Revolver vs. Semi-auto


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DonnyBrook13
July 1, 2013, 07:55 PM
There's an archived thread here (http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/index.php/t-187371.html) with an excellent discussion of the mechanical issues. One thing that's missing, however, is the circumstantial/human element.

Seems to me there are two different circumstances, one where a revolver is better -- close-up self-defense against urban criminals. For combat shooting, the semi-auto is better. Here's a real-world case for the revolver:

A female co-worker in Dallas years ago told me a harrowing story -- her car broke down on the freeway between Dallas and Ft. Worth at night. Long story short, she was abducted by a purported "Good Samaritan" who drove her down a dark dirt road and attempted to rape her -- he hit her, opened her passenger door, knocked her to the ground. It was dark. Before he mounted her, she pulled a .38 snubbie from her purse and shot him point blank in the abdomen. He rolled off, she took off running. They found him later sitting in his truck, passed out from blood loss. Little doubt that, with no attempt to hide his face or license plate (he sat behind her stalled-out car for awhile), he would have killed her after getting his rocks off.

Point is, what if she had had a semi-auto, and forgotten to chamber it beforehand? Could she have done so with one hand out of commission (the assailant's body pressing against her)? What if she pulled the trigger with the safety on as the guy feels it against his belly, and grabs it from her? What if it had jammed? They say you lose half your IQ in an emergency, and it's true. People also do incredibly stupid, neglectful things (a BASE jumper in Moab a few years ago plunged to his death -- investigators said he hadn't even packed his chute, or packed it properly). No doubt the simpler .38 revolver saved her life.

But if I were a police officer, or lived in a neighborhood infested with Crips and Bloods gangs, or the zombie hordes arrive for the apocalypse, then I'd want a semi-auto for hitting multiple perps at a distance.

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MCgunner
July 1, 2013, 11:28 PM
If one carries, one should train and practice.....a lot. This will solve a lot of "what ifs".

I carry autos, I carry revolvers, I practice with both. My range is in my back yard and I'm retired, so my limit is how hot it is outside and whether I've got the ammo loaded up. :D I do try to keep with DA first shot in all my autos to go along with the revolver manual of arms, no safeties to move off, long DA pull. Keeps things consistent.

I firmly believe that the answer is software, not hardware.

chuckpro
July 1, 2013, 11:37 PM
There are always what ifs but the first round will normally fire from with in a pocket or purse weather it is a auto or an revolver. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. One thing about a revolver is that you can shoot it through a jacket pocket "with practice" but it needs to have a internal, or shrouded hammer.

PoserHoser
July 1, 2013, 11:47 PM
Carrying unchambered is ridiculous and many autos don't have safeties either. The only question is whether an auto would have been able to cycle in very close quarters.

sgt127
July 2, 2013, 01:00 AM
There is no question, in my mind, that for a scenario you described, the revolver is the gun to have. I wrote a long piece on autos and revolvers, I'll dig it up and repost it.

Here it is.
Revolver VS auto. Random thoughts.
I started out shooting revolvers, years ago. Revolvers are quite reliable. Autos came along and designs improved, bullet shapes improved. The reliabilty of the auto came up to what I felt was the level of a good well maintained revolver. And I carried an auto.

Some random observations I have discovered. Revolvers will occasionally malfunction. So will autos. Lets remove parts breakage from the equation for a bit. I can accept the fact that a high quality auto is just as likely, or unlikey, to break a part that stops the gun from functioning, as an equal quality revolver. I have actually broken more parts in auto's than revolvers, but, I can attribute that to sheer luck. Slide stops have broken, firing pins have broken, but, statistically, I would argue that neither one is likley to just "break" when you need it.

On the few occasions that I have had a revolver stop working, it was a cumalitive effect of shooting. It started to get dirty, crap under the extractor star, the barrel cylinder gap got lead and powder residue, the chambers got sticky from lots of .38's and then having to force a .357 in the chamber. In other words, most of the problems came on slowly. I knew, eventually, the gun was going to stop working. The trigger pull got heavier, it was harder to close the cylinder, something along those lines.

But, for no apparent reason, a clean well lubed auto, would sometimes just not feed, fire or eject a round. Bullet nose caught on the feedramp, empty failed to get out of the way of the next round, some other failure that seemed to occur randomly, and without warning.

Now, standing on the the line, at the range, neither gun failed very often. Nice firm grip, dry hands, locked wrists, all is well in the world of handgunning.

