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Difference between handgun and pistol

Discussion in 'Legal' started by LAR-15, Sep 7, 2008.

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  1. LAR-15

    LAR-15 Member

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    What is the difference in the law between a handgun and a pistol?

    Thanks
     
  2. bigjohnson

    bigjohnson Member

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    A handgun is any type of firearm designed to be held and fired using only one hand. A revolver is not a pistol, but it is a handgun.
    A pistol is any type of handgun other than a revolver.
     
  3. Duke Junior

    Duke Junior member

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    Can it be said better and with less language than this?
    It's doubtful.
     
  4. .41Dave

    .41Dave Member

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    Handgun and pistol are synonyms. Both words have the same meaning. All handguns are pistols and all pistols are handguns.

    Revolvers ARE pistols, just a specific sub-species of pistol if you will. Samuel Colt's first U.S. revolver patent refers to the weapon as a pistol.

    Modern vernacular tends to divide handguns into revolvers and "pistols", usually refering to semi-automatics, but this does not change the fact that a pistol/handgun is simply any firearm designed to be fired with one hand, regardless of action type.
     
  5. damien

    damien Member

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    This is the NRA's textbook definition. Many people use bigjohnson's definition instead. I have never figured out who to believe. I just call them all handguns and dispense with calling anything pistols. I try to also call a handgun a revolver, automatic, derringer, etc., to narrow it down a bit for listeners/readers. But I don't call it a pistol. That word sounds nice, but it confuses people.
     
  6. rkba_net

    rkba_net Member

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    A handgun is a firearm (revolver or pistol) designed to be held and fired with one hand.

    A pistol is a handgun whose chamber is integral with the barrel.

    A revolver is not technically a pistol... this is a rather old definition and is going out of use...
     
  7. WhisperFan

    WhisperFan Member

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    I agree with this part ....

    This part is simply not true. The earliest revolvers were called 'pistols'
    The term 'pistol' was also used to describe single shot muzzleloaders, so it certainly has nothing to do with semi-autos, as some people think.

    'handgun' and 'pistol' mean exactly the same thing.
     
  8. cambeul41

    cambeul41 Member

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    I have heard this before:

    But from what original source did this definition emanate? And under which authority was it dictated?
     
