Revolver Vs. Pistol – Which One Is Better

Most people do not think twice before choosing a handgun for their professional or personal defense needs.

These relatively small weapons are quite powerful, and you can carry them around with little hassle. But, as you can guess, there are multiple options in the handgun category. Revolver and Pistol are two names that people are mostly confused about.

Both the Pistol and the revolver are popular types of handguns. Some even use these terms interchangeably but doing so is incorrect. There are many differences between a revolver and a pistol if you are wondering.

These differences matter a lot when you want to use them for personal defense or more professional needs. Long story, you cannot swap the revolver for a pistol and have the same experience — and vice versa.

Therefore, before you pick something from the revolver vs. pistol duo, you should know the distinct features of both handgun types. A wrong selection means you cannot get the same control or convenience from the handgun.

In this article, we have prepared an in-depth comparison between revolver and Pistol. We have gone through the advantages and disadvantages of both firearms before comparing them. We have also provided some insights on which one is the best for your needs.

Let’s start with a basic introduction to both Revolver and Pistol.

What Is A Revolver?

A revolver is a repeating handgun that consists of a single barrel and multiple chambers.

The multiple chambers are accommodated inside a revolving cylinder. The cylinder partially rotates before the cartridges are fired from the handgun. In most cases, the revolving cylinder comes with six chambers, which can include six cartridges.

In some contexts, revolvers are also known as six-shooters or wheel guns. Nowadays, you can find various types of revolvers in the market. For instance, you can discover revolvers that use different ways to cock the hammer.

It can be done by pulling the hammer back manually or through the movement of the trigger. You can also see the rise of combined methods. There was a time when revolvers were the most popular handguns in the market. Law enforcement officers and individuals had used them.

However, following the rise of semi-automatic pistols (which we will explore in detail), revolvers have taken the place of backup handguns. Nowadays, you can find revolvers in the hands of law enforcement officers, security guards, and those who need self-defense.

It is also worth noting that the revolving method is not exclusive to handguns. You can find the method being used in other firearms, but they are not so popular. For instance, several shotguns, cannons, rifles, and grenade launchers use the revolving method. However, they are also taken over by automatic and semi-automatic alternatives.

Long story short, despite being relatively older, revolvers are still popular types of firearms. Colt 1851 Navy Revolver, Smith & Wesson Model 10, Smith & Wesson Model 29, Nagant M1895, Colt Python, and Webley are some popular revolver handguns from history. Some of these have been found in movies, TV series, and other cultural productions.


The history of revolver handguns dates back to as early as the seventeenth century. However, these weapons were known as ‘pepperboxes.’ It is worth noting that the revolving method was inefficient.

The world had to wait until 1835 to see a successful version of the firing mechanism when Samuel Colt came up with the unique design and patented it.

When Samuel Colt started making the revolvers, the handguns were single-action for the most part. It meant the user had to manually cock the hammer before pulling the trigger.

However, by the second half of the 19th century, Great Britain had seen the manufacturing of double-action revolvers. By the end of the 19th century, double-action revolvers had become the norm, also known for their increased reliability.

The Model 1889 from Samuel Colt is considered the first double-action revolver. He also introduced many improved versions, including the ones with different cartridges. The Model 10 is also one of the widely sold handguns in the world.

More than 6,00,000 units of this firearm were sold in the 20th century alone. And, as we said, the weapon has remained a standard solution for law enforcement professionals and individuals.

Pros of a Revolver

  • Compared to other types of firearms, revolver handguns are more reliable than ever. There are a few reasons why the design is impressive. Most importantly, though, revolvers use a simple design that cannot go wrong. Therefore, you are unlikely to come across damages and complications while using the gun.
  • Versatility is also a strong point of revolvers. Over the years, we have seen different strands of revolver handgun development. In particular, revolver firearms had introduced ammunition of various calibers. You can easily find revolver handguns in calibers like .38, 41, 44, and .357. We must appreciate this choice at all times.
  • Thanks to the simple design, revolver handguns are easy to use. You do not have to be an expert or firearms enthusiast to get started with a revolver. Because the process is straightforward, you can take the proper precautions and stay safe. You can master the act of pulling the trigger and accuracy in a relatively low time as well.
  • We must also notice that revolvers are pretty durable. You would not have to think about replacing the revolver or its parts for an extended period. Due to the weapon’s simple design, manufacturers can focus more on the construction quality. So, even if you have little time to take care of the firearm, it will stay ready to use.

