Which is the Better Bug Out Gun?

Ever since the semi-automatic pistol was invented, there has been a considerable degree of controversy over whether these guns or revolvers are better.  Each of these handguns has advantages and disadvantages.

If you are looking for the perfect handgun for bugging out, you can consider the pros and cons presented in this article while you are making your choices.  Bear in mind that the gun that looks best for you as a beginner, intermediate shooter, or expert may also look different.

When evaluating guns for bugging out, you should always be aware of how your abilities change and also how your view the situations you may encounter.

Semi-automatic Pistols Pros and Cons


The most popular type of handgun in use today for protection is the semi-automatic pistol. The main reasons people choose these guns include the high capacity magazines, reliability, less recoil, the triggers are easier to use, the sights are better, and they fire faster.

The ability to shoot quickly with a pistol is one of the most important advantages of this type of firearm. Most people who use semi-automatic pistols would rather be able to fire off several bullets even if they aren’t as well placed rather than rely on one or two shots that were better aimed.

At the end of the day, this belief can be a “pro” to some, but make others with more experience think twice because surviving a gun fight is still very much about hitting the optimal place on the adversary as quickly and efficiently as possible.   That being said, the fact that a semi can carry 12 – 20 bullets versus 5 or 6 in a revolver still gives you the chance to hit multiple targets if needed. Since the semi-automatic also come with better sights these days, the high capacity magazines definitely add up to an advantage over the revolvers.

Semi-automatic pistols are also much easier to reload.  Since the magazines are smaller and more compact, you can also carry several of them pre-loaded and be ready to fire again in a matter of seconds.  On the other hand, the speed loader for a revolver can be quite bulky and take more time to reload.  Even if you plan on carrying them. It is still easier to fit a semi magazine into your pocket.


There are few drawbacks with a semi-automatic pistol.  First, they must be kept meticulously clean.  They can also be very picky with the ammunition that will go through them without causing damage or jams.  For a semi-automatic pistol, the cartridges must have the proper shape for reliable feeding.  It must also have enough powder in the case to fully function the slide without battering and breaking the internal parts. The case must have the proper head spacing so that it moves easily in and out of the chamber without hanging up.

A semi-automatic pistol to a new shooter can be complicated because they must learn how to operate slides, slides stops, magazine releases, decockers, and safeties.  In addition, some individuals are not strong enough to pull back the side. This problem is as old as the pistol design itself because of the heavy recoil spring and the small width of the slide.   If you have problems fully pulling back the slide, but still want to have a semi for your bug out gun, try the following:

  • First, hold the back of pistol slide in the grooves with your left hand.
  • While holding the frame of the pistol in your right hand, with your trigger finger outside of the trigger guard, push the frame forward to work the slide. This will load the chamber of the pistol. The reason this works is that it takes less muscle power to push the frame forward than it does to pull the slide back.

Another problem with pistols is that if the magazines are lost or broken your pistol turns into a single-shot weapon. If your pistol has a magazine safety and you have lost your magazines this pistol will not be able to fire at all.

When compared to revolvers, semis have limited energy and penetration. In some shooting scenarios, limited penetration could be an advantage, however, it will not work in other situations. For example, a  nine-millimeter hollow point projectile is much less likely to penetrate multiple walls then the classic    357 Magnum projectile.  On the other hand, if you need to get past low-grade body armor or shoot longer distances, the lack of penetration can leave you with a serious problem on your hands.

If you keep your pistol with a loaded round in the chamber. It is to your advantage to have a pistol that has a safety or a decocker to keep the pistol from accidentally discharging if the trigger is pulled.

Pistol malfunctions represent the greatest problem with semi- automatic pistols when compared to revolvers.  You must know how to recognize and clear the four most common different types of pistol malfunctions.  While the following steps may not seem complicated, bear in mind they can cost you in terms of valuable concentration and time in an actual situation.

The Hang fire

  • The trigger is pulled and no bang. A hang fire occurs when there is a delay in the powder being ignited.
  • Keep the pistol pointed down range for about 30-60 seconds to ensure the round will not go off.
  • Remove the magazine.
  • Clear the pistol by pulling the slide back.
  • Check the chamber to ensure that it is empty.
  • Reinsert the magazine.
  • Clamber a new round.

Squib load

  • This is an extremely deadly malfunction that can cause serious injury or death to the shooter.
  • It is caused when a bullet doesn’t leave the barrel when fired and a second bullet hits the front bullet causing a bulged or a ripped open barrel.
  • If there is the possibility of a squib load, the sound of the round in question would be quieter than normal.
  • If something doesn’t sound right, clear the pistol, lock the slide back, and check the barrel for obstructions.
  • To check the barrel use a pencil down the barrel to feel for any obstructions.
  • If there is an obstruction or a bulged barrel, stop shooting and take the pistol to a gunsmith for repair.
  • If the barrel is clear, you should still take the pistol to a gunsmith for a safety check.
  • A squib load can be caused when a round has a primer, but little or no powder in the case.

Failure to feed

  • Is when a pistol fails to feed the next round from the magazine into the chamber.
  •  In this situation, the slide will not be all the way forward because the round did not travel all the way that is needed to be chambered.
  • To fix this problem, first, remove the magazine from the pistol. Then remove the round from the magazine well if it hasn’t already fallen out.
  • Put a fresh magazine in the pistol and chamber the round.


  • A stovepipe happens when a spent casing fails to eject correctly. This causes the spent casing to get trapped upright in the ejection port.
  • The stovepipe is caused by not holding the pistol correctly or limp wristing.
  • To clear the pistol remove the magazine.
  • Lock the slide to the rear to remove the spent casing.
  • Put a fresh magazine in the pistol and chamber the round.

Revolvers Pros and Cons


Revolvers are known for their simplicity and dependability.  They are extremely safe handguns to operate in either single or double action mode.  New shooters can grasp how they function easily.  Revolvers take a minimum of training to learn how to use.   Another reason some individuals prefer to carry revolvers is that they simply do not need to worry about having the strength to pull the slide back on a pistol and chamber a round.

It is very easy to recover brass from a revolver. When the revolver is empty, just swing out the cylinder and push the extractor rod. The spent cartridges will fall into your hand.  From there the brass can be saved in your pocket and used with reloading equipment later on to make a new bullet.

Revolvers are also far more forgiving in terms of ammunition choice.  Basically, if the ammunition fits in the cylinder and the cylinder locks, the revolver should fire the bullet.  While you should never use ammunition that is too hot for the gun in question, a revolver will take a lot more variance than a semi-automatic pistol.


Revolvers only have a few drawbacks as a prime personal protection sidearm. They have a limited capacity, are extremely slow to reload, and the cartridges which they shoot can be too heavy for city or in home use. To fix these problems, practice with the speed loaders regularly and carry ammunition that will not shoot through walls.

In conclusion, there are pros and cons associated with both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers.  At times, you may think that the revolver is the best bug out gun for your needs; while a semi-automatic pistol may seem more appealing to others. As Jeff Cooper would say: “The police cannot protect the citizen at this stage of our development, and they cannot even protect themselves in many cases. It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and this is not only acceptable but mandatory.”   In the end, this is a highly personal choice, and the best gun will be the one you have with you and know best how to use.

If you have any comments, please put them in the comment section below.

Further Reading


About Fred Tyrell:

I am an Eagle Scout and a retired police officer. I love the great outdoors and I am very conservation minded. It is my wish to pass along to other generations what I have learned in my lifetime. I am a champion marksman with handguns, rifles, and shotguns. You can read more of my articles on Survivor’s Fortress.

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