Pistols for Home Defense & Survival Situations

April 6, 2012 4:45 pm

Pistols for Home Defense & Survival Situations

  • Revolver or Semi automatic pistol; what works best for you?
  • Smith and Wesson or Glock?
  • How big a gun can you handle?


  • In a survival situation you need competence, redundancy and back up. Be sure all of your family and survival team are trained in all the various weapons in your arsenal. By maintaining an arsenal of the same type weapons systems from a quality manufacturer and common defensive calibers you will have long term strength, reliability and survivability.


The right weapon is the one you can best use in a stressful situation and hit the target with accuracy.

What if ….

It is 2 AM; you hear a noise, a breaking sound, what was that, who is that? You are instantly awake, what the hell was that! What do you do now? The next few minutes could impact the rest of your life or the lives of your family. Are you prepared, what are you going to do?

The thoughts race through your mind but ultimately focus on where is my gun, call 911 and find some protection. You will consider a defensive position until the police arrive and remain prepared to defend and protect your family.

Protracted shoot outs are not likely in a civilian or home defense situation – first solid shot wins!

In a survival situation, you may have to use your weapon against multiple targets or you may provide supporting fire. You will not have 911 or the police to back you up. Therefore, a weapon for home defense and a survival situation are different but then again, there are many weapons that will serve both purposes.

Revolver, Semi Automatic, Caliber

The questions related to pistols are generally divided into 3 categories – revolvers, semi automatics, and caliber? The good news is there are no wrong answers. The answers to these questions are entirely based upon your skill, intentions, potential risks and the situation.

Reviewing your Risk Analysis and determining your intended use of the weapon is the first step in evaluating your weapons selection. Also consider your location, are you dealing with an urban environment with minimal fields of fire or are you at a retreat location in the wilderness with greater distances and larger ‘game’? What is your skill level and what type of a pistol do you need?

Revolvers are handy, reliable tools for defense. They can be loaded and secured for use with little care. They work in dirt, rain and adverse conditions. There are short barrel .38 specials for ‘close quarters’ and there are heavy, large frame revolvers with larger calibers for more stopping power and plenty of distance. There are semi automatic pistols of all sizes and calibers. They are concealable, durable and in many cases hold 15 rounds or more.

Safety First

First, be safe when you handle any weapon, treat it as if it is loaded ALL THE TIME, never point it at anyone and keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to use it.

Always keep your weapons in a safe place, locked away from children and secured but readily available. Think about it!

Revolvers vs Semi Automatics

We like revolvers for practically. They are very versatile and always ready. Revolvers require less maintenance than semi automatics and have no metal parts under stress while not in use. There are many variations of the revolver. The sizes of the frame, the length of the barrel, weight and caliber are all variables and have an impact on your decision.

Semi automatics are the guns of choice for virtually all law enforcement departments. They are accurate, reliable and hold plenty of ammunition, if they are properly maintained and you are properly trained. Semi autos are easy to carry and easy to reload with another high round magazine. They have rails for flashlights or laser sights. They are reliable quality tools for personal defense.

Semi automatics need to be maintained in order to be reliable; clean your weapon every week or so. Be sure it is properly oiled; the magazines are in good working order, change them often to maintain the spring loading action.

We will discuss concealed carry and personal defense in related articles. Our reviews and recommendations will be situation based and give you the opportunity to select the best weapon for your intended use commensurate with your skill level.

We have provided reviews and articles on various firearms for your consideration. What works best for you? You cannot become an expert by reading about pistols or any other weapon. Go to your local range or gun shop, handle the various weapons, get lots of opinions, then go to the range – preferably somewhere where you can rent various weapons and fire them. Let the range owner know you want to purchase a gun, tell him WHY you want to buy it and HOW you intend to use it. I guarantee you will get an opinion or three.  Buy some ammunition, get some targets and shoot the weapon.