As you can see, these pros make a revolver handgun the best choice for self-defense. Even in the worst-case scenarios, you can acquire the best accuracy and control, which matters the most if you ask us.

Cons of a Revolver

  • One major problem with revolvers is that they have limited round capacity. In most cases, you have a round capacity of only six cartridges. It means you will have to replace the cartridges more often. In most cases, six shots are more than enough. However, if you want to expand, you might have to make a few compromises.
  • Compared to other weapons, the reload times are higher for a revolver handgun. You have to wait for a few seconds to complete the reloading process as you have to insert the cartridges. The bigger problem is that you may have to focus entirely on the weapon while reloading. It is not ideal when you have a dangerous target in front of you.

The disadvantages of the revolver handgun deal with convenience, for the most part. If you can give up some of these disadvantages, nothing should stop you from getting a revolver for your needs.

What Is A Pistol?

what is pistol

A pistol is a type of handgun that comes with a chamber integrated into the gun barrel.

Even though pistol and handgun terms are used interchangeably, the Pistol is only one type of handgun. It is worth noting that Pistol means ‘small gun’ or ‘knife’ depending on the culture.

However, according to today’s set of definitions, a pistol is known for the mechanism of firing the bullet from a barrel using the chamber.

As you can guess, an essential part of a pistol is the chamber indeed. While the revolver handguns have used a cylinder to store the cartridges, pistols opt for a chamber that would contain only one cartridge.

Once you have loaded and fired a cartridge, the energy from the action will be used to push the new round to the chamber.

Once this is done, the user can use the same process to enable continuous firing. In these semi-automatic firearms, the shell would exit from the gun after each round is fired. Compared to other guns, the user does not have to reload the rounds manually. Instead, once a magazine has been exhausted, they can add another magazine.

Semi-automatic pistols may use different methods for operation. For instance, guns that use 22LR and 380 ACP calibers may use the blowback method. On the other hand, if we deal with 9mm or 40 S&W, the guns may use recoil operation.

It also means users can choose between multiple options when they need a pistol for self-defense or other needs.

We must also keep in mind that you can find different types of pistols in the market. Semi-automatic pistols are the most popular ones, as they do not require the hassle of reloading.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have machine pistols that enable burst fire and fully automated fires. There are some unique types of pistols like the double-barrel pistol and Harmonica pistols.

History of Pistols

As we said, you can find a wide variety of pistols in the market right now. Each of these models follows some unique strand of history.

For the sake of convenience, we will now look at the history of semi-automatic ones only. As you may know, semi-automatic pistols are also considered the norm. The biggest contribution that paved the way to the development of semi-automatic pistols was the introduction of recoil-powered guns.

After the 1880s, many manufacturers had tried to incorporate the recoil-based self-loading mechanism into handguns. While there were many devices during the period, the C-93 Pistol from Hugo Borchardt was the first one to gain widespread momentum. Later, in 1896, Paul Mauser came up with the Broomhandle semi-auto pistol as well.

However, many nations had opted for a semi-automatic pistol instead of a revolver gun during World War II. For instance, the double-action pistol called the Walther P38 was distributed among the German army. After the war, many nations turned their focus onto 9mm Parabellum caliber pistols. After many decades, even the US military sidearm uses a handgun derived from the popular Beretta 92F/FS.

As we mentioned earlier, semi-automatic pistols and their variants have successfully replaced revolver guns to a great extent. Many law enforcement organizations and individuals moved from revolvers to pistols for effectiveness and better control.

We must also mention that advanced versions like automatic pistols and multi-barrel pistols have also become popular in the market.

