Federal Firarms Banner Image

Revolver Vs. Pistol: The Differences

a selection of revolvers and pistols sitting on top of a plastic table

The terms “revolver” and “pistol” are sometimes used loosely to describe handguns, even though these two firearm types are mechanically different from one another.  Understanding the differences between a revolver and a pistol can help you make the best decision when choosing the right firearm for your needs.

The Basics Of the Pistols and Revolvers

Let’s dive into the mechanics and advantages of revolvers and pistols, providing you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision or simply just answer the question at hand!

How Pistols and Revolvers Are Alike

At their core, both revolvers and pistols are handguns that are commonly used for self-defense and recreational shooting. However, they differ in the way that they operate.

pistol and a revolver resting on a wooden table

How Revolvers Work

A revolver works through a revolving cylinder that holds multiple cartridges. Each time the trigger is squeezed, the cylinder rotates, bringing a fresh cartridge into position and firing it. There are two types of revolvers: double-action and single-action.

Notice how the cylinder rotates after the bullet is fired in the video above.

Double-action revolvers require the user to pull the trigger for each shot, while single-action revolvers require you to manually cock the hammer before pulling the trigger. A double-action/single-action revolver offers the best of both worlds, allowing the user to choose between manually cocking the hammer for a light and precise trigger pull or using the heavier but simpler double-action mode.

How Pistols Work

On the other hand, a pistol operates through a semi-automatic firing mechanism. This means that each time the trigger is pulled, a new cartridge is automatically loaded from a magazine into the chamber and fired.

Reference the video above to see that after the spent cartridge is expelled, the top part of the gun slides forward, chambering a new round.

Pistols also have different variations, such as single stack, double stack, and striker-fired:

Single stack– This refers to the way cartridges are stacked in the magazine, with a single column of rounds. This results in a slimmer profile and, thus, a more comfortable grip for those with smaller hands.

Double stack– Similar to single stack, but with two columns of cartridges stacked on top of each other in the magazine. This allows for a larger capacity of ammunition to be carried.”This feature eliminates the requirement for manually cocking or decocking. This feature eliminates the requirement for manually cocking or decocking.

Striker-fired– In this type of pistol, instead of a hammer pulling back and releasing to fire the shot, a spring-loaded striker is used to strike the primer directly on the cartridge. This creates a smoother trigger pull and eliminates the need for manually cocking or decocking.

With a semi-automatic pistol, they typically operate around two of the different actions:

Recoil-operated– In this action, the force of the recoil from firing a shot cycles the slide back and ejects the spent casing, then returns forward to load a new round from the magazine into the chamber.

Blowback-operated– This action uses the force of expanding gas from firing a shot to push the slide back and cycle through rounds.

Pros and Cons of Revolvers

One of the main advantages of revolvers is their simplicity and reliability. With fewer moving parts than pistols, they are less likely to jam or malfunction in critical situations. Additionally, if one round fails to fire, you can simply pull the trigger again.

One of the main advantages of many pistols (also known as a semi-automatic handgun) is that they use a magazine that holds multiple rounds more than a revolver and cycles the next cartridge into the chamber automatically after each shot is fired.

Advantages of Revolvers and Pistols

One of the advantages of a revolver is its simplicity. There are fewer moving parts, making it easier to maintain and repair. Revolvers are also known for their reliability and durability, as they are less prone to malfunctions. This makes them a great choice for those who prioritize ease of use and reliability over capacity. Additionally, revolvers are less likely to jam as compared to semi-automatic pistols, even when using lower-quality ammunition.

On the other hand, the advantages of a pistol mainly revolve around their increased capacity and rapid-fire rate. Unlike revolvers, pistols allow for the quick loading and unloading of ammunition, which can be especially useful in defensive scenarios. Additionally, pistol hold more rounds in a magazine, making it easier to deal with multiple threats without the need to reload frequently. Pistols also have a lighter trigger pull and shorter trigger reset, which makes them more suitable for those faster shooting cycles.

Another difference between revolvers and pistols is their overall design. Revolvers tend to have heavier frames and larger grips due to the need to house the revolving cylinder that holds the bullets. This can make them less comfortable to carry, especially for those who conceal carry.

Pistols, on the other hand, often have slimmer profiles and lighter weights, making them a more comfortable and a practical choice for concealed carry.

Pistols are also more customizable to specific situations. Learn the best pistols to customize!

Popular Revolvers and Pistols on the Market:

Revolvers: Smith & Wesson Model 686, Ruger GP100, Colt Python
Pistols: Glock 19, Sig Sauer P320, Smith & Wesson M&P9

Of course, the type of gun that best suits an individual’s needs and preferences will vary. Some may prefer the simplicity and reliability of a revolver, while others may opt for the versatility and customization options offered by pistols.

It’s important to note that both revolvers and pistols have their own unique features. Ultimately, the decision between a revolver and a pistol depends on your individual preferences and needs.

If you’re looking for simplicity, reliability, and a higher degree of accuracy, then a revolver may be the best choice for you. If you prioritize capacity, rapid-fire capabilities, and quick loading/unloading, then you may want to consider a pistol. Regardless of your choice, it’s important to always prioritize safe and responsible gun ownership.

Visit Federal Firearms Today!

At Federal Firearms, we understand the importance of finding the right firearm for your needs. That’s why we offer a wide selection of both revolvers and pistols so you can choose the one that works best for you.

At our gun shop, we understand that choosing the right firearm can be intimidating. That’s why our knowledgeable staff is always available to answer any questions and help you find the perfect fit for your needs and preferences. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time buyer, we are dedicated to providing a comfortable and informative shopping experience.

In addition to our wide selection of firearms, we also offer various accessories such as holsters, magazines, and cleaning kits. We want to ensure that you have everything you need to safely and responsibly own a firearm.

Contact us today to learn more!

Contact Us

Need some expert advice? Fill out the form below and someone will get back to you within 48 hours!