Recently, I have watched a few episodes of "Under Fire" on Court TV. Autos, good quality (and, hopefully) well maintained autos, sometimes crap out in the middle of a gunfight. Whats the difference? Weak one handed grip, rolling around on the ground, upside down, shoved against the bad guy, sweaty blood covered hands, whatever. The auto needs a solid platform to work off of. Something it can't get in a real world, up close gunfight.

At a distance, involved in a shootout, the auto's rarely seem to jam, much as I would expect. But, if its a fight, that leads to a gunfight, the auto may turn into a single shot.

A particular episode that comes to mind is the Officer that was fighting a real, no kidding boxer, that was about to beat the Officer to death. He finally drew his pistol and got off one shot, in the BG's midsection, with little effect, the BG grabbed the gun and beat the Officer with the gun, tossed it and the Officer picked it back up later in the fight. (Interesting video if you ever get a chance to see it)

On duty, I have to carry a Glock 35. And, I'm not sure I am ready to give up the general reliabilty, mag capacity and ease of shooting of a good auto for the vast majority of shooting situations. But, as a back up, I carry a 642. And, it seems alot of others are big fans of the little revolvers as back up guns.

But, Off duty, I find myself carrying a 3" S&W M65 more and more. I envision an off duty encounter being a very fast fight that turns into a gunfight. Bad guy rushing you with a knife, BG jumping you, knocking you down and attacking you, two guys pinning you into a corner and the fight is on. Capacity becomes secondary to utter reliability for me at that point. I can still get good hits with a revovler out to 25 yards or so, if I have to, but, its not really something I see happening. Truth be known, the odds of needing a gun at all are pretty remote, but, we all plan for the unexpected.

SO, what are some others thoughts? Have you taken your favorite defense auto out to the range, held it with your left hand, bent your wrist and elbow and tried getting off as many shots as you could? Upside down? Cover your hands in soapy water and empty a magazine? Shove it into the target and see if it gets pushed out of battery? Does it jam after the first shot? I have, and, the reliabilty of a previously Utterly reliable auto went down hill.

It seems that most autos jam during the feeding and ejecting cycle. That's the one part that you do manually before and after the festivities with a revolver. During a gunfight, a revolver cannot have a feeding malfunction or ejection malfunction.

I realize that clearing an auto jam is alot faster than clearing a revolver jam. But, that really cool "tap-rack-bang" that you practice on the range really needs that off hand to work. If that off hand is keeping a boxcutter off your throat, things go downhill in a hurry. High primer on a revolver? Pull the trigger REALLY hard, it just may go bang again...

If this little ramble gets a few people to thinking, and making you more aware of you and your guns abilities and limitations, great. If it just makes you train harder, for what YOU consider a real world gunfight, even better. Practice alot, and, best to all.

1911Tuner
July 2, 2013, 05:22 AM
Not a thing wrong with a good revolver, and since the private citizen's moment of truth will probably come at powder burning distances, a snub-nosed wheelgun will do just fine if the defender isn't one to devote himself/herself to a lot of range time.

I know. I know. To we who work with the revolver regularly, not practicing with a defensive sidearm is unthinkable...but for every one of us, there are scores of people who buy handguns for self-protection and rarely shoot them. The double-action revolver is made to order for them.

There's no tellin' how many pristine Model 10s that have laid in nightstands for decades after the owner bought'em and shot a half-box of ammunition through'em...or less.

Like the man said: "95% of the ammunition is shot by 5% of the shooters."

WC145
July 2, 2013, 06:02 AM
Good posts. I carry a FNP45T on duty and a Colt Commander off duty but my BUG is a snubby. It also serves as primary when clothing won't allow me to carry the Colt, like when I'm working in scrubs at the hospital. For up close and personal encounters a revolver can't be beat and nothing says get off me like a snubby in the gut.

1911Tuner
July 2, 2013, 06:12 AM
For up close and personal encounters a revolver can't be beat and nothing says get off me like a snubby in the gut.

That's why they call'em "Belly Guns." A contact shot even with the old, anemic 158-grain LRN is bad news when that hot gas follows the bullet.

pockets
July 2, 2013, 07:15 AM
what if she had had a semi-auto, and forgotten to chamber it beforehand?
What if she had a revolver and didn't load all of the chambers of the cylinder?
That makes as much sense as carrying a semi-auto with an empty chamber.
.

MedWheeler
July 2, 2013, 07:16 AM
Point is, what if she had had a semi-auto, and forgotten to chamber it beforehand?

