If you’re adding a new handgun to your armory but it’s been so long you need a refresher on handguns or if you’re a beginner looking to buy your first gun, you came to the right place! If you’re neither, you’re just as welcome here! Get ready for the battle of the handguns in this pistol versus revolver face-off!
A revolver is a handgun that has a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers (hence its name). Each chamber holds a single cartridge. Most revolver models hold up to six cartridges.
Cocking the hammer by pulling the trigger partially revolves the cylinder, aligning one of the cylinder chambers with the barrel. The bullet from the aligned chamber is then fired through the bore. This process for double action revolvers, which is the common design for most modern revolvers.
Compared to a pistol, a revolver has a simpler design, so learning how to use it is easier. You can also keep your revolver loaded and ready to shoot without tiring out any springs. You also won’t need to lubricate a revolver to achieve smooth firing action. Once you learn how to load it and pull the trigger, you’re good to go.
A revolver has a heavier trigger, so it’s less prone to accidental firing in double action mode. But this can be a disadvantage too. We’ll explain in a bit.
Easier to fix malfunctions
Because of its simple design, a revolver is easier to troubleshoot during malfunctions. The energy used in cycling the revolver comes from cocking the hammer or by squeezing the trigger for a double-action, and not from firing the cartridge. So a jam can be resolved by simply pulling the trigger again.
More stopping power
The most common revolver calibers such as the .44 Magnum and the .357 Magnum are very powerful. Revolvers are uniquely able to handle larger calibers than semi-automatic guns and are used for hunting big game much more often since they have plenty of power.
Heavy and Wide
Revolvers are typically made of steel since they’re mostly chambered for large and therefore powerful calibers. Their steel construction allows revolvers to handle these rounds’ power and recoil. Unfortunately, that also makes them quite heavy since they effectively have 5-6 “chambers”, which are already one of the heaviest parts of a handgun due to the need to reinforce around the location of the bullet’s explosion.
Revolvers are also bulkier and more difficult to conceal because of their cylinder.
Most revolver models only accommodate six rounds then you’ll have to reload. This becomes a disadvantage in emergency situations and when time is of the essence. Plus, speed loaders occupy more space than a traditional handgun magazine.
Heavy double-action trigger pull (possibly)
Since revolvers have longer and heavier trigger pull, some shooters might find it challenging to achieve accuracy when firing rapid consecutive shots.
This con is completely removed with single-action guns, however, since they are competitive with other single-action handguns and better than many striker-fired and double action guns.
Common Revolver Calibers
- .38 Special
- .357 Magnum
- .44 Special
- .44 Magnum
- .45 Colt
A pistol is simply a gun designed to be fired with one hand. Most pistols sold today are semi-automatic pistols. A semi-automatic pistol is a “handgun that automatically ejects and loads cartridges in its chamber after every shot.”
When a cartridge is extracted from the magazine and loaded into the chamber, the barrel locks into place. After that, the firing pin strikes the primer, expanding gas pressure and pushing the projectile out of the barrel.
The spent cartridge is pushed rearward as the slide moves backward as well. This then unlocks the barrel, allowing the extractor to extract the spent cartridge from the chamber and ejects it out of the pistol. As the slide moves forward, the hammer is also cocked, a new cartridge is fed from the magazine, and the cycle starts again.
Unlike revolvers, most pistols are constructed from lightweight materials such as polymer.
Pistols have way more magazine capacity than revolvers. Double stack pistols usually have s capacity of 15 to 17 rounds, while single stack pistols have 6 to 10 rounds mag capacity.
Most modern semi-automatic pistols have shorter and lighter triggers compared to revolvers, which makes it easier to fire rapid consecutive shots.
Most modern pistols are highly customizable so you can upgrade yours with parts from a wide range of aftermarket options available for mounting optics and accessories or improving grips, controls, and triggers.
Since the majority of pistols are chambered in small calibers, they have more manageable recoil. That’s aided also by the spring and action of the slide that spreads out the force of the bullet firing over time unlike the action of a revolver.
Less stopping power
Since pistols are usually chambered for small calibers, they have less stopping power. Don’t get us wrong, though, there are plenty of pistol cartridges that are powerful enough to defend you from an attacker.
More difficult to troubleshoot
When a jam occurs in a semi automatic pistol, the action needs to cycle manually to clear the chamber and remove the cartridge that failed to fire.
Because of its many moving parts and more complex operation, a pistol is also more prone to malfunctions.
Common Pistol Calibers
- 380 ACP
- .40 S&W
- .45 ACP
Summary: Which is Better?
Capacity [Winner: Pistol]
Even if we compare a revolver’s mag capacity to a single-stack pistol, the latter will still succeed, because, depending on the model, single-stacks can have up to 10 rounds of ammo compared to a revolver’s fixed 6-round capacity.
Accuracy [Winner: Revolver]
The revolver wins this round because its fixed barrel makes it more accurate than most pistols.
Weight [Winner: Pistol]
Pistols are constructed from more lightweight materials compared to revolvers that are often built with steel. This makes most pistols more portable and therefore better for concealed carry over revolvers.
Reloading [Winner: Pistol]
A revolver may have simpler operation, but learning to reload it quickly requires a lot of practice and experience. But with pistols, you only need to insert a fresh magazine into the frame, retract the slide or depress the slide stop, and you’re ready to shoot again.
Misfires [Winner: Revolver]
When a pistol fails to fire, you’d often need to retract the slide to eject the faulty round. But with revolvers, you only need to pull the trigger again to rotate the cylinder and fire the next round.
Like what we always say, it all boils down to your preference. You might prefer revolvers because you love shooting powerful calibers or you might prefer pistols because capacity is your priority. Whichever you choose and whatever your reason, we respect that. Have fun with your new gun!