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How To Choose The Right Handgun For Home And Personal Defense

Updated on August 23, 2014

The world can be a dangerous place sometimes and in this new age of austerity with state and local governments being forced to make painful budget cuts to public services including police and fire departments, regular citizens are coming to the realization that they will have to take personal responsibility for the protection of their homes and families. As the saying goes, "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away."

With police departments in many areas being woefully undermanned and with that a marked increase in response times even to emergency calls, many are starting to understand that personal protection starts at home, with the individual. For most this means buying a handgun for home and personal protection. However many people are not well versed in in firearms and end up making a poor choice when they purchase a handgun for home protection. A majority of people have never held a handgun before, much less fired one, so they end up buying something on the recommendation of a friend or from something they have seen on television or in the movies. And they often end up making a poor choice in both type of weapon and caliber.

Revolver or Semi-Auto?

The first choice you will have to make is what type of handgun you want to buy, a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol. While both have advantages ans disadvantages, a revolver is typically the better choice for all-around home defense that any member of the family can easily use. With a revolver it is simply point ans shoot, and if it does not go "BANG" all you need do is pull the trigger again until it does. This is referred to as 'six for sure' or five depending on your model of revolver.

The advantage of a revolver is simplicity and ease of use. No safety to disengage and no complicated ammunition jams to clear in a moment of terror at 3 am. And any member of the family from the kids to grandma can make effective use of it if the need arises, again nothing to think about, just point and shoot. Revolvers come in very effective calibers ranging from .38 special to .357 magnums (which is just the same bullet with a larger powder charge behind it). All things considered it is hard to go wrong with a decent quality revolver for home defense.

There are, of course, some disadvantages to a revolver as well, one being a capacity of 5-6 rounds for any revolver of decent caliber. The other is that they are difficult to reload in a dark and stressful tactical environment even if you use a speed-loader. Hopefully you will take the time t train and get familiar with any handgun you choose to make the need for a reload almost moot.

But at the end of the day you would be hard pressed to find a better firearm for this purpose than a well made, medium framed revolver loaded with .38 special or .38 special +p rounds. Magnum rounds, although much sexier sounding are a poor choice for use in a close quarters situation such as your home due to the possibility of over-penetration and a round striking an unintended target in another room.

If you choose to buy a semi-automatic weapon, be sure that you are willing to put in sufficient time training so that you can clear feed jams and other malfunctions quickly and with a minimum of thought. Waking from a sound sleep at 3 am with a bad guy coming through your window is the wrong time to wish you had done so. And make sure that anyone else in the house who could potentially be called upon to use the weapon in defense of themselves or another is trained in its use as well. Semi-auto handguns come in a wide variety of calibers, capacities and styles and care should be taken as to which of these you choose for defense.

In choosing a semi-auto weapon stay away from high velocity calibers such as most 9mm ammo and anything with the magnum designation. These 'hot' rounds tend to give excessive muzzle blast and make the handgun difficult to control thus making it more difficult to get a proper sight picture in order to put additional rounds on target. And again, to have the problem of over penetration. For personal defensive purposes a sub-sonic 9mm or a .45 ACP is preferred. The latter giving tremendous stopping power with much smaller danger of over penetration due to its slow speed and large cross sectional frontal area.

The advantage of a semi-auto is two fold, most of these types of weapons have a larger capacity than a revolver and are easier to load quickly with a magazine even in a tactical situation. Oddly one of the advantages is also in some instances a disadvantage. Due to the larger capacity of the semi-auto some people fall in to what is called the 'spray and pray' syndrome. Knowing they have 14-17 rounds, instead of taking careful aim, identifying their target and firing in a controlled maner, some simply pop off several rounds and hope one of them finds their mark. This is dangerous and stupid, so don't do it.

Know the Laws

Lastly, make sure you know all the applicable laws in your juridiction regarding gun ownership, storage and use in self defense. Laws can vary widely from state to state and even city to city, so be sure to get a copy of these laws and statutes and read them throughly. Also be sure that you know and fully understand how the so-called "Castle Doctrine" is regarded where you live. The Castle Doctrine comes from the idea that a man's home is his castle and he has a right to defend it. However some places have slightly different interprestations of this and require you to retreat in the face of a intruder while others say that if they come in to your home uninvited at 3 in the morning they are fair game.

Never forget that you have the absolute right to defend your life, home or the life of another with deadly force if necessary. Do not let some ignorant and unconstutional local restriction dissuade you from defending your life or a loved ones if either is threatened. As the other old saying goes "Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six." Amen to that.


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