Revolver vs Semi-Auto Pistol

revolver vs semi auto pistolRevolver vs Semi-Auto Pistol

The argument Revolver vs Semi-Auto Pistol has gone on in our industry and the gun world for many years. Almost as long as some of the popular caliber arguments.  Many people believe that a revolver is the perfect self-defense gun for a woman. Some people believe that many women cannot operate a semi-automatic pistol properly for self-defense.

Let’s look at some of the facts involving Revolver vs Semi-Auto Pistol.

This article is an excerpt from my new book about Colorado Concealed Carry.

Ease of Use

Revolver- The Manual of Arms for a revolver is very simple. Most revolvers are identical in how they operate. If you can load it, you just point and shoot. No safeties, no decockers, no slides or magazines to deal with. A person can learn to load a revolver very quickly. Shooting is just a matter of pointing and pressing the trigger.

Semi-Auto Pistol- Operating a semi-auto pistol is not complicated it just takes some practice. Performing the right steps in the right order is essential. Most people can learn in a short period of time to operate one if they have average strength in their hands and are willing to practice. Semi-Auto pistols can go from minimal controls to learn to more complex guns that have more controls. Picking the right Semi-Auto pistol is essential.

Ease of Shooting 

Revolver- Revolvers for self-defense are mostly recommended in a minimum .38spl caliber. These caliber handguns in short barrel models are harder to shoot. It is a skill that can be learned, but it takes time and money. Ammunition to practice with these guns is more expensive and harder to find and these guns tend to have a lot of recoil. This changes of course if smaller calibers are used or longer barrel models of guns are shot. Obviously, a small-caliber gun might not stop an attacker. In addition, a long barrel gun is not easily carried outside of the home for self-defense.

Semi-Auto Pistol-The semi-auto pistol tends to be a little easier to shoot, and in the right caliber, the ammunition can be a little more affordable for practice. Many of these handguns can be easier to shoot and have a short learning curve to get shots on the target. The most popular caliber in these handguns is 9mm Luger. Ammunition in this caliber is currently available and reasonably priced.

Ease of Concealment

Revolver- Many of the small revolvers can be concealed very easily. You still need a holster! Revolvers can be carried both in a pocket or a purse and on a belt in a holster in various positions. Larger revolvers are harder to conceal but can be worn on the belt with a proper holster and many people have carried this type of gun in these ways for many years

Semi-Auto Pistol- These pistols are a little harder to conceal in a pocket depending on size. One of the things people don’t seem to understand is that small semi-auto pistols don’t shoot easily and are just as dangerous if not more when it comes to administrative handling accidents. Many times, the short barrel and the smaller caliber contribute to their limited success. The popular size for concealed carry is what we are now calling (compact pistols) and people conceal them very well in a lot of positions on the body

Pros and Cons Revolver-

(Double Action Only No Hammer)


Easy to conceal
Easy to learn and operate safely (manual of arms)
Fires without proper grip
Fires from inside a pocket or purse without malfunctioning
Good for non-dedicated gun people that just need a fire extinguisher
Better for people that don’t or won’t practice much
Safer for people that won’t carry a live round chambered in a semi-auto
Ammunition does not function the gun, the gun is mechanical
Almost any ammo will function in the gun


A smaller number of rounds (5-6)
Harder (takes longer) to reload in emergencies
More recoil
Harder to shoot and be accurate
More expensive to shoot
Not good for multiple assailant attacks
A great majority of the people will not practice
Revolvers need to be maintained to work properly
Not made for 500 round shooting classes
Needs trained individual to work on them

Pros and Cons Semi-Auto Pistol-

(Compact Pistol-double action only- or striker-fired- no hammer)


Easy to conceal
Not hard to learn but you have to know the steps
Ammo capacity is greater
Reloads are easier
Semi-Auto (SA) pistols will run when poorly maintained
Semi-Auto (SA) pistols are easier to shoot (when the right gun is chosen)
SA pistols will cost less money to shoot and practice with


Manual of Arms is more complicated
You have to learn the load and unload process and practice the order
You have to be able to physically operate the parts of the pistol (rack the slide)
If you don’t practice with this gun, you won’t likely operate it well a year later
Ammunition functions the gun
Improper grip may cause semi-auto to fail
Poor- or low-quality ammo may not function the gun

Conclusion Revolver vs Semi-Auto Pistol

If you are not willing to train or practice with your handgun it is much safer for you to learn to operate a revolver. Most gun accidents happen in administrative gun handling. Loading, unloading, cleaning, transporting, holstering and unholstering. Self-defense shootings are rare and you are more likely to hurt yourself or someone else than to ever be involved in a self-defense shooting. The fire extinguisher syndrome Darryl Bolkee talks about is putting the gun in your nightstand and only getting it out when there is an emergency. If on the other hand you train at least once a month and stay familiar with your firearm then you should be fine with a semi-auto handgun. This all assumes that you are physically capable of handling either gun.


Manual of Arms-

Darryl Bolkee

Compact Pistol- see

Administrative Gun Handling-

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