Semi-Auto or Revolver for Home Defense: Which is Better?

Your ability to protect your home, your family, and your property is something to take “very seriously”. If you choose to use a handgun to protect your home you may be wondering if it would be better to have a revolver on hand, or a semi-auto pistol. That’s exactly what we’ll discuss in this post: the first of a series of stories related to defense.

Please Welcome Guy Miner to Ultimate Reloader

I’m not a defense expert, but I’m friends with someone who is, and he’s offered to “team up with me” to bring you all some awesome defense related content here on Ultimate Reloader. I want to introduce you to Guy Miner of Wenatchee Washington. Guy is a former US Marine, and also Served as a Law Enforcement Officer for 20 years. During his Law Enforcement career, Guy was a SWAT team member, sniper, sniper instructor, and led a team on an anti-drug task force.

Guy now runs a company called GMM Defense– he offers all sorts of defense training including active shooter drills, handgun tactics, rifle training and much more:

Guy and I will be working on a variety of content related to firearms-related defense centered around the following core areas:

  • Mindset: Being mentally prepared, having situational awareness, and being prepared for whatever may happen. Being aware of the legal consequences related to defensive actions.
  • Gear: All about the firearms, holsters, accessories, training tools and other gear you’ll need for defense.
  • Training and Tactics: Honing your tactical skills, shooting skills, and being physically ready for any situation.

Related to firearms we’ll cover scenarios related to hanguns, rifles, and shotguns. This will include topics like concealed carry, home defense, vehicular scenarios, and a lot more! If you have ideas related to what you’d like to see here, please leave a comment.

To start, we’ll be talking “gear” this time- specifically which type of handgun would be best for you and your family for home defense.

Semi-Auto or Revolver for Home Defense

Attributes of a Good Home Defense Handgun

When shopping for a home defense handgun or deciding which of your existing handguns to use in the home, the following criteria should be considered:

  • Adequate power – Enough knock-down power to stop the threat.
  • Limited penetration – A round that won’t go through walls, windows, and other objects in the home too readily.
  • Extreme reliability – A close to 100% functioning as possible during a variety of tactical scenarios/encounters.
  • Ease of handling – Something that points well, and fits in the hand well.
  • Good capacity, easy/fast to reload – More rounds is a benefit, and the time taken to reload can matter in some cases.
  • Acceptable accuracy – The handgun and shooter must be able to work together to stay on target.

It turns out that both semi-auto pistols *and* revolvers can meet these criteria, but each type of handgun has its advantages and disadvantages.

The Semi-Automatic for Home Defense

Semi-automatic handguns are perhaps the most popular handgun choice for home defense, and it’s not hard to see why. Here are some of the advantages of a semi-automatic handgun in the home:

  • Capacity – Semi-Auto pistols typically hold more rounds compared to revolvers. Example: A Glock 17 has a magazine capacity of 17 rounds. Add one in the chamber and that gives 18 rounds total capacity without having to reload.
  • Quick Reloads – It is typically faster to reload a semi-automatic handgun compared to reloading a revolver.
  • Rails and accessory mounts – There are a LOT of great semi-auto pistols that come with rails or mounts. This makes it easy to add a light or other accessory which can free up a hand, and make it easier to manage your “defensive system”.
  • Aftermarket accessories – There are more aftermarket defensive accessory and upgrade options for semi-automatics (Example: night sights).

There are also some disadvantages of the semi-auto handgun:

  • Slide Position – If the slide is moved backwards even slightly, the gun won’t fire. This can happen in close quarters combat.
  • Ammo Pickiness – Some semi-auto pistols will have feeding issues with certain types of ammo. Lower powered ammunition (example: light bullets) can cause the slide not to short-stroke causing a feed issue.
  • User Interface and Complexity – Compared to the revolver, most semi-automatic pistols have a more complicated interface. Examples: working the slide, chambered round indicator, safeties (manual and grip), decockers. The shooter may need more training in order to confidently shoot a semi-auto pistol.

Here’s a picture of Guy’s primary home defense pistol:

The Revolver for Home Defense

Revolvers have been used for home defense for well over 100 years, and they continue to be a great option to protect your family and home. Here are some advantages for the revolver:

  • Simplicity of User Interface – A loaded double action or single/double action revolver can be fired by simply pulling the trigger. There’s no safeties to think about (except some ill conceived locking systems), no slide to rack, and you can see if it’s loaded by looking between the cylinder and frame.
  • Reliability with a Variety of Ammunition – The revolver doesn’t care much how light or powerful the loads are- ammunition will typically function every time.
  • Muzzle Proximity – A revolver will fire even when the muzzle is pushed into the target or enemy. In a close quarters fight, this could easily happen. This is also an advantage for hiking carry- consider the case where a bear is literally on top of you…

Disadvantages of the Revolver:

  • Lower Capacity – A revolver will typically hold 5 or 6 rounds of ammunition. Some revolvers can hold 8 rounds, but those are less common.
  • Slower Reloads – It takes more time to reload a revolver, even with speed loaders. Part of this is due to the awkwardness of sticky shell casings which can be slow to eject.
  • Lack of Accessory Mounts/Rails – Revolvers don’t typically have rails or accessory mounts- so if you have something like a laser or light, it can be difficult to accommodate with a revolver. There are some great options, like the Smith and Wesson TRR8 Tactical Revolver which has mounts/rails, and also holds 8 rounds of 357 Magnum!
  • The “Cylinder Grab” – If a bad guy grabs the cylinder of your revolver, you won’t be able to shoot the revolver unless you’ve already cocked back the hammer. This single-action shooting is not common for defensive scenarios.

Conclusion

Either a semi-automatic pistol *or* a revolver can work great for home defense. In either case, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons for yourself, and make the choice that’s best for you. It’s also super-important to test the ammunition you plan to use in your home defense handgun. If you chose a semi-auto pistol, you’ll need to run about 200 rounds through it to make sure it’s 100% reliable. Regular training is also very important. You need to know what to do by instinct, and have your skills honed to perfection.

What do you protect your home with? We’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment. There’s lots more defense-related content coming in 2019 here on Ultimate Reloader, so make sure you’re subscribed! And if you’re in the Pacific Northwest and want great defense training, check out Guy Miner’s gmmdefense.com!

Thanks,
Gavin

 

2 thoughts on “Semi-Auto or Revolver for Home Defense: Which is Better?”

    1. I use a Heckler & Koch USP Expert in caliber 9×19 m.m. As a cartridge, I use model 39 / b from the Swedish Army.

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