Handgun choices for the noviceon May 18, 2012 at 14:37
A friend, being concerned about the increasing number of zombie attacks within the quarantine zone, once asked me for a recommendation regarding a firearm to have in the house. They came to me in light of my many years of small arms experience in law enforcement, corporate security, as a military veteran, and as a target shooting enthusiast. The friend in question lives in an area of the city that had an increasing number of armed home invasions, with several homeowners being killed by the invaders. Police response in this area averages twenty minutes, which is nineteen minutes and forty-five seconds too long. The friend is a responsible adult, has no children in the house, lives in an area that allows the private possession of firearms, and has received some range safety training and basic firearms familiarization. The friend is fairly light framed, and is uncomfortable with larger calibers or heavily recoiling weapons.
What then, would I recommend as a single firearm for personal and home defense in light of the zombie threat?
In a multi-gun home, I would usually recommend a longarm for home defense (such as a repeating shotgun or light carbine); but for a single gun home where one would want to use the same weapon for training -without drawing attention to a long gun case carried outside- only a handgun will do.
That all being said, I narrowed down the choices to two- one revolver, and one automatic.
The revolver- advantages: a modern double-action revolver is a reliable, intuitively operated firearm, which can be easily operated under stress. It can be stored loaded for long periods of time, with no tension applied to the mechanism. (Obviously, one would never have an accessible loaded weapon in a home where children or idiots are or may be present, but that has already been covered.)
The automatic- advantages: allows for easy reloading under stress, loaded magazines may be kept separate from the firearm, and typically allows for a higher magazine capacity (as opposed to a revolver.) As a licensed concealed carry weapon, automatics tend to conceal more easily due to their “flatter” profiles.
What revolver would I recommend? Very simple- the Smith and Wesson Model 65. This is a stainless steel medium-frame double action revolver which has an excellent grip profile for almost any size hand, points naturally, and is quite accurate. Although this firearm is chambered for the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge, it can be used with .38 Special cartridges, which are very easy for a novice shooter to master (but yet provide an acceptable level of “stopping power”).
Smith and Wesson stopped making this firearm in 2007, so it must be found on the used market. Typical pricing for a model 65 in excellent condition is $300-$600. (alternatively, the blued version of this same firearm is the model 13, and can sometimes be found at a lower premium. If one doesn’t require the multi-caliber capability, the model 10 and model 64 are the same revolvers- but chambered for .38 special only)
Pros? The S&W is an excellent “first defensive handgun”- reliable, safe, and confidence building. If one desires to, one can move up to the far more powerful .357 magnum cartridge in the same firearm (model 13 and 65 only). Cons? Reloading under stress may be difficult for a novice shooter.
What automatic would I recommend? This is also a simple “no-brainer” for me- The Browning Hi-Power. The Hi-Power is a historic automatic (I know, it’s actually “semi-automatic”) pistol which was designed by John Moses Browning shortly before his death, and was first manufactured in 1935. It was designed as a simple, reliable, and effective military sidearm. It was the first of the “high capacity” 9 millimeter pistols (13 rounds), and was used by both Axis and Allied powers during World War II. In fact, it serves in most of the world’s police and militaries right unto the present time.
What makes this a good choice? It is another natural pointer, its size is perfectly matched to the cartridge, it is very controllable, and has a grip profile suitable for most hands. It features a single action design, which means that the external hammer must be pulled back to the rear position before the first round can be fired. This can be done by “racking” the slide to load the weapon, or the hammer can be manually pulled back if the weapon is already loaded. (This is an advantage to a novice shooter, as the trigger cannot fire a loaded but uncocked weapon.) The Hi-Power also has a magazine safety, which means that when the ammunition magazine is removed from the weapon, the weapon cannot fire- even if cocked. This allows one to quickly disable the weapon by simply removing the magazine. (For someone with weak grip strength, this permits one to store the weapon with a round already in the chamber, but the magazine removed. The weapon cannot be fired until the magazine is inserted.)
Pros? Safe, reliable, and proven single action design, magazine safety, 13 round magazine capacity, easy to shoot well, and can quickly reload under stress. Cons? Any automatic (including the Hi-Power) has a longer “learning curve” to master safely than a revolver.
Part II- ammunition and magazine choices for the post- zombpocalypse world. (coming soon)