Firearms Fundamentals: revolver vs. semi-automatic by Daniel White - Cleveland Gun Rights Examiner

Firearms Fundamentals: revolver vs. semi-automatic by Daniel White - Cleveland Gun Rights Examiner

September 11, 6:55 AM
Cleveland Gun Rights Examiner Daniel White

One question that is always sure to spur a lot of debate is whether a revolver or semi-automatic pistol is the better choice for self-defense. While the pros and cons of each are many and provide far more material than can be covered in one article, I will lay out the primary arguments for each.

A revolver has fewer moving parts than a semi-automatic pistol. This tends to make them very reliable with very little maintenance required. There are simply fewer parts that can break on a revolver and fewer things that can go wrong while firing one. In most cases, if the pistol fails to fire when you pull the trigger (bad ammunition can cause this to happen) you simply pull the trigger again and a new cartridge rotates into place. That's part of the reason why some call the revolver the original point and click device.

There are some drawbacks to revolvers, however. Since the ammunition is contained in the round cylinder, they tend to be fatter than a similarly sized semi-automatic. This can make them more difficult to conceal, though only slightly so, particularly with a smaller round like a .22.

Most revolvers only have six shots, though many ultra-compact semi-automatics don't have many more than that. Revolvers are also slow to reload. Speed loaders (special tools that hold extra ammo for a revolver) can make reloading faster, but still not as fast as a semi-automatic.

One of the biggest drawbacks is that if a revolver does fail, it can do so spectacularly and completely lock up the gun. Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate this is very rare, but if it happens the gun is usually completely useless and requires a gun smith to make it function again.

Semi-automatic pistols try to make up for the deficiencies of a revolver, but add numerous shortcomings in the process.

They are often thinner, lighter, and can hold more ammunition (often twice as much or more). The removable magazines make them quicker to reload for most people. However, semi-automatic pistols have some drawbacks.

The first of which is that they are more complicated to load. With a revolver, you load the cylinder, close it, and you're ready to go. With a semi-automatic, you insert the magazine and must rack the slide. Not that much more complicated, but if you forget that all important second step (under stress while being attacked or simply because you forgot two years ago when you loaded the gun) nothing will happen no matter how many times you pull the trigger.

If a cartridge fails to fire, you must rack the slide to get rid of the bad cartridge and load a fresh one. A cartridge can also fail to extract when the slide cycles (moves back and forth) causing a jam. Jams in a semi-automatic are often easier to clear than with a revolver, but you still must know how to do it.

The slide itself can be a problem. You must have sufficient strength to pull back the slide, and I've witnessed many people who simply can't do it if the internal springs are too strong. I've never seen anyone unable to close the cylinder on a revolver.

Many semi-automatic pistols have a safety that must be disengaged before firing. Again, failing to do so means the gun won't fire. I've also heard stories of untrained individuals attempting to disengage the safety and instead hitting the magazine release button causing the pistol to unload.

More moving parts means there is more to break, though most quality semi-automatics tend to have long service lives. These moving parts do require more maintenance and also provide more opportunities for the gun to jam when dirty, something that rarely happens with a revolver.

In my opinion, revolvers are the better choice for a person who wants a reliable firearm and does not want to invest the time into proper practice. Though, for me, the semi-automatic is the better choice.

I practice regularly to be sure I'm familiar with the controls and have built muscle memory for dealing with malfunctions. I can also shoot a semi-automatic faster than a revolver. My pistol holds 11 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition, as opposed to the six rounds in a revolver. With one extra magazine, I have 21 shots versus the 12 I'd have with one speed loader for a revolver.

It all boils down to a matter of personal preference, and really any gun is going to be better than no gun. It is a decision you have to make for yourself.

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4 Comments

5 years 10 weeks ago, 11:12 AM

runawaygun762

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in this theory. Let's take the major actions required to reload each one. With an auto, you:
1. Press mag release
2. Insert new mag
3. depress slide lock lever / "slingshot" slide

With a revolver, you
1. Press cylinder latch
2. Open cylinder
3. Insert moon clip (if that's an option. It's not with the common calibers of .38/.357).
4. Close cylinder

If you have a .38/.357, then you are more than likely using a speedloader (we hope) and then the steps become more complicated in that you have to line up the cartridges with the chambers and twist the speedloader knob or press the speedloader button. Revolvers are more complicated to reload under stress. I won't get very deep into the durability issue, because if you have a gun for defense and don't shoot it but every couple years, you're not a responsible gun owner anyway and the probability that you even research these things is very low. I will say that most modern autos have magazines capable of being loaded for very long periods of time with no ill effects on the performance. It was quite obvious this author prefers revolvers, as he provided incorrect information to an intended target audience of potential first-time or novice gun owners.

"I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. The calling of arms, I have followed from boyhood. I have never sought another." From The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield.
5 years 10 weeks ago, 12:46 PM

Schuyler

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WTF? So that means you have no idea how to shoot the gun, then. In my humble opinion, if you are to be considered competent to use a gun, in self-defense or otherwise, you ought to have shot a thousand rounds through it in the very recent past. If you leave a gun alone for two years all it is is a very expensive and dangerous paper weight,

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
5 years 10 weeks ago, 2:36 PM

runawaygun762

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I think you can gain a very high level of proficiency without standing knee-deep in brass. The "one-shot qualification" is a very good indicator of how you may perform in a self-defense scenario, and dry-fire training is nearly as important for the fundamentals as live-fire.

"I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. The calling of arms, I have followed from boyhood. I have never sought another." From The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield.
4 years 39 weeks ago, 4:50 PM

Vaquero

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I realize runaway is not on now.
Anyone, fill me in. What does this refer to?

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
samD's picture
Posted by: samD
5 years 10 weeks ago
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