Lanterns: Revolver vs. Semi-Auto-- Which One is For You?


Revolver vs. Semi-Auto-- Which One is For You?

There has been much debate over the years as to which is better-- the revolver or the semi-automatic handgun. Here are my two cents on which one I think is better. I am going to look at them from the following areas: concealability, caliber, capacity, type of handgun, and functionality.

Concealability--  some people say semi-autos are easier to conceal because they have straight flat sides and are more comfortable to carry on the hip; however, there are many revolvers that are very easy to concealable.  Semi-autos are relatively thinner than a revolver, and revolvers are more organic looking when concealed under a larger garment which makes them look like they are part of the body.  The revolver has a cylinder which sticks out and makes the handgun harder to conceal under more form fitting clothing. Both types of handguns can be concealed with the right holster and cover garment choice.  

Capacity-- semi-autos have this area hands down because many were designed for concealed carry and have a magazine capacity of 6 to 15 rounds whereas revolvers usually have a lower ammo capacity of 5 to 8 rounds. While we are on the subject of capacity, what about the calibers? Today, many revolvers can now shoot semi-auto calibers and revolver calibers. Also, many of the revolver calibers can be more powerful.  

So what are the calibers for pistols and revolvers?  Let’s start with pistol calibers. They are 32 ACP, 380 Auto, 9mm, 40 S&W, 45 ACP and 50 AE.  The revolver calibers are 327 Federal, 38 special, 357 mag, 41 mag, 44 special,  44 mag, and 45 long colt.  There are many others calibers that I did not list, but these are the most common calibers for defense in both pistols and revolvers.

Colt 1911

So, let's take a look at an example of each type of handgun.  In the semi-auto, there are three different main types.  The first type is the single action. This means the hammer must be cocked before the pistol can be fired, and it also has a manual safety. The trigger is a light and short pull from the first shot to the last shot. The Colt 1911 is an example.  

The second type is the double/single action.  This type of pistol is loaded and then decocked with a decocker/safety when the hammer is forward. When the trigger is pulled, the first pull is long and heavy. After the first shot, the pistol is in a single action.  A good example is the Beretta 92, pictured below.


The last type is the double action, also known as striker fire pistols.  This type of pistol has a long trigger pull and no manual external safeties. The Glock 19 below, is an example. 




Revolvers-- there are two basic types: single action and double action.  The single action is just like the single action pistol-- the hammer must be cocked before the revolver is fired.  A good example is the old west cowboy revolvers like the 1851 Colt Navy Revolver.  

The other type is the double action revolver.These revolvers can be fired when the hammer is down. They can also be cocked like a single action for a shorter and lighter trigger pull which comes in handy for a more precise shot or longer range.

The functionality of the two types of handguns can be broken down into the following categories: user-friendly, malfunctions and reloading.   The user-friendly of each type, the pistol function, is based on the person using the firearm.  You have to have a strong grip and a good stance to control the recoil in order for the pistol slide to function right.  In other words, if you lean back and have a loose grip, the slide will not function properly, and you can get a jam.  This is different in revolvers because firing the revolver is all mechanical, and you don’t have to have that good grip or stance in order for the revolver to function right.  The revolver is as simple point and pull the trigger, so in this area, the revolver wins.  

Both semi-autos and revolvers can have malfunctions, but the semi-auto is more likely to have a malfunction than a revolver. The malfunctions, in many cases with semi-autos, are the fault of the user not having a good grip or stance.  The revolver, on the other hand, only has a few, and they are far between.  They can be caused by a primer pop or misfeed which is caused when one round goes under the star and prevents the closing of the cylinder. So once again, the revolver wins again.  

Last, is reloading. Reloading the semi-auto is much easier and faster to me, than the revolver.  It is simple, just push the button and the magazine drops out, then a new magazine is inserted into the pistol.  

Reloading a revolver is a bit more difficult and complex.  First, push the cylinder release forwards, this will cause the cylinder to swing open.  Next, point the muzzle up and push the extractor downwards to remove the casings.  Then, point the muzzle down and load the cartridges into the chambers, either one at a time, or with a speed loader.  Close the cylinder until there is an audible click, and that is it-- the revolver is reloaded.     

In conclusion,  the revolver and the semi-auto, both have their pros and cons.  So which one would I suggest?  Either one, it is up to you on which one you prefer.  Some people want to know what I carry, a revolver or a semi-auto? My answer is both-- I carry a semi-auto as my main carry weapon and a revolver as my backup.  I figure I can't go wrong. 

Curt Andrews 
A Second Amendment Advocate


Written by Curt Andrews

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