SKILLS: Revolver vs. Semi-Automatic

This is one of the first questions any new handgun buyer has to answer, and here’s Jason Anderson’s take on finding your own answer. READ MORE

revolver vs. semiauto

by Jason Anderson

I’m often asked which type of handgun is better, a revolver or a semi-automatic? Well, the truth is there are pros and cons to both  —  it all depends on which one you’re more comfortable using. So allow me to break down the facts to help you decide which type firearm fits your needs best.I’m often asked which type of handgun is better, a revolver or a semi-automatic? Well, the truth is there are pros and cons to both  —  it all depends on which one you’re more comfortable using. So allow me to break down the facts to help you decide which type firearm fits your needs best.

First, let’s go over some of the reasons people prefer revolvers for self-defense:

1. They’re easy to fire. A typical revolver has a cylinder that rotates with each fired shot. There is no need to feed the next round, and each round is separate, so there is no way for the rounds to jam or double-feed. Anyone who shoots often has at some point experienced an ammunition malfunction or feeding issue with a semi-auto. While it’s not something that happens all the time, it does happen. And if you don’t know how to fix it, you could be in trouble.

2. A revolver is simple to reload. It’s easy to reload a revolver, because all you have to do is push the cylinder out and remove the expended cartridges. Then reload each chamber with fresh ammo and push the cylinder back into place. It’s not exactly a quick process, but it’s very basic. Reloading a semi-automatic weapon can be difficult for some people, because first, you have to pull back the slide to chamber a round. Someone who is elderly or has weak hands may not be able to manipulate the slide very well, which is another reason to consider a revolver.

3. They require less maintenance. I’m a big believer in keeping your guns clean and properly oiled. Even if you don’t shoot often, it’s important to make sure you oil your semi-auto to keep the contact points lubricated. While this is especially important for a semi-auto, it’s less important for a revolver. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you never need to clean or oil a revolver, but you don’t need to do it as often as with a semi-automatic. When semi-autos first arrived on the scene, most people agreed that revolvers were more reliable and dismissed them. But over the years, handgun manufacturers have improved the durability and functionality of semi-automatic weapons.

Now here are the top three reasons to consider a semi-auto:

1. They have a higher capacity. Most revolvers have a five- or six-shot capacity. However, semi-autos have a much wider range of magazine capacity — usually anywhere from 7-19 rounds depending on the firearm. Obviously, if I was in a gunfight, I would rather have more rounds. In fact, when police departments around the country began switching to semi-autos, one of the biggest reasons was so officers had more rounds in the event of a shootout.

2. They’re quicker to reload. There are people who will tell you that they can reload a revolver faster than you can reload a semi-auto. And someone who has practiced reloading a revolver can probably do it pretty quickly. However, the average person will likely always be faster at reloading a semi-automatic than a revolver.

3. They have better accuracy. The majority of people will be more accurate shooting a semi-automatic than a revolver because of the more modern design. Most semi-autos have less recoil and muzzle jump than revolvers. Also, semi-autos tend to have a smoother trigger pull than revolvers, and when you combine these factors, they usually allow for better accuracy.

When it comes down to which type of handgun is better, it really depends on personal preference. If you suffer from arthritis and can’t pull the slide back on a semi-auto, then you might want to consider a revolver.

However, if you carry concealed often, you probably want a semi-auto that can hold more rounds. To figure out which side of the fence you’re on, I recommend going to your local gun range. Rent a few different guns of each type and see what works best for you.

Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, visit

5 thoughts on “SKILLS: Revolver vs. Semi-Automatic”

  1. When the choice of what style of weapon I wanted for self defense became the question of the day for me I owned no handguns. I figured a 10/22 just might not be the best thing for self defense. I talked to some friends and read some article and came to the conclusion that for my purposes I’d like to have a revolver, preferably a 4″ barrel and .357 mag as I could down load it to 38 special if I so choose. So I bought a used Smith Model 13. It served me well and I was a pretty good shot with it. Enough that when my friends bragged to the right people those people stopped threatening me. Good! No shooting needed. A while later I got a Ruger GP100 and it’s also a 4″. To me I like the simplicity of operation and speed loaders are way cheaper than spare magazines. They aren’t as easy to carry as spare magazines though, so that’s up to the buyer. Regardless of your choice remember the old latin “Si vis pacem, para bellum” If you want peace, prepare for war. Which ever you choose you need to know in your heart that should the need arise that you will be able to do what needs to be done. In the end, that’s the important thing, the will to act.

  2. With all the media frenzy regarding firearms these days, we as pro-gun supporters need to ensure we at all times ensure we stop using the word “weapon”, And refer to them as firearms. Those of us with concealed carry permits, are carrying a firearm and it’s not until we chose or have to use it for the purpose we carry that it may in fact become a “weapon”.

    I know it’s symatics and perspective, but we have to change our language because the biased media and all other anti-gun people want to continue to use harsh and fear inspiring language to win more to their side.

    We are ina steeped battle socially right now, the our words carry meaning.
    My two cents on a great article for new gun buyers.

  3. No, semi auto pistols are NOT more accurate than a wheel gun. I can hit my target at 100 yards with a .44 magnum. Let me see that done with a semi auto.

    1. That is correctly attributed to the velocity of the 44 Magnum round, not the inherent accuracy of the firearm type. Nice try; no cigar.

  4. First, revolvers are not prone to jamming, and are therefor a far more reliable weapon for self defense.
    Second, SOME revolvers are more accurate, SOME autoloaders are more accurate, depending on barrel length, adjustable sights, etc., but, the Single Shot Handgun is far superior in the accuracy department, but hardly a Contender for a defense weapon, (pun implied).

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