A handgun is a firearm manufactured and designed to be held in the hand when operated. This distinct characteristic differentiates handguns as a specific class of firearms from their larger cousins: mounted weapons like machine guns, long guns such as rifles and shotguns, and larger weapons such as artillery.
Some handgun subtypes include revolvers, single-shot pistols, semi-automatic pistols, and machine pistols or fully automatic.
The modern handgun is a molded piece of crafted metal or plastic that remains in great demand by police departments, military forces and civilians of all parts of life. The handgun is generally small, lightweight and provides exceptional firepower. These attributes make the handgun suitable for offensive and defensive situations and even suitable for small and medium game hunting. For each situation, careful choice of the properly fitted ammunition and handgun must be made.
Generally, handguns are divided into a select few classes:
- Semi-Automatic (also known as pistols)
- Non-Automatics (single or multibarreled and single shot or magazine fed)
A relatively new entrant into the world of handguns is the SigSauer Sig-Pro. This semi automatic pistol uses some of the energy produced by igniting cartridge powder to extract the old cartridge from the chamber, cock the striker or hammer and load a new cartridge into the chamber enabling the pistol to be ready for the next shot. Generally, cartridges are fed from a box type magazine, conveniently located in the pistol's handle. Up to 15 cartridges or more can be contained in a box magazine. Depending on the pistol model, the box magazines are quick and easy to reload.
One of the Classic Pistol designs which has been duplicated by many other gun manufacturers is the Colt 1911.
Revolvers were named such because of their revolving or rotating cylinder, which contains cartridges. Generally the cylinder may hold from 5 to 7 different loads, however some .22 caliber revolvers may hold upwards of 8 to 10 cartridges. Reloading of the cylinder may be done in two ways and depends on the specific revolver design. For example, the Colt PeaceKeeper is loaded one by one, similar to most older revolvers or all cartridges can be loaded simultaneously. This occurs when the frame is "broke up" or the cylinder is switched to the side.
Single Action VS Double Action
Both semi automatic pistols and revolvers have two distinct "action styles": Single action and Double action. Single Action refers to the fact that the Revolver must be manually cocked or cocked by hand (and, therefore the cylinder is rotated to the next cartridge enabling it to be fired) for each shot. The single action mode was the sole mode available in all older revolvers, for example the Colt Peacekeeper. The Single Action mode is still also available in many double action revolvers. This original mode slows the fire rate however generally improves accuracy. In Semi Automatic pistols the Single Action refers to the fact that the pistol must be cocked by hand or manually cocked for the first shot, (generally this is achieved by pulling the slide - this action feeds a cartridge in the chamber by cocking the hammer). For all consecutive shots, cocking is done automatically, when the force of the recoil pulls back the slide.
The Double Action mode for the Revolver works in that the hammer for the first shot and each shot thereafter is cocked by pulling the trigger (the pulling of the trigger rotates the cylinder to the next position). The Double Action mode simplifies the shooting action and speeds up the firing rate however greatly increases the weight of the trigger pull (from 2.2-4.4 lbs which is usually found in single-actions, to 8.8-12.2 lbs which is usually found in double-actions). For the Semi Automatic pistols, the hammer is generally cocked by trigger pull for only the first shot; the second shot and all remaining shots are performed in single-action mode. However, the first load must be fed into the chamber by the slide pull. Some (most of them being compact) semi-automatic pistols and revolvers utilize a double action only mode, this action which cocks the trigger for each shot, therefore excluding single-action.
Revolver VS Pistol
Many note that the revolver is still in wide use and popularity today because of its reliability. Revolvers usually hold 6 rounds whereas some pistols may hold up to 17 rounds. Generally, given a similar price, according to low or mid range prices), revolvers were found to be more reliable, primarily, due to the simplicity of the design. Today, however there's numerous inexpensive semi automatic pistols, that can easily hold twice or even triple as many loads ready to fire, than the common revolvers.
Another reason, the revolver is still alive today is that the revolver is nearly insensitive to ammunition. If the cartridge is capable of pushing a bullet through the barrel of the revolver, you will most likely have a working gun. There are hardly ever any jams or stoppages. Even if the revolver were to misfire, you simply pull the trigger again and the next round will fire. With a semi automatic pistol sufficient power is needed to cycle through the slide, therefore rendering insufficiently powered loads almost inoperable. Also, in the situation of a jam or misfire, the slide must be manually cycled to the next round. Clearly in a defensive scenario, the manual act may cost you another second which could cost your life. Therefore, in general revolvers are far less sensitive to quality of ammunition and their unique design features enable the gun to withstand much more abuse.
The main detriments to the revolver are they are generally bulkier in size, have a small ammunition capacity and it is much slower to reload. In most situations 6 rounds may be sufficient for self defense situations, however it other instances such as police and Special Operations assignments it may be insufficient. Additionally, replacing the magazine in a semi automatic pistol is generally much faster than reloading the revolvers' drum. Lastly, due to the significant cylinder diameter, even the 5 shot revolvers are more difficult to carry concealed than the modern compact pistols. The pistol also holds 2 to 3 times the ammunition.
Final selection of the handgun is an owner's responsibility. Great care and research must be attained before purchase.