Difference Between Revolver and Pistol

Revolver vs Pistol

Revolver and Pistol are both very popular handguns that are used by people for self defense and also used by policemen in many countries to remain armed under all circumstances. Revolver is older of the two though its technology kept evolving till recently. Pistol is considered to be technologically more advanced as it can fire more shots per loading while a revolver can fire one at a time and a person has to reload after every shot. There are lovers of both these firearms and they have their own advantages and disadvantages but this article will essentially highlight differences between them based upon their technologies.

Revolver was developed by Samuel Colt in 1836. It got its name because of a revolving cylinder that contains cartridges and fires through a single barrel. On the other hand, pistol was developed around 1885 and worked on the principle of a mousetrap that was invented by Stevens Maxim. The best known pistol of all times, the Colt 1911 used this mousetrap technology and is still being used by police personnel in many parts of the world.

As described earlier, rounds in a revolver are held in a revolving cylinder that rotates to fire the shot through a single barrel. As the user pulls the trigger, the hammer goes ahead and strikes the chamber containing cartridge. Hammer cocking takes place with the shooter pulling it back after every shot.

Unlike a revolver, no action of pulling back a hammer is required in the case of a pistol and the user just has to apply pressure on the trigger to fire the shot. However, there is a safety lever that ensures that a loaded pistol does not accidentally fire. Once a shot has been fired, the recoil force causes slide of pistol so that sent casing is ejected and the next round is inserted in the chamber.

The main difference between firing a shot from a revolver and a pistol is that one requires putting in more effort with a revolver as the revolving cylinder has to be put in place with the first shot and this is where pistol wins over a revolver. Sight alignment is also easier with a pistol.

There are many who doubt the safety mechanism of the lever in a pistol. However there is nothing to suggest that there has ever been an accidental fire from a dropped pistol or fire from the pocket. On the contrary, revolvers which are considered safer than pistols in this regard have accidentally fired when dropped on to ground.

In brief:

Difference Between Revolver and Pistol

• A revolver can fire 6 shots at a time whereas pistols with magazine full of 18 shots are available in the market

• More pressure is required to fire the first shot with a revolver than a pistol

• The mechanisms of both firearms are different

• While one needs to pull back the hammer in case of a revolver after every shot, there is no such need in case of a pistol that works on the recoil mechanism of a mousetrap.

  • Rattlerjake

    This explanation is very poorly written and not correct. There are several incorrect statements about both revolvers and pistols. Pistols also include single shot handguns like derringers, and the Thompson center contender. Double action revolvers DO NOT require cocking the hammer for each round.

    You are wrong! It’s as easy as going to the ATF website and looking at the American definition of pistol – http://www.americancowboychron

    Revolvers are revolvers
    Pistols are semi-automatics and single shot
    Revolvers and pistols are handguns

  • DroneAlone

    Agreed with RattlerJake. Expanding on his corrections:
    1. Defensive revolver capacity is 5-8 rounds
    2. Defensive semi-auto pistol capacity is 6-18 rounds (including one in chamber) Some states have 10 round or 7 round limit.
    3. DA/SA semi-auto first trigger pull is similar to revolver. Striker or SA-only semi-auto has lighter first trigger pull.
    4. No difference in sight alignment
    5. DA revolver rotates cylinder, cocks hammer and fires with one pull of the trigger.
    6. Revolvers don’t have/require safety. Semi-autos may have a manually operated safety.
    7. Reloads are quicker/easier with semi-auto than revolver with speed-loader. Revolver with moon-clips is similar.
    8. Semi-auto manual of arms is more complex and requires more strength to manipulate the slide.
    9. Revolver is not ammunition sensitive since it doesn’t rely on recoil impulse to eject empty case and chamber next round
    10. Failure drill for revolver is simpler. Usually it’s simply pulling the trigger again. Semi-auto failure drill under pressure is usually beyond the skills of a casual shooter. (Tap, rack, shoot, if still no bang, drop mag between fingers, rack, rack, seat mag, rack, shoot)