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Handguns For Self-Defense

Note: the material presented on this page cannot be regarded as promotion of firearms. The aim of this page is providing basic understanding of handgun types and models with their basic characteristics for educational purposes. We warn our readers that handguns represent potential danger to the people and must be kept only in specially equipped storage places admitting no access to unauthorized persons and children. All the actions connected with the purchase/sale and possession of handguns must be taken only in agreement with current firearms laws or penal legislation. Anyhow, we donít impel you to own guns to avoid possible troubles. If you however decide to purchase a firearm, check your local gun laws before. This site has never been associated with any manufacturer of weapons or ammunition.

   Due to their relative high firepower and small size handguns are actually the most efficient weapons of personal protection and self defense, especially - street defense.
   Handguns are classed as revolvers and pistols. Revolvers fall into two classes: "single-action" and "double-action". Single-action revolvers have to be cocked by pulling back the hammer, then fired by pulling the trigger. The action of pulling back the hammer rotates the cylinder, bringing the next cartridge into line. Double-action revolvers are fired by a long pull on the trigger, which causes the hammer to rise, rotating the cylinder, and finally releases the hammer to fire the round. Most modern revolvers can be used both single- and double-action. Single-action target shooting is essentially a sport, but double-action shooting is practical shooting for use in personal defense, emergency, or war.
    Revolvers are also classed as "hinged frame" and "solid frame". The hinged-frame type breaks downwards when a latch is depressed and instantly ejects its cartridges. In the solid frame the cylinder swings out literally. The solid frame is usual in modern Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers, but Webley & Scott adhere to hinged-frame design.

Revolver pictures: Hinged-frame revolver scheme

Revolver pictures: Hinged-frame revolver

Revolver pictures: Solid-frame revolver

   There are three main classes of pistols: single-shot, semi-automatic and automatic. Single-shot pistols are out of date, they are not suitable for self defense and only have some application in sport. Automatic pistols are usually prohibited for civilians; they go on shooting for as long as the trigger is held. The great majority of modern pistols - self-loading semi-automatic pistols. Henceforth we will consider only this class of pistols.

Pistol pictures: Tokarev (TT) semi-automatic pistol. USSR, 1933

 
Pistol pictures: Scheme of Tokarev (TT) semi-automatic pistol

   Semi-automatic pistols use part of the energy produced by burning cartridge powder to remove the used cartridge from the chamber, cock the hammer (or striker) and load a new cartridge in the chamber, so the pistol will be ready for the next shot. Pistols of .22 caliber are usually of the blowback type. Cartridges are generally fed from a box magazine, placed in the handle of pistol. Box magazines may contain up to 17 cartridges (or more) in single or double columns, depending on the pistol model, and are easy to reload.

   Pistols have undoubted advantages over revolvers: extended cartridge capacity, reload simplicity, flat shape, but they are not so reliable as revolvers. Due to their simplicity, revolvers are less complicated to operate and require less care as compared to semi-auto pistols. One could say that revolvers are more suitable for the cases of a sudden street defense, when the ability of making a quick shot is a point of a great importance.

   Handgun caliber/type of ammo is an important question. As a pistol's/revolver's caliber increases, its stopping power grows. But it doesn't mean that there's a use in buying .50 caliber pistol for the purposes of self-defense. Larger caliber handguns are heavier, have bulkier size and more recoil. In general, 9 mm caliber (9x19, .38 special, .357 magnum) is the optimal choice for the self-defense. It provides self-defender with a high stopping power, sufficient in most cases to repel a violent agression. Avoid to use .22 guns for self-defense: small .22 caliber bullet has relatively high penetration ability, but its stopping power is quite poor - in many cases it can't deactivate an agressive assailant. In the handgun ammunition section we will discuss deeply the different kinds of handgun ammo.
   On the next page we will examine various defensive handgun models.



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