Uh, okay. But what if she hadn't "forgotten to chamber it beforehand'?

What if she had forgotten to load her revolver? (Pockets beat me by a minute to this point.)

The incident described is not a valid argument for one type of firearm over the other. It does, however, make for a good argument for preparedness and training.

oneounceload
July 2, 2013, 07:39 AM
But if I were a police officer, or lived in a neighborhood infested with Crips and Bloods gangs, or the zombie hordes arrive for the apocalypse, then I'd want a semi-auto for hitting multiple perps at a distance.

I would have moved from such a neighborhood BEFORE they moved in; otherwise, at distance, I'll take a rifle, thank you very much

Pilot
July 2, 2013, 07:49 AM
Revolvers and semi autos both have their place. It is what YOU like and what fits YOU. I prefer the ergos of a semi, and that is what I carry. Revolvers are great, and I have some, but they just don't feel as good to me as a semi.

BigG
July 2, 2013, 08:43 AM
When you really need it, up close and personal, a DAO revo has the goods. http://i70.photobucket.com/albums/i115/BigG_photos/SampWModel40_zps5abeaeb2.jpg

Deltaboy
July 2, 2013, 09:28 AM
Both would worked and PTL she had a gun and used it to save her life.

MCgunner
July 2, 2013, 09:37 AM
I know. I know. To we who work with the revolver regularly, not practicing with a defensive sidearm is unthinkable...but for every one of us, there are scores of people who buy handguns for self-protection and rarely shoot them. The double-action revolver is made to order for them.

I totally agree with this statement. I just think folks should take self defense a little more seriously. You know, my snubbies are capable of astounding accuracy, but it does take practice. The guns themselves, fired from a ransom rest, would astound some folks who think they're just "belly guns", but to use that short sight radius takes some trigger time. The good part is that the trigger time is fun. :D

jmr40
July 2, 2013, 10:52 AM
Not having a round chambered is not a problem with the gun.

When shooting at those ranges, under those conditions, clothing, hair etc. from either the attaker or victim can bind the cylinder and prevent it from turning or get in between the hammer and firing pin and prevent it from firing. This is just as likely to happen as a semi not firing because it can be pushed out of battery. There is a high profile murder trial underway at the moment where the shooters semi functioned perfectly in the same situation.

You make your choices and take your chances, there will be times when either could fail. But if you know and understand your guns strengths and weaknesses you can at least attempt to avoid situations where your at a disadvantage.

Billy Shears
July 2, 2013, 11:20 AM
In the scenario you describe, I think my Walther PPS would serve as well as just about any snubby. It's not any more difficult to shoot, and it's as if not slightly more powerful (.38s loose a lot of velocity out of such short barrels). Theoretically, if an auto gets pushed up against an opponents body the slide can be pushed out of battery (though in practice, I think this would be difficult if not impossible to do with the Walther, since the frame dust cover extends all the way to the muzzle); but on the other hand, an opponent can grab a revolver, and if he grabs it around the frame and cylinder, he can prevent the cylinder from rotating and thus prevent the gun from firing. One can always think of what ifs.

A lot of people think of DA revolvers as the perfect beginners' gun, but I'm less sure that's true with snubbies. While they are as mechanically accurate, on the average, as larger revolvers, the tiny grips, short sight radius, and light weight (which increases recoil) all change the human factor considerably, and make them more difficult to shoot. I think a modern compact auto, like the PPS or similar guns from other makers (eg. Bersa BP9CC, M&P Shield, etc.) are potentially even a better choice for many people. They're just as small as a J frame Smith, and maybe actually easier to conceal because they're flatter. They're as safe as any firearm to carry with a loaded chamber (the user is the real safety issue), generally carry a few more rounds and are quicker to reload, and they have uniform trigger pulls). I used to carry a snubby revolver on occasion (an S&W .38 bodyguard or a Colt Detective Special), but I retired them when I got the Walther PPS.

fastbolt
July 2, 2013, 11:45 AM
If one carries, one should train and practice.....a lot. This will solve a lot of "what ifs".

I carry autos, I carry revolvers, I practice with both. My range is in my back yard and I'm retired, so my limit is how hot it is outside and whether I've got the ammo loaded up. :D I do try to keep with DA first shot in all my autos to go along with the revolver manual of arms, no safeties to move off, long DA pull. Keeps things consistent.

I firmly believe that the answer is software, not hardware.
I agree.

How familiar people are with a machine, including how to properly & effectively use it in normal AND unexpected conditions, often seems to vary quite a bit.

