a gun with a scope

Image credit: Fine Art Americal.

Revolvers ‘r Us: How to Buy a Handgun

by Valerie Farabee

Whether it’s for home defense, hunting, or just target practice, there are a number of practical reasons for having a firearm around the house. Rifles are too much power for home defense, but great for hunting. Shotguns are great for home defense because they are easy, powerful, reliable and effective, but may have too much recoil for smaller shooters. In this article we are talking about handguns and so we are going to focus on home defense.

Handguns are a good choice for home defense for a number of reasons: they are easily maneuverable, they have power, and they can be held and used even in petite hands.

Guns are serious tools that are used for a number of purposes, and buying or using one should never be done lightly or without proper training and respect for the amount of power you hold in your hands. With that said, there are two basic types of handguns for the purpose of protecting your home and self: semi-automatics and revolvers.

The Two Basic Types of Handguns

Semi-automatic handguns harness the power of one shot and use it to reload the chamber for the next. While there is a lot of variety to semi-automatic handguns, in a home defense situation it is best to keeps things simple, so go with the brands that are known for their simplicity, like the Glock or Ruger.

A semi-automatic holds rounds in a magazine that is removed and reloaded before re-inserting it back in the gun. A round is chambered – moved into the barrel of the gun – by pulling back a slide and then moving it forward again. The magazine pushes the round up and the slide carries it to the chamber. The slide can be difficult to operate, especially if you have weak or arthritic hands – make sure you can work the gun before you buy it!

Semi-automatics hold more ammunition than their revolver cousins and there is a wide variety of type and power to choose from. You can find a starter semi-automatic for around $400, with the higher end guns reaching up to thousands of dollars.

Revolvers are reliable, easy to use, powerful, and come in a variety of weights and sizes. They differ from the semi-automatic in that there is no reloadable magazine to lose or break down; the rounds are held in a rotating cylinder that is attached to the gun. Although they are less comfortable to hold than the semi-automatic, the revolver is easy to load and accurate enough for a beginner to use in the event of a home invasion. For a beginner, the best choice of revolver is the .38 Special with a 4” barrel – this gun is easy to shoot and there is a wide variety of ammunition for a .38 that is easily available, so a great choice as a first home defense weapon. You can find a .38 special starting from $300, with custom-built revolvers starting at about $1200.

Eyes and Ears

There are some ancillary costs to handgun ownership to take into account when outfitting yourself for the first time, and one of them is classes at the shooting range!

Shooting ranges are helpful, friendly places where it is safe to ask questions and the people there are responsible for, and eager to, help you with everything you need to know about guns and gun safety. Some ranges even offer classes where you learn about and shoot many different types of guns – this is a great class to take before going out and buying your first handgun because it will allow you to see which guns are easiest for you to operate, so you know what you’re getting into before you make a purchase.

When you buy a gun, you’ll also need a holster and ammo. Together these run about $100, but you may spend even more on the ammunition! Factor in the cost of the ammo you’ll be using regularly to see if it will be cost-prohibitive; there is no point in buying a gun that you can’t also regularly by ammo with which to practice!

In addition to a holster and ammo, since you’ll be spending a lot of time at the range you will also want to buy your own set of ‘eyes and ears’ – safety glasses and ear mufflers. And if you’re going to the range a lot, you’ll need a membership and possibly a bag to carry your firearm, ammo, safety glasses and ear mufflers! Budget an extra couple of hundred dollars for accessories so that you will be fully and comfortably outfitted with the necessities when you buy your first handgun.

Be Responsible

Guns are tools, but if you, as a user of the tool, does something stupid, you or someone you love could die. So please, please, please: be responsible, learn gun safety, and practice it regularly. A gun is not a toy, it’s a tool to enable you to protect yourself against the event of something horrible happening. Hopefully you will not ever have to use except at the range!

Have fun at the range, and happy shooting!