A few months ago, I published an article and video suggesting that the Glock 19 was the perfect first gun. My gist was that the G19, or a similar-sized semi-automatic striker-fired handgun, was a great choice for a first-time gun owner.
Although many of you agreed, some of you suggested that a revolver was actually a better first handgun for a new gun owner. There were a number of reasons given, and a lot of them made sense. Hence this article.
We love getting your feedback here, and it often inspires future stories such as this. We also never want to tell you what gun to buy. It’s an entirely personal choice, so please do your homework, hit the range for testing, and find what's right for you because only you can really determine that anyway. We're simply here to present information and options to help you along the way.
Yes, this is a slightly older revolver, however, I think it’s a legitimate comparison. The 686s were some of the go-to handguns for many police and private citizens prior to the surge in striker-fired semi-automatics such as Glocks that hit the scene in the early 1980s. There are plenty of more compact revolvers out there by a number of manufacturers. Smith & Wesson also currently produces a 686 Plus model that has a seven-round capacity as opposed to six in the case of my 686-3.
There were three main reasons why people thought a revolver might make a better first gun for a new gun owner. The first was simplicity and ease of use. For this, I will say that they are correct. A revolver is very simple to operate. You open the cylinder, load in your rounds, close it, and fire. After firing, you open the cylinder, empty the spent casings, and repeat.
The second reason was reliability. Again, I believe this is generally correct. If you use good quality ammunition, a revolver is very, very likely to go bang every single time you pull the trigger.
I put about 250 rounds through my 686, and it has worked flawlessly. I’d love to put a lot more rounds through it, but .357 Mag and .38 Spl ammo can be expensive and hard to find at times.
I'll note, however, that I put well over 1,000 rounds of 9mm through my G19, and it has been 100 percent reliable as well. Glocks are notorious for their legendary reliability. But if I had to choose between the two for pure reliability, the revolver wins for me.
A LOT of this really just comes down to proper firearm handling and safety, which is well worth taking a class on to learn if you haven't yet done that. But the last thing people noted was that the trigger on a revolver is quite long and hard to pull relative to many striker-fired semi-auto pistols. This could reduce the chances of a negligent discharge as a result of an inexperienced, or less experienced, shooter engaging the trigger prematurely. In general, I would agree with this.
However, in the case of my revolver and quite a few others, it can be fired in double or single action. Double action is when you pull the trigger all the way through, rotating the cylinder and drawing back the hammer until it fires. This can be a heavier and longer pull, though some revolvers are remarkably smooth and easy to fire in double action as well.
Single action is when you manually lock the hammer back with your finger, and then it is very easy to fire with a generally short pull and lighter trigger. Most modern defensive revolvers will start in a double-action pull, and I personally don’t think you should generally operate a revolver in single action in a defensive situation under stress. The trigger can be far too sensitive.
However, if used in double action, a revolver could have less of a chance of a negligent discharge in the sense that it takes more focused effort to fire the gun.
So far, the revolver has generally come out on top for the first three items. Those are the main reasons people suggested a revolver makes a better first gun for new gun owners. But now, let’s get into the benefits of why a semi-automatic striker-fired handgun such as a Glock makes a fantastic first gun for new gun owners.
CAPACITY & FIREPOWER
Revolvers usually have a capacity of five to eight rounds of centerfire ammunition. Good quality handguns, such as Glocks, have much higher capacities. A standard flush-fitting magazine holds 15 rounds. There are magazines that can hold up to 50 rounds, depending of course on your state's laws.
Glock 19s are chambered in 9x19mm. Although this is the most common caliber, striker-fired semi-automatic handguns come in a large variety of chamberings such as .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Sig, 10mm, as well as many other chambereings that match or even out-power common revolver chamberings such as .357 Magnum and .38 Special.
WEIGHT & SIZE
This is for me where a modern polymer "wonder gun" such as Glock really shines. Although the 686 and G19 are similar in size, the 686 is very heavy as a result of being made almost entirely out of stainless steel. It weighs 40.5 ounces unloaded. The G19, on the other hand, weighs almost half that at just under 24 ounces unloaded.
The Glock also has smoother sides and corners, so it is much less likely to get caught up on clothing if you decide to conceal carry it.
Most revolvers do not allow for the addition of lights and lasers to their frames. It is pretty standard for most striker-fired handguns to have a rail under the barrel, allowing for the addition of accessories such as these.
It is also quite common to have striker-fired semi-automatic pistols that come with RMRs, or red-dot optics, atop their slide. If they don't come with it, they often have a plate that makes it easy to attach one. Red dots are all the rage these days, and they increase the accuracy of many shooters. I haven’t personally gone down the RMR route yet, but I'm sure I will very soon.
So, in conclusion, I absolutely agree that revolvers can make amazing first handguns for new gun owners. I love revolvers. They have a special place in my heart. My first handgun was a Smith & Wesson Model 629 in .44 Magnum. Yes, I watched too many "Dirty Harry" films. I loved that gun.
Although I sold it, I recently acquired the gun of my dreams, the Smith & Wesson Model 686-3 revolver. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful guns ever made. However, as long as I own a gun such as a Glock 19, my 686 will be a range toy for when friends and family visit and I want them to shoot something very special.
It is very hard to beat a modern polymer, semi-automatic striker-fired handgun. That's just my opinion, but I can certainly see why some folks favor revolvers.