How to Choose a Handgun | Should You Go For a Pistol or a Revolver?

It's no secret that there is an ongoing debated surrounding gun ownership. Be that as it may, there's no arguing the fact that guns have a lot of value. Whether you need your first gun for recreation, hunting, self-defense, or home defense, there's a gun out there for you.

But with no many options to choose from, how can you know which gun is the best fit for your needs? Oftentimes, newcomers who want to buy a new gun do not have an idea of how to choose the best first handgun and don’t know what to look for. Well, fear not. I’ll show you where to begin and how to ensure that you end up with a quality purchase.

Ask the Right Questions

Let's begin with some of the key factors you need to consider before buying a gun. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself on choosing a gun in order to feel out your preferences and needs for owning a handgun.

In doing so, you will be one step closer to narrowing down the best option. What's more, you'll find that it's much easier for you to buy a gun when you know what you want. It's a simple concept, sure. But you'd be surprised how many new buyers overlook these simple yet effective questions.

My goal is to eliminate any doubt or confusion so that you end up with a satisfying, useful purchase.

What Are My Needs?

Before you can even proceed with buying a weapon in a gun store, you need to determine why you are buying a handgun in the first place. The bottom line is that as long as your reason for owning a handgun is legal, you can't have a wrong answer.

For example, if your sole purpose for owning a gun is to legally hunt, you're in good shape. The same is true for defending yourself. As a human being, you have a right to defend and protect yourself and your loved ones; a fact that is sadly lost on many people.

Clearly, a lot of people buy guns for self-defense or home defense purposes. But there are just as many people who buy guns just so that they can take them to their local gun range for an afternoon of target practice. There's nothing wrong with getting proficient with a weapon, and ranges afford the opportunity to do so.

Conversely, there are others who buy guns for the sole purpose of collecting them, much in the same way that someone else might collect coins or baseball cards.

In this way, pause for a minute to figure out what your principal use for your gun would be, as it will impact what kind and what type of gun will suit you the best. For instance, there are some firearms that are undeniably more useful for hunting than self-defense and vice versa.

Do I Want a Revolver or Semi-Automatic Gun?

The following decision you'll need to consider is whether you'd like a standard revolver or semi-auto pistol.

For those unfamiliar with the distinction, let's take moment to explore the pistols' differences and what they have to offer you as a consumer.


Made popular for their use in old and modern Westerns, revolvers are designed with a special chamber, or cylinder, that slides out and to the side when you need to reload. Contingent upon the model, the chamber can have space for either five or six rounds of ammunition.

After the trigger is pulled, the chamber pivots to move the following slug in accordance with the barrel, preparing it to fire off the next round.

Smith-Wesson revolver

You can buy revolvers in either single-action or double-action variants. Single-action models require you to first cock the hammer prior to shooting. Upon firing, the hammer releases after each shot. Double-action models utilize a hefty trigger draw when cocking the hammer.

As such, you need to be sure that you are capable of not only comfortably wielding a double-action revolver but also safely. Click here for all the top 44 mag revolvers, or read this article to see the top picks we choose for women.

Furthermore, it's important to note that revolvers don't offer the same high capacity that is often found in semi-automatic pistols. With that being said, the minimal five- to six-round capacity is ideal for home defense - reviews of this handguns fit that bill.


After shooting a semi-automatic gun, gas pressure is utilized to stack the following slug in the chamber. After you have fired, the mechanism of the firearm is cocked, allowing you to pull the trigger repeatedly thus emptying the magazine.

A "magazine" is a special cartridge that inserts into the bottom of the gun. Think of the magazine as an updated chamber or cylinder. This portable device is what houses the ammunition for your semi-automatic gun.

Glock 17 semi-auto pistol

The majority of handguns have a maximum carrying capacity of between 6 and 18 rounds of bullets. How many rounds you need often depends on what you're planning to use your gun for. If for plinking, or recreational use, you might want a model of a gun that has a higher capacity so that you don't have to reload as often.

The same is true for hunting. But if you need a gun for home protection, you might not need to keep as many rounds on hand. It's important to consider your needs. Think about how many rounds you would like to have at the ready and use that in your buying decision.

The number one selling points of semi-automatic pistols like the ones in this post, are their capacity, how easy they are to reload, and portability, which is essential when looking for a firearm to carry on your person. This is known as a concealed carry, for which semi-automatics we reviewed here are highly favored. See also our earlier S&W 442 Review.

Because semi-automatic handguns use what's known as slide retraction, which is cocking the firing mechanism, you're going to need a certain amount of strength in order to use them reliably. As such, they might not be the best choice for everyone.

What's more, semi-auto handguns are often limited in what caliber of bullet they can use. Not only that, but higher calibers can make a pistol hard to fire accurately or consistently.

What Caliber Do I Need?

different calibers

When you hear the word "caliber," it's referring to the size of the ammunition used in the handgun in question. As you can imagine, larger rounds of ammo are capable of causing far more damage to the target than ammunition rounds of lower calibers.

As I've already mentioned, most handguns are limited in the caliber of ammunition that they can fire. Therefore, each pistol has its own specific caliber. And the gun is designed around that caliber to ensure accurate shooting.

Pistol Types

You may have heard people mention the term ".45" at some point when talking about guns. This has to do with a .45 ACP-type pistol. This name in itself alludes to the way that the gun is designed to hold .45 type rounds.

It's imperative to remember, however, that the caliber of a handgun has to do with the stopping power that it's capable of delivering. The higher the caliber of the firearm, the more powerful the handgun is going to be in action.

So if you're looking for a weapon to protect yourself with at home, you might not necessarily need a really strong caliber. But if you're looking to hunt large game, then a higher caliber is going to be preferred for its stopping power.

It's also important to note that you want to make sure that you invest in a gun that you are comfortable with using. If you struggle to safely fire a high-caliber weapon, it's not a good idea to keep one in your home or on your person.

Safety is the most essential aspect of owning a gun of any type. Therefore, you want to make sure that you become proficient with your purchase before using it in a real-world situation.

Try Before You Buy

You must try out and become comfortable with a handgun before investing in one. As such, it's a good idea to go to your local shooting range to test your shooting proficiency first - just don't forget to use ear protection as explained in this post

In doing so, you will be able to use a wider range of firearms moving forward. Moreover, learning legitimate weapon safety is absolutely essential, as a gun (even one not being used) is a threat to everybody around it if safety isn't practiced and established.

The most ideal approach in learning about guns is to attend a class, where specialists can show you the ropes and teach you the most essential aspects of owning a gun.

Wrap Up

In the end, safety should be your number one priority in owning a gun. Once you have learned how to safely use a handgun, you can graduate to larger caliber options. With that said, it's best to start out on something of very low caliber and work your way up.

In doing so, you will become well-versed in how to handle and own a gun, making you a proficient gun owner that practices optimal safety

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