At professional society dinner the other night it came around in conversation that I am an Instructor and the person indicated they were thinking about their first pistol and were leaning toward a revolver. Our conversation was cut short due to the program, but I believe that thinking is sound. Many prefer a semi-automatic due to the number of rounds it can hold, but unless you are have a crowd of zombies bearing down the truth is you should only have the need to fire a pistol a few times at best for personal protection and if you are at the range you tend to grow tired after the first 6 shots anyway. I have one semi-auto which holds 15 in the magazine and another which holds 17. I generally load 10 when shooting since 15 is tiresome. Five or six in a revolver does seem a little puny at times, but it gives one time to rest and reload.
So why a revolver? Unless you got a real piece-of-crap they do not jam. So in any situation you know the hammer will drop when you squeeze the trigger and the bullet will leave the barrel. None of the failure to eject, misfeed or double feed scenarios will happen with the revolver. You could have a misfire due to the hammer contacting the primer, but the primer not igniting, but with a double action revolver all you would need do is simply pull the trigger again. With a semi-automatic you would need to tap the magazine and rack the slide and may need to rotate the firearm to get the cartridge out. Another thing is safety. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, you get to the line, squeeze the trigger on the semi-automatic and realize the safety is still on. I saw that even happen the other night on Top Shot. The vast majority of revolvers have no safety. The safety is do no pull back the hammer and do not squeeze the trigger. Some people get nervous with the semi-automatics which have no external safety, but it is the same premise as a revolver. One of my favorite things about a revolver is with most you can tell if casings are in the cylinders. It’s much easier to tell if the gun is loaded than in most semi-automatics. Now you may not be able to tell if the cylinder is filled with spent rounds, but with the exception of cleaning a revolver I keep it loaded with unfired rounds and since you should treat every gun as if it is loaded this works out quite well. There is never a question of whether a cartridge is in the chamber or not, it is. One other consideration is no matter what size a semi-automatic is the action of the slide will give some recoil. Revolver recoil in shorter and lighter pistols can be dramatic with heavy loads, but in most cases is less than the combined action of the slide and recoil of the same caliber semi-automatic.
So let’s run a scenario. We hear a noise and grab a gun to investigate. If I take the revolver, it is loaded and ready to fire if needed, no muss, no fuss. If I take the semi-automatic, first I need to check to see if it is loaded and is there a round in the chamber (assuming the magazine is in the pistol). Now is the safety on or off. If I have not already racked a round in the chamber I will need to do so. It takes about 6,000 repetitions for something to become muscle memory. By the time you are old enough to own a pistol you have been picking things up for decades so getting the pistol into your hand is a cinch. With the semi-auto you must now go the extra step to make it ready to fire which may include racking the slide and moving the safety to the fire position. Unless you have practiced it 6,000 times chances are you are not going to be able to do it gracefully in a stressful situation.
So if you are considering your first pistol, consider a revolver. Should I have a situation and need to grab a gun it would be my first choice. I figure I get five or six shots at the target and should I need more I can always grab a semi-automatic polymer wonder as backup!