Photo courtesy of the NSSF
Right now, manufacturers are selling guns as fast as they can make them, with many running their machines 24/7. While it may appear as if they are vanishing into thin air once they leave the factory, some lucky customers are actually finding what they want. Evidence indicates millions of these gun buyers are first-time owners.
Buying a first gun can be an intimidating venture. Fortunately, the internet offers a seemingly unlimited amount of information from reliable sources. Despite this, many are intimidated by semi-automatic handguns, although they are much, much less complicated than driving a car or using a smartphone.
Whatever the reason, for these people, a quality revolver is a fantastic option. Despite this gun type’s limitations in ammo capacity, many offer the advantage of firing high-energy cartridges like .357 Magnum. Plus, just watching and feeling their mechanical simplicity as the hammer cocks and the cylinder rotates can be mesmerizing. Revolvers are effective tools for self-defense.
My primary use for “wheel guns” these days is teaching new shooters how to shoot well. A revolver’s heavy, double-action trigger (“double action” means that the gun is cocked and the hammer is released by one pull of the trigger) mandates proper trigger control, and it’s conducive for giving instruction. I am able to stand to the side and watch the hammer slowly and steadily move to the rear as the trigger is pressed. If it is not slow and steady all the way to the point where the hammer drops forward, the new shooter and I will work to make it a reality on the next round in the cylinder. Great trigger control learned on a double-action revolver carries over to every gun in a person’s collection.
There are a few things prospective buyers should look for in a revolver specifically intended for home defense. When it comes to choosing between .357 magnum and .38 special, don’t make it an either/or scenario. Buy a .357 Magnum because you can shoot either of these rounds through the gun, depending on the purpose. For example, practicing with less recoil and with less-expensive .38 Special ammunition is ideal. You can then save the full-power .357 Magnum for emergencies. While a revolver chambered for .357 Magnum is likely to be slightly heavier, the added weight can be a good thing for a gun not meant for concealed carry. (A gun chambered for .38 special will not fire .357 Magnum.)
The barrel length should be 3 to 6 inches. I prefer a 4-inch barrel. These guns are easier to shoot well than 2-inch “snub noses,” and the extra barrel offers a little more mass to help tame felt recoil. Again, the tiniest possible gun is not the goal here because it is not meant for concealed carry. Barrel lengths longer than 6 inches make weapons retention a little more complicated than necessary and make the gun more difficult to wield effectively.
While they are not traditional compared to “six-shooters,” consider 7 and 8-shot models. These offer a 17% and 33% increase in capacity, respectively. The one or two additional rounds of ammunition can make the difference if you ever have to use the firearm in a defensive emergency. The cylinder will have a wider diameter but this will not make a difference as the gun sits in a quick-access safe on the bedside table.
Strongly consider a revolver with a robust, soft rubber grip rather than a wood handle to mitigate recoil. And finally, buy a gun that has a traditional rear sight, not a notch machined into the rear of the frame. A traditional rear sight is usually adjustable, and it’s easier to master.
Revolvers have their place in the gun world; many folks prefer them for their simplicity and feel. Every gun owner should have at least one in his or her collection. If you are intimidated by the question of what gun you should buy, a revolver is a safe choice because it is about as simple and intuitive as guns get. Whatever you do, don't let the fear of mastering a semi-automatic handgun keep you from ensuring that you and your family are protected during violent and uncertain times.