Revolver vs. Semi-Auto Pistol

A common question in many classes is whether there are benefits to a revolver vs. a semi-automatic pistol for every day carry (EDC). It is a great question, and does require some thought, so I will try to hit the high points here.

Disclaimer: My EDC is a semi-automatic pistol. I am a bit biased towards them, but I am going to do my best to be unbiased in this short article.

Ease of Use


  • Firing – Once it is loaded, you simply pull the trigger. OK, that may seem overly simplistic, but it really kind of sums it up. The main drawback of a revolver is that the trigger is usually longer and requires more force. Other than the trigger being a bit tougher, a revolver is incredibly easy to shoot as there is nothing to it other than pulling the trigger until you exhaust the bullets in the cylinder.
  • Reloading – The process of reloading a revolver requires speed loaders (if you want to be able to dump everything in the cylinder and load fresh rounds), speed strips (if you want to manually remove each spend round and then quickly put in one or two at a time), or manually removing one round at a time and replacing it. In other words, being able to do a tactical reload is a bit compromised.
  • Malfunctions – For a Type 1 malfunction, you simply pull the trigger again and the revolver advances to the next round and tries to fire it. There is no such thing as a Type 2 or Type 3 malfunction for a revolver.

Note: There is also no such thing as limp wristing (not holding the fun tightly and letting it recoil and flip in your hand) a revolver and it causing a malfunction like you can have with a semi-automatic pistol.

Semi-Automatic – The semi-automatic is a good bit more difficult to operate. Yes, once it is loaded, you can also just pull the trigger and keep pulling the trigger until the slide locks back on an empty magazine.

  • Firing – Once it is loaded, you simply pull the trigger. However, loading does require more effort than a revolver in that the owner must rack the slide and verify that the first round is in the chamber. Generally, semi-automatics have much lighter trigger pulls than revolvers. I say that as a generalization as there are exceptions to most every rule.
  • Reloading – The process of reloading a pistol is much simpler than a revolver as the owner only needs to drop the magazine and insert another magazine. This process takes less than a second for an experience user. If the slide locked on an empty magazine, then the slide will need to be moved forward (dropped) to load the first round of the new magazine. 
  • Malfunctions – This is where it is much more complex to run a semi-automatic pistol than a revolver. Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 malfunctions take multiple steps to clear them, and require some training as it is far from intuitive. 


Revolver – There are none. Revolver manufacturers will say that the long and hard trigger pull is considered a safety, and many people will agree. Pulling the trigger takes effort and thought, and is, generally, not accidental.

Semi-Automatic – The safeties on a semi-automatic can be many. There are drop safeties to protect against the gun going off if it is dropped on the ground or jolted. There are trigger safeties that require the trigger to be properly manipulated before firing, and there are also other manual safeties that must be disengaged before firing.


Revolver – Most revolvers hold either five or six rounds depending on the size of the revolver and the caliber of the rounds.

Semi-Automatic – Semi-automatics vary in capacity from six rounds (the lowest that I could find in my quick search) to 17 in the Glock and even 20 in the FN Five-seveN. There are extended magazines available for many semi-automatics as well, so it is possible to have much more.


Revolvers and semi-automatic firearms are both very valuable self-defense weapons. They both have pros and cons, and it is us to us to choose what best fits our needs.

I strongly suggest that each person looking at buying a firearm take the time to attend training and try multiple firearms before making a purchase.

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