On the ObjectivismOnline.net discussion group, someone asked for advice on a home defense firearm. I posted a response there, but I thought I’d also share my response with NoodleFood readers:
I also would recommend a shotgun as the primary home defense weapon, provided one receives adequate instruction in its proper use, because of its greater effectiveness relative to a handgun in stopping any bad guy(s).
But if you are specifically interested in a handgun, I’d like to make a plug for the classic old-fashioned revolver. A good quality revolver chambered for .357 magnum will stop an intruder very well. Plus it has the advantage that in a stressful situation, if you happen to have a misfire, you simply have to pull the trigger once again. My wife and I are proficient with both revolvers and with Glocks, and I like my Glock 30 a lot. However, I’ve chosen to use the revolver as our middle-of-the-night-there’s-an-intruder-in-the-house home defense handgun for the reason I’ve given above. I don’t want to have to remember on very short notice what to do if I get a Type 2 “stovepipe” malfunction or a Type 3 “doublefeed” malfunction, even though I’ve practiced these drills multiple times at the firing range.
With a revolver, if it doesn’t fire, the only thing you have to remember is pull the trigger again.
I definitely acknowledge that a revolver holds fewer rounds than most modern semi-automatics and that it takes longer to reload. However, given that most home defense situations will require fewer than 6 shots (usually fewer than 3), I therefore believe that these drawbacks are more than outweighed by the simplicity of the revolver.
Plus the revolver can be kept loaded indefinitely in the nightstand (or in a lockbox by the bedside), without stressing any magazine springs.
One advantage of a revolver chambered in .357 is the versatility of the ammunition. You can practice with light .38 special rounds at the range (with a few .357 just so you know what to expect), then load it with anywhere from .38 special, or more powerful .38+P, or even more powerful light .357 (such as the Remington Golden Saber) or full strength .357 rounds. The best choice would depend on a number of factors in your personal context, including whether you live in a house (separated from neighbors) or an apartment with thin walls, as well as your own personal tolerance for recoil.
Specific models for home defense include Smith & Wesson 686 or Ruger GP-100, assuming you want 6-round capacity, and that you don’t intend it for concealed carry out of the house. Some models of the S&W 686 carry 7 rounds, which may come in handy sometime.
I also agree that you should know the laws in your state with respect to use of deadly force, and how to deal with the legal aftermath.
I have a couple of additional points for NoodleFood readers. Firearms are only a part of our home defense strategy. The first line of defense is our two large German Shepherd dogs, who would alert us very quickly to the presence of any middle-of-the-night intruders. Plus once we determined that the threat was real, we would of course call 911 ASAP. But assuming that things got ugly and we had no alternative but to resort to deadly force, Diana and I have worked out a rapid-response drill where she goes for the revolver, whereas I go for the 12-gauge shotgun, and we cover the door to the bedroom. In this sort of emergency, it sure is nice to have two people who can can safely and competently handle a firearm!
If one is interested in a handgun for concealed carry (as opposed to purely home defense), then a different set of considerations would also apply, including size, light weight, and concealability. We are fortunate to live in Colorado, where any honest citizen can obtain a concealed handgun license, after meeting some reasonable and objective qualification criteria. But that’s a subject for a different post.