Graphic depicting a revolver vs pistol on an artistic background

The revolver vs pistol debate is an ongoing one among firearm enthusiasts. The truth is that both work well as a handgun for recreational and self-defense purposes. Deciding which is better ultimately comes down to personal preference and the intended use of the firearm. Let’s explore the key differences between revolvers and pistols to help you decide which is right for you.

What Is A Revolver?

A revolver is a classic firearm design that has been around for centuries. It typically features a rotating cylinder that holds multiple rounds of ammunition. The most common types of revolvers are single-action and double-action. 

Single Action Revolver (SA)

SA revolvers are best known as the weapon of choice for cowboy shootouts. In a single action revolver, pulling the trigger performs only one action: releasing the hammer. Before firing, the hammer must be manually cocked back by the shooter. This action rotates the cylinder and aligns a chamber with the barrel, preparing the firearm to fire.

Once the hammer is cocked, pulling the trigger causes it to fall forward, striking the firing pin or the primer of the cartridge directly. This ignites the primer, which in turn fires the round in the chamber.

Key characteristics of single action revolvers include:

Double Action Revolver (DA)

In contrast, a double action revolver allows the shooter to perform two actions with a single pull of the trigger: cocking the hammer and releasing it to fire the weapon. Unlike single action revolvers, double action revolvers can be fired without manually cocking the hammer beforehand.

When the trigger is pulled on a double action revolver, it first cocks the hammer back, rotates the cylinder to align a chamber with the barrel, and then releases the hammer to strike the firing pin or primer, firing the round.

Key characteristics of double action revolvers include:

Advantages Of A Revolver vs Pistol

Ease of Use In Revolvers vs Pistols

Revolvers are known for their simplicity of design. They have fewer moving parts compared to pistols, which can make them easier to maintain and less prone to malfunctions. Their ease of use means they may be better-suited to home defense. A high stress situation such as a home invasion understandably causes sweating, shaking, and other side effects that may make it difficult to load a more complicated weapon. 


Revolvers are renowned for their reliability. They are less susceptible to jamming or misfeeding since each round is individually loaded into a chamber and fired. 

Accuracy of Revovler vs Pistol

Many shooters find revolvers to be inherently more accurate than pistols due to their fixed barrel design and typically smoother trigger pulls.


Although not always the case, revolvers tend to be less expensive than their semi-automatic pistol cousins. This is largely due to their simple design, which makes them easier to manufacture. 

What Is A Pistol?

Pistols encompass a broader category of firearms that includes semi-automatic handguns. Unlike revolvers, pistols use a magazine to feed ammunition into the chamber, and they typically feature a slide mechanism that cycles with each shot fired.

Semi-automatic handguns are by far the most popular type of pistol for both target practice and concealed carry. They come in four size categories:

While semi-automatics are the preferred handgun, there are break action, bolt action, and muzzle-loading varieties available as well. These pistols utilize the same shooting mechanisms as their rifle counterparts.

Advantages of Pistol vs Revolver 


One of the primary advantages of semi-automatic pistols over revolvers is their higher ammunition capacity. Most pistols can hold more rounds than revolvers, which can be beneficial in situations where multiple shots are required.

Faster Reloads

SA handgns can be reloaded more quickly than revolvers since they use detachable magazines. This can be crucial in high-stakes situations where every second counts, or in a timed shooting competition. 


There are literally thousands of models of semi-automatic handguns available on the market. A wide range of designs, calibers, and configurations gives shooters more flexibility in finding a firearm that suits their specific needs and preferences. 

Lighter Weight

Revolvers can be heavy and are typically large caliber firearms, which can translate to greater recoil on firing vs a lightweight pistol. The compact design of a pistol might also make it better suited to self-defense applications in those with more advanced training.

Revolver vs Pistol: Long Story Short

The age-old question of whether a revolver or pistol is better ultimately depends on the individual shooter and their intended use. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision.

If you are interested in a gun that is reliable, easy to use, and predominantly suited for self defense, a revolver is a great choice. Keep in mind that they are heavy and require more time to reload; older models may also be lacking in certain safety features. Overall, however, revolvers are accurate, dependable, and easy enough for even novice shooters to operate.

On the other hand, if your goal is to shoot multiple rounds at a fast pace, a semi-automatic pistol might be preferable. They are lighter than revolvers, less prone to recoil, and are well-suited to both recreational and self-defense applications. They are more susceptible to mechanical issues, such as jams, and they require more training to use safely. 

Indoor Shooting Range Omaha

Whether you’re on Team Pistol or Team Revolver, practice makes perfect! In Omaha, The Marksman Indoor Gun Range is the area’s top destination for target practice, informative courses, and exciting competitions. Call or go online today to book your next class or to join one of our bowling pin or IDPA shoots. 

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