If you do not have a local range where you can rent weapons for target practice talk to some friends who have some weapons and ask if they will go with you to the range, you will buy all the ammunition. I guarantee you will have lots of friends who want to show you their guns. I guarantee you will get their opinion. Go out and bust some rocks, have fun.

You should handle and fire the weapons BEFORE you buy it. No dealer wants to take back a gun after you fired it. So you end up with a $500 experiment. Buy the ammo and know you like the gun, and then buy it.

If you are an experienced gun owner and have two or three weapons of a particular type adding another weapon is no big deal. Do you homework, read our reviews, follow our links and buy a new weapon for self defense, then take it to the range and practice. How many of you buy a new gun, fire it once and then put it away.  How often do you break it down, change clips and clean it? How do you know it will be ‘ready’ when you need it?

Do some homework on the Internet to research the various models. Select a quality manufacturer. If you ever intend to use this weapon you want to be sure it is ready to fire, this is not the time to ‘hope’ it works properly.

Practice; one accurate shot beats 10 misses.


Revolvers are practical, reliable and versatile. There many versions, sizes, calibers, etc. but you should determine how you intend to use it before you purchase a weapon. The caliber and type of ammunition is also a critical factor.

Revolvers have no external safety devices and can be fired single or double action making them simpler to fire. Because of the firing mechanism they are less likely to miss fire. The range of calibers from .22 cal to the largest calibers for handguns provides the most stopping power of any pistol. For concealed carry and close quarters you may decide on a small sized frame with a short barrel. If you are interested in hunting the larger frame models, longer barrels and high power ammunition might be perfect. For the purpose of this article we have identified the Smith & Wesson models to represent the scope of practical models available.

We will summarily review several versions here however; you may refer to our full reviews for more detailed information.


Model 442:

Caliber: .38 special + P

Capacity: 5 rounds


Overall: 6.31”

Frame: small (J) internal hammer

Weight: 15 oz.

This weapon is concealable and with the internal hammer, it will not get caught on clothing. A .38special +P round is reliable and effective.

Model 60:

Caliber: .357 magnum or .38 special + P

Capacity: 5 rounds

Barrel:  3”

Overall:  7.5”

Frame: small (J)

Weight: 24.5 oz.

This model has a longer barrel for better accuracy; the exposed hammer permits use in single or double action and you can use .357 ammunition for more stopping power. This pistol is also concealable.

Model 686:

Caliber: .357 magnum or .38 special + P

Capacity:  6 rounds also available with 7 rounds

Barrel: 4”

Overall:  9.56”

Frame: Medium (L)

Weight: 39.7 oz.

This model has a longer barrel and is substantially heavier but less concealable. With the frame size and weight it will feel better using .357 magnum ammunition; definitely a step up. This type of pistol is used for home protection or professional/duty purposes.

Model 629:

Caliber: .44 magnum or .44 S&W special

Capacity: 6 rounds also available with 7 rounds

Barrel: 6”

Overall: 11.63”

Frame: Large (N)

Weight: 45 oz.

The 629 is used for recreational shooting and handgun hunting. With a weight of 45 oz. it is not for home defense but could be used for superior firepower and longer range accuracy.

Model 500:

Caliber: .500 S&W Magnum

Capacity: 5 rounds

Barrel:  6.5”

Overall: 11.63”

Frame: X – Large (X)

Weight:  60.7 oz.

The 500 is used for handgun hunting. The size, weight and ammunition make it one of the most powerful revolvers in the world.

These revolvers range in price from $650 to $1,250. These six weapons begin to demonstrate the wide range of revolvers available today. For personal protection a small or medium frame with a barrel of 2” – 4” is optimum. We also recommend a weapon capable of firing .357 rounds; you can use .38 special ammunition also. Go to the range and try various calibers and ammunition of various weights and defense configurations.

There are many other quality manufacturers of revolvers but Smith & Wesson is near the top. It maintains quality standards and offers a wide range of models and configurations.



