I Want A Semi-Auto.
by Bob Walsh
OK, that is a perfectly reasonable decision. Most people shoot a semi better than a revolver once they have some training and experience under their belt. Semi-autos are often easier to conceal because they tend to be flat, the revolver cylinder bulge can be hard to hide. Semi-autos almost always carry more rounds and are much faster to reload. The only place the revolver is the undisputed king is in power, and the really nasty ones are overly powerful for anti-personnel use, weigh a lot, are hard to hide and cost a fortune to shoot. I am talking about the serious hand cannons here, the .454, .460, .500 S&W and similar weapons intended more for hunting than self-defense against people.
Serious defensive revolvers come in two basic types, double-action and double-action only. A cocked revolver can be fired with about a 3 pound trigger pull traveling about 1/10 of an inch. An uncocked revolver takes about 8 pounds and about ½ inch of travel. Towards the end of their revolver days some big police agencies were switching to the double-action only revolver, simply as liability avoidance. There can be no question of a person carrying a revolver cocked and setting it off unintentionally if the revolver cannot be thumb cocked.
Semi-automatic pistols come in 3, or maybe 4 or 5, action types depending on exactly where you draw the line. You have the traditional single action pistols, like the good old Colt Government Model. They must be cocked before they will fire. That’s the only way they work. Then you have the traditional single-action double-action pistols, like the older Smith and Wesson or Walther pistols. These can be fired with the first shot with a relatively long, relatively heavy double action trigger pull, the pistol then cocks itself after the first shot and subsequent shots are fired single action, with a much shorter, much lighter trigger pull. There are also double-action only semi-autos, which decock themselves after every shot and are therefore fired every time with a relatively long, relatively heavy trigger pull. Then there are striker fire pistols like the Glock where the trigger pull supplies some part of the cocking power but not all of it, You also have the traditional striker fired pistols, like the Luger and others, where the striker is fully cocked and the trigger pull only releases the striker.
The fastest sort of pistol to get into action is without question the single action automatic, such as the Colt Government Model. That is why most major SWAT teams, the FBI HRT and a lot of special military units use this sort of weapon. However, since you are constantly interacting with a cocked weapon this mode of carry requires a relatively high level of training. It isn’t for the marginally competent.
Semi-autos also come in about five different sizes, again depending on exactly where you draw the line. There is the smallest variety, the pocket pistol, like the Walther PPK and similar or even smaller weapons. They are easy to hide and easy to carry but often do not shoot well and usually have mediocre sights. They also often have really mediocre trigger pulls. Caliber is often marginal in power. Their principle advantage is that they are easy to carry so you will probably have it with you if you need it.
Next up in size are the single-column medium frame (9mm frame) pistols like the S&W 39 series, Kahr, SIG 239, S&W Shield and similar weapons. They carry their cartridges in a single column or slightly staggered magazine and are chambered for 9mm, .40 caliber or .357 SIG automatic. If you have a small hand or short fingers these can be the way to go. It will be hard to shoot a gun well that does not fit your hand well.
Next up is the single-column large frame pistols, like the G. I. Colt. These are chambered for .45 auto, 10mm auto or .38 Super.
Next up in size is the medium frame double-column pistols like the Glock 17 or 19 or H&K USP. Some of these hold up to 17 or even more rounds of 9mm, less of the .40 caliber.
From there you go up to the large frame double-column magazines guns, like the Glock 20/21. I have a Glock 20 that I had to have a “butt job” done on so that it would be manageable for me.
The point is there are LOTS of choices out there to fit lots of requirements. With some time and some work you will almost certainly be able to find one that fits you and works for you. One thing you should be aware is that semi-autos are often very sensitive to the ammunition you feed them and the gun and ammo are a combined package. A gun you like that won’t operate reliably with the ammunition you want to use, or are required to use, is no bargain.