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Revolver vs Semi-Automatic

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Choosing a firearm is sometimes challenging especially when you are new to guns, on a budget, and looking for just one "perfect gun". And when looking at the various handguns out there, you'll have to decide if you want a revolver or a semi-automatic. To help you along your path, I'm breaking down some items unique to both which you may find useful when trying to narrow down your options.


Revolvers are popular for their ease of use and operation and are recognized by having a rotating wheel known as cylinder. Simply o

pen the cylinder and load your ammunition. Close cylinder, grip, aim and pull the trigger. Sounds easy, right? While there is certainly more to hitting your mark than just pointing your gun and pulling the trigger, this is not the time for that discussion. I merely wanted to highlight how revolvers are commonly stereotyped. The pros to the revolver are the simplicity of the operation. Another positive, is the potency of the 38 special which is a common round for revolvers. But that same caliber of ammunition simultaneously creates substantial recoil which may be too startling for a new shooter. Additionally, most revolvers have a very heavy trigger pull when compared to that of other guns. In fact, on several occasions, I've had students come to a lesson and not be able to fire their own gun due to the heavy trigger pull. So when choosing a revolver, ensure you have the proper grip strength necessary to handle strong recoil, and be sure to ask if you can pull the trigger on the empty gun before making your final purchase. Now don't get me wrong, I love revolvers! Everything from the heavy recoil, to the long trigger pull - boom! But is it the right choice for the new shooter? In my opinion, the answer is "often, it is not".


The semi-automatic can be identified by the top reciprocating mechanism which is called the slide. The movement of the slide allows for the expelling of the empty casing and the feeding of the next cartridge from the magazine and into the firing portion of the gun. To many new shooters, this seems confusing and complicated, but in the end, the semi-automatic typically has a more manageable trigger press, offers more rounds in the gun, and reloading is accomplished much faster with magazines. The semi-automatic more versatile in aftermarket product options as well, and often easier to conceal for those with a carry license. Adding to versatility, most pistol classes require a semi-automatic to attend the course and there are more competitive events which are open to those with semi-automatic than revolver these days.

Though the semi-automatic can seem difficult at first, and manipulating the slide can be a challenge, working with an instructor can help you learn techniques which are quite productive in confidently racking the slide. For those with arthritis, there is always the Smith & Wesson EZ which was designed to drastically reduce slide manipulation issue.


When you have made your final selection and chosen your firearm, ensure that you familiarize yourself with it deeply. Get comfortable with loading and unloading and with shooting. Remember, if you choose a firearm that you do not like, it is unlikely that you will want to go shooting. And shoot you must if you are depending on using your firearm to defend yourself in a life or death situation. The last thing you want is to hesitate to do so because you have not spent much time developing your confidence with your firearm.

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