Semi Automatics

Semi automatics offer several advantages; they have a larger ammunition capacity. Where most revolvers hold 5 – 7 rounds most automatics carry between 10 – 20 rounds. Because the ammunition is usually held in the handle it is more compact and thinner than a revolver with rotating cylinder, further, ammunition can be reloaded with a replacement magazine in seconds.

Most semi automatics have multiple internal and external safety features that prevent a weapon from firing by accident. One of the more significant factor is that the trigger pull; most semi automatics require less force than most revolvers – except those used with a ‘cocked hammer’. Also, the recoil is less in a semi automatic because the recoil spring absorbs some of the energy while recycling the chamber.

Today semi automatics are the guns of choice for virtually all law enforcement departments. They are designed with rails to hold flashlights or laser sights. They are reliable quality tools for personal defense.

For the purpose of this article we have identified the Glock models to represent the variation of models available.

Glock models like many semi automatic manufacturers offer multiple safety features incorporated into the design of the weapon. They are capable of operating with multiple models in calibers ranging from 9 mm to .357. For the purpose of this article we will review several models using 9 mm ammunition. The same typical features apply to other calibers as well.



Model 26:

Caliber:  9 mm

Capacity: 10  rounds

Barrel: 3.46”

Overall:  6.29”

Frame: sub compact

Weight: 19.75 oz.

This is the smallest of the Glock models. It is very concealable and with 10 rounds is smaller than the conventional ‘snub nose’ revolver.

Model 19:

Caliber: 9 mm

Capacity: 15 rounds

Barrel: 4.02”

Overall:  6.85”

Frame:  compact

Weight: 20.99 oz.

The size of this weapon makes it ideal for concealed carry, back up or as a primary weapon.

Model 17:

Caliber: 9 mm

Capacity: 17 rounds

Barrel:  4.49”

Overall: 7.32”

Frame: full sized

Weight:  20.04 oz.

One of the benefits of the Glock models is that all the same caliber magazines will fit any of the 9 mm models above.

Today Glock is the most use semi automatic pistol use in law enforcement today.

We at survival Operations believe there is no perfect weapon for every situation. Nevertheless, we can define the potentially realistic situations and define the weapons we recommend.







The Winners are!

For personal defense we recommend a revolver if it is to be kept in an accessible location (secured from children) for a 1 – 4 shot home defense situation. We believe the S&W Model 60 serves our purposes and can be carried and concealed if necessary. With .38 special or .357 ammunition it can be fired with accuracy and provide strong stopping power at close ranges.

If you are looking for a long range, heavy duty pistol for ‘large targets’ there are many to chose from but they are secondary when it comes to self defense or a survival situation.

For personal defense as the best all around weapon we recommend the Glock Model 19. With a full magazine of 15 rounds and a compact size it provides accuracy, convenience and ample firepower. Moreover, with a Glock 26 as a back up the secondary magazines can be interchangeable. With the two weapons and two back up magazines you can have 55 rounds of ammunition. If you prefer the .357 caliber round, you can use a combination of models 33, 32 and 31 to achieve the same requirement.

Ammunition and Caliber

Everyone has their own opinion on what caliber and type of ammunition is best. It is our opinion that the largest caliber you can handle with multiple shots under duress is the best. Remember, one accurate shot with any caliber beats 10 misses with the largest caliber.

We have outlined several articles related to this subject for greater information.


We recommend you determine what caliber ammunition works for you and your family. Make sure everyone is capable of using the ammunition with accuracy. Having a pair of semi automatics in the same caliber and a revolver gives you a basic battery of weapons for your security. We recommend you consider up grading your battery of weapons by purchasing multiples of the same weapon, same caliber and always buy more ammunition.

In a survival situation you need competence, redundancy and back up. Be sure all of your family and survival team are trained in all the various weapons in your arsenal. By maintaining an arsenal of the same type weapons systems from a quality manufacturer and common defensive calibers you will have long term strength, reliability and survivability.

Survival Operations: preparation & operational security for threatening times.

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