Top Reasons Why Semi-Automatic Pistols are the Best Handguns for Self-Defense


There are a wide variety of self-defense weapons on the market today; something to meet the needs of everyone, regardless of their personal preferences or political beliefs. Some are opposed to the use of firearms on moral grounds, so there are choices available for them. However, for the rest of us, firearms are a much better choice.

The gun has been called “the great equalizer,” simply because it doesn’t matter how big you are, whether you are male or female or how athletic you are; you can still use one effectively. It is also one of the easiest weapons there is to learn to use effectively. While learning to master a firearm, so that your shots always go where you want them to takes a lot of practice, it doesn’t take the kind of training that martial arts of the use of other weapons requires.

But even within the realm of firearms there are a lot of possibilities to chose from. That means there are lots of opinions out there, one saying that one choice is better, while another saying that another choice is better. But for the moment, we’re going to limit ourselves to talking about pistols, specifically semi-automatic pistols. A pistol is purely a self-defense weapon, unlike a rifle, which can be used as an offensive weapon as well.

While others might argue that revolvers are better self-defense handguns than semi-autos are, I want to take this opportunity to extol the virtues of semi-automatics, telling you why they are my go-to choice and why I think you should carry one, rather than a revolver.

It Holds More Rounds

Easy to change magazinesWhile there is no hard and fast rule as to how many rounds a revolver’s cylinder can hold, most hold just six rounds. If you don’t manage to take out the bad guys in those six shots, you’ve got to stop and reload. This not only limits the amount of rounds you have readily available, but also how many total rounds you end up carrying.

Statistically, the average shootout involving someone with a concealed carry license consists of three rounds in three seconds. But we have to remember that averages are made up of the extremes. There are enough situations where multiple rounds are fired, that you have to consider them in your planning and training.

Depending on the semi-automatic pistol you are carrying, you can have up to 20 rounds in a magazine. Granted, most concealable pistols don’t have that many. The .45 caliber Springfield XDS I carry only carries 5 in the magazine, plus one in the chamber. But if I found myself in a survival situation, I’d switch that over to my 9mm Glock 17, which holds 17 rounds in a standard magazine.

In a life-shooting event you can’t count on a one-shot kill. Your skills will be greatly degraded by the adrenalin coursing through your veins. So you may have to shoot over and over again, just to score an injury serious enough to ensure that the bad guy goes down.

Magazines are Quickly Changed

When the magazine in your semi-automatic pistol runs out, it’s a simple process to eject it and replace it with a fresh magazine. With a little bit of practice, anyone should be able to do this in one to two seconds, without having to take their eyes off the bad guy. By comparison, reloading a revolver takes much more time and requires looking at what you are doing.

This quick magazine change means that you have little down time in a shootout. That’s important, because experienced attackers will use the reload time to try to get close to you. But if all you’re giving them is a second or two, they can’t do that. There is no lull in your shooting long enough for them to take advantage of.

Ultimately, this feature allows you to carry more rounds with you, which increases your chance of surviving a shootout. The worst thing that can happen is to run out of rounds, before the other guy does. Even with my Springfield .45, my three magazines and one in the chamber give me a total of 20 rounds (my spare magazines hold seven rounds). When carrying my Glock, I’ve got a total of 52 rounds.

It’s More Concealable

Belly Band Gun Holster
Belly Band Gun Holster

I don’t care how you try, revolvers are harder to conceal. The problem is that the cylinder makes the gun wider than a semi-automatic. The only way of making a smaller cylinder isn’t a good option either, as it means reducing how many rounds the cylinder can hold.

Both revolvers and semi-automatic pistols come in “pocket” versions. I’ve got a .380 Ruger LCP that I carried before buying my Springfield. It’s small enough that I can carry it in a holster in my pocket and nobody can tell it is there. But the smallest practical revolvers I’ve seen aren’t that small. Oh, there are some really tiny revolvers, even smaller than my Ruger, but the handgrip on them is so small, you really can’t hold them properly.

Smaller guns have more recoil, so having a good handgrip is important on them. Shrinking the handgrip to make a gun concealable can be dangerous, because of the difficulty in being able to hang onto it when you fire.

Semi-Auto Handguns are More Customizable

Semi-Automatic Pistols are the best handguns for self-defenseProbably the most customizable series of handguns out there are Glocks, with the .45 caliber 1911 coming in second. What makes Glocks so customizable is a combination of their popularity and the fact that every handgun in their line uses many of the same parts. So, it makes a lot of financial sense for an after-market parts manufacturer to design and market parts for the Glock.

This allows you the option of changing out sights, grips, controls and even barrels and slides, truly customizing your handgun to your needs. You can also add on tactical accessories, such as a tactical light. My Glock has:

  • extended mag and slide locks
  • a threaded barrel
  • tritium night-sights
  • Crimson Trace laser sight and tactical light installed

You just can’t do all that with a revolver.

Did I Mention it Holds More Rounds?

Semi-automatic handguns just plain give you more firepower. The combination of a larger magazine and the ease of changing out that magazine mean that you have more lead to throw downrange. In a life-or-death situation that could be critical.


A couple of years ago, a policeman found himself facing off against a criminal who was on drugs. From what I understand, the policeman was armed with a semi-automatic Glock, with a total of three magazines (one in the gun and two spares), giving him a total of 51 rounds. When the criminal finally went down, the police officer only had three rounds left. He had hit the criminal 17 times, out of the 48 rounds he fired.

Criminals on drugs can be so high that they literally do not feel rounds striking their body. In cases like that, you have to hit them enough times to cause them to fall from a loss of blood or you have to hit something critical.

Had that police officer been carrying a revolver, with the customary two spare “speed loaders” he would probably be dead today. His 18 rounds wouldn’t have been enough to do the job, plain and simple. Once he ran out of ammo, he would have been a sitting duck for the rounds of the criminal, unless he was very lucky and could run very fast.

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