every day. Generally speaking, semi-automatic’s provide the user with more ammunition and quicker reloading capabilities.
Standard revolvers have room for usually 5-6 rounds. Semi-automatic pistols can have anywhere from 6-19 rounds per magazine (I know that there are high capacity magazines out there, but let’s use this number for defensive carry scenarios.) Personally, I carry a full sized semi-automatic 9mm that holds 17+1 rounds. Tack on the two spare magazines that I carry and at any moment I have 52 rounds on my person. Hopefully I never find myself in a situation where I need all 52 rounds, but I would rather have it than not.
Revolvers on the other hand are reloaded either manually or with the assistance of a speed loader. Either way, this activity is more time and space sensitive verses a semi-automatic pistol.
The question is does round capacity matter to you? For self-defense, I always promote a higher round count and faster reload speeds, but at the end of the day this is a personal preference for you.
As I sift through my high school physics curriculum, I can confidently say that recoil is a pretty simple concept. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you pull the trigger and the powder is ignited, that force is pushing equally against the bullet and against the gun. Thus, on the surface, every caliber should have the exact same recoil whether it is discharged from a semi-automatic or a revolver.
Unfortunately it is not that simple. On a revolver, once the hammer drops, there are no further moving parts or springs that absorb the recoil. All of that energy pushing back on the firearm is transferred directly into your body. Conversely, a semi-automatic pistol will absorb more of that energy when it is transferred through the slide and spring as it is traveling backwards. This absorption equates to less “noticed recoil.” Noticed recoil is simply how one perceives the recoil as opposed to the actual amount of energy that is being contained.
Simply put, semi-automatic pistols have a better reduction in recoil because the physical firearm absorbs some of that energy and puts it to good use (cycling the weapon.)
Choosing your firearm
In the end, choosing a firearm is like choosing a car. Every manufacturer is going to tell you that their product is the best, most affordable option. Others are set in their ways (try going to Texas and convincing a Chevy truck guy to drive a Ford.) And others are simply uninformed (Ford Pinto.) Is there an overall right answer? Absolutely not. Are there overall wrong answers? Absolutely. Take your time, do some research, put some rounds down range, and make a determination based on your personal preferences.