- If you want a semi-auto, go with a full-sized 9mm.
- If you want a revolver, get a medium to large, steel framed .357 magnum with a 3-4″ barrel.
So, right now you’re reading this and thinking, “OK, I understand the semi-auto recommendation, I expected as much, but you’re seriously recommending an ‘old fashioned’, double-action wheel-gun as a viable first gun purchase for modern times?” Yes! I won’t agrue reliability (though there are plenty that will), but I will point out the following:
- With no external controls like safeties or slide locks, the revolver is simple and easy platform to operate.
- With no slide to rack – something new shooters may find intimidating or even physically difficult to do correctly – the revolver is sometimes perceived by the new shooter as easier to safety check.
- All double-action revolvers can be shot Double-Action (DA) or Single-Action (SA). The same is not true of all semi-autos.
- The revolver is still a very viable and suitable defense weapon.
- Versatility. This one’s admittedly a bit of a stretch, but you might be able to do more with your .357 Magnum revolver and use it in more ways than your 9mm semi-auto.
Why a full-sized weapon? Again, assuming you are new to shooting, you are buying a gun primarily for recreational and / or home protection purposes:
- The weight of a full- size pistol or medium to large, steel frame revolver with a 3-4″ barrel will lessen felt recoil.
- The longer barrel length will increase bullet velocity, but more importantly to a new shooter, will lessen muzzle blast and noise.
- The better balanced full-sized handgun with a longer barrel will in most cases be easier to shoot more accurately than a sub, sub-compact or pocket sized pistol.
Why the 9mm? The 9mm (also called the 9×19, 9mm Luger, 9mm NATO, 9×19 Parabellum) is used many military organizations around the World, and by many United States Law Enforcement agencies. Therefore, it is one of the most popular handgun rounds in the World.
- Ammo is easy to find virtually anywhere in the World, and relatively cheap.
- It’s easy to shoot, especially from full sized pistols.
- It’s a proven, very effective defensive round, especially with the proper ammo.
- Your full sized 9 will most likely be a double stack, meaning it will hold a double digit round count.
- The concern with the 9mm in a defensive role is it’s inability to penetrate cover such windshields or car doors, etc. This shouldn’t be much of a concern for the civilian shooter.
It’s hard to go wrong with a full-sized 9mm. You shouldn’t feel under gunned in a defensive situation, you won’t go broke target shooting and it should be soft shooting enough that you will practice often without developing poor shooting habits.
Why the .357 Magnum? The .357 Magnum is a time tested, versatile powerhouse.
- Use soft shooting .38 specials for recreation and practice.
- Use .357 Magnums for personal defense or hunting – the .357 Magnum is a popular handgun hunting cartridge where allowed by law.
- Use shot-shell (also commonly called snake-shot) loads for critter control.
- Today’s medium to large frame wheel-guns come in six to eight shot varieties, which is ample for most things the new shooter is doing.
- The concern with the .357 Magnum in a defensive role is over-penetration.
A 7-shot .357 is one highly capable firearm. Perfect for back-country hiking, camping or field use. Near the top of the list for home and personal protection. Readily used for hunting and able to put everything from small-to-deer-sized game on the table. It’s also a fun plinking or target shooting gun. It offers versatility that is very difficult to beat.
Both are easily great calls for your first handgun. You can’t go wrong either way. Visit your local gun store and check out different makes and models of both. Pick the one you are most comfortable with, and the one that fits best in your hand.
Final quick thought: If you get the auto, I highly recommend a .22lr conversion kit. Even easier, quieter & cheaper shooting with the exact same form, function & controls of your primary weapon.