When you look at traffic collisions, it's often driver error that's the primary collision factor.

If some folks think that just having the machine (firearm) is sufficient to imbue familiarity, mindset, skillset and unconscious competence, then maybe the same folks will think that owning a guitar somehow makes one into a musician. ;)

Bikewer
July 2, 2013, 11:52 AM
Highly familiar with both. Carried nothing but revolvers for the first 15 years of my police career.
Have carried autopistols ever since. Glock Just bought a new Gen4 M27.

The Glock 23 I have carried for over 10 years has never malfunctioned in any way. Dead reliable. No safety to operate.
Why anyone would carry a defensive weapon without "one in the tube" is beyond me... Madness. Who says you are going to have both hands available?

1911Tuner
July 2, 2013, 12:05 PM
You know, my snubbies are capable of astounding accuracy, but it does take practice.

I once had a Detective Special that...when I had younger eyes...would cut a cloverleaf group at 20 yards so regularly that if one flew from the group, I could assume that it was me.

But, snub-nosed revolvers aren't target pistols, and while inherent accuracy can be nothing short of shocking with some of'em...it's a little like talking about the top speed of a Ford pickup truck. Interesting, but irrelevant.

These little revolvers are meant for those times when things get suddenly informal in a very personal way. During those times, a gun like my little Colt wouldn't do a bit better than one that won't stay on a pie plate at the same distance.

As Cooper noted:

"Across a table top, one doesn't need to be a virtuoso."

.38s loose a lot of velocity out of such short barrels.

Also irrelevant at powder burn or contact distances. Bernie Goetz prevailed against four assailants with a 5-shooter, and when the smoke cleared, the only ones remaining on the scene were the ones that couldn't run.

If power is limited, and the choice is between a .38 Special and a .380 Auto...I prefer a heavy bullet over a few more foot pounds of energy...any day.

Billy Shears
July 2, 2013, 12:20 PM
If power is limited, and the choice is between a .38 Special and a .380 Auto...I prefer a heavy bullet over a few more foot pounds of energy...any day.

That's why I mentioned the PPS ,BP9CC, and M&P Shield -- all 9mms. I don't carry a .380 anymore either, when I can get a 9mm that's as small as almost any .380.

DonnyBrook13
July 2, 2013, 01:23 PM
Thanks for all the great comments.

Regarding forgetting to load a revolver -- that's certainly possible, but it would be equivalent to forgetting to load a magazine. Forgetting to chamber a round before carrying is another level of forgetfulness.

As noted above, first-time gun owners have proliferated in recent years, and many of them shoot it once maybe, then forget about it. They're not really "into" guns and practicing with them, but have one only for self defense. For these people, I think a revolver is a better choice because it's inherently safer and more foolproof for the "nut behind the wheel."

The popularity of Glocks, especially among LEO, is mainly due to the similar operation with a revolver -- pull the gun and pull the trigger, no safety to worry about it. But there have been a number of self-inflicted wounds with Glocks, from Plaxico Buress to the officer whose jacket cinch cord got threaded through his trigger guard, then somehow got stuck in the armrest of his patrol car. When he opened the door -- KABOOM into his leg. I doubt that could have happened with the heavy DA pull of a revolver.

jmorris
July 2, 2013, 01:55 PM
Forgetting to chamber a round before carrying is another level of forgetfulness.

Yeah, your likely better off carrying pepper spray if you are careless in carrying a firearm.

farm23
July 2, 2013, 02:46 PM
My wife and I carry revolvers most of the time. Actually my wife will only carry a revolver. We have a range here so can practice anytime and do. The pistol has its place and I have several and carry one sometimes. Carry what you are comfortable with and will practice with. If you won't or can't practice use pepper spray like jmorris said.

460Kodiak
July 2, 2013, 07:39 PM
Own both.
Carry both.
Both are useful.
Both are fun.
Both can be classy depending on make and model.
Love both.

One is not inherently better than the other IMO. Skill and scenario makes the difference.

Frank44
July 3, 2013, 04:28 AM
I carry both and train with both, but in general, I like revolvers.

TestPilot
July 3, 2013, 09:59 AM
....Point is, what if she had had a semi-auto, and forgotten to chamber it beforehand?
....

Carry it with round chambered.


...
What if she pulled the trigger with the safety on as the guy feels it against his belly, and grabs it from her?
...

There are self-loading pistols without manual firing inhibitor device.



...
What if it had jammed?
...

All pistols can jam. Even revolvers.

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