Pros of a Pistol

  • Semi-automatic pistols are very easy to use. Even though these firearms follow a complex design, the user does not have to worry about that. If you have a semi-automatic pistol, you can add the mag into the gun and start using it. If you are looking for better control over the firing process, pistols are the best option.
  • Compared to other guns, pistols have a higher capacity for rounds. As we mentioned earlier, it does not have a cylinder with a limited number of slots. Instead, a single chamber receives the cartridges from the magazine. Therefore, depending on the magazine being used, the Pistol could have a higher or lower round capacity.
  • Like revolvers and other handgun types, semi-automatic pistols are very handy. You would have any trouble handling these firearms in challenging situations. You can also check out concealed carry options if you are interested. The market also offers extra-small pistols that you can store in a small pocket.
  • Easy Trigger Pull is another reason why you may want to use the Pistol. As we said, a pistol works by a proper set of energy transactions. The energy derived from firing one bullet is used to add the next bullet to the chamber. Because of this process, you do not have to apply so much pressure to fire the Pistol.

Semi-automatic pistols and automatic pistols have been designed to offer maximum convenience for you. It does not compromise accuracy, either.

Cons of a Pistol

  • Because their design is a little complicated, semi-automatic pistols require in-depth maintenance. You will have to spend a considerable amount of time taking care of the firearm every week. The gun may not be able to provide maximum control when you use it for the first time. You will also have to be aware of the security features.
  • We cannot recommend semi-automatic pistols to ultimate beginners. There are two reasons why. One, you are more likely to accidentally fire the semi-automatic Pistol when compared to a revolver handgun. Second, the firing process is simple in a revolver, and the user does not have to worry about safety switches or buttons.

You can overcome these issues if you have enough experience with semi-automatic pistols, though. It would help if you also dedicated more time.

Revolver Vs. Pistol: Which One to Choose?

revolver vs. pistol

Now, let us make a one-to-one comparison of revolver and Pistol.

Similarities Between a Pistol and a Revolver

The common factors you can find in revolvers and pistols are as follows:

  • Both revolver and Pistol are compact in design. You can carry them around quickly, and concealment carry options are not complicated. They are better suited for professional and self-defense needs.
  • Revolvers and pistols are also great for firing a moderate number of rounds. They are not designed for long-term use. Instead, the design enables quick draw and firing.
  • Even though there are differences in their designs, both revolver and Pistol can offer you better ease of use without much hassle.
  • Last but not least, revolvers and pistols are available in the market. They have been active in the gun world for an extended period and are very reliable.

Differences Between a Pistol and a Revolver

However, the significant differences are given below:

  • A revolver uses a cylinder with multiple chambers that contain the cartridges. The cylinder is rotated before each fire. On the other hand, a pistol uses a single chamber, to which cartridges are added.
  • A revolver comes with a limited round capacity of only six. However, you can get higher or lower round capacities based on the magazine being used when it comes to pistols.
  • A revolver requires some manual reload before each shot. The time to replace the cartridges is also high. On the other hand, a semi-auto pistol streamlines this process.
  • Because of the sensitive design, a semi-auto pistol comes with advanced features. However, because you cannot accidentally fire a revolver, it does not have these features.

As you can see, these similarities are differences can impact how and where you can use these firearms.

Which One Should I Choose?

The best choice between revolver and Pistol depends on the specific requirements you have. Everyone needs a unique combination of factors, you know. However, we can provide some entry-level advice.

If you are looking for a simple yet reliable firearm for self-defense or backup needs, you should get a revolver from the market. These firearms come with an old design, but they are very effective. You do not have to be bothered by complicated features, either.

If you are looking for the best performance and features, you should consider getting a semi-automatic pistol from the gun world. You can also go for fully automatic pistols, but they could be too expensive. At this point, a semi-auto pistol is the best way to combine performance, ease of use, and a modern design.

Regardless of the option, you can find these firearms in different sizes and styles. It is entirely up to you to select one that suits your taste.


We have tried to answer almost every question you may have in the revolver vs. pistol debate.

We believe it helps you select the best firearm for your needs, be it personal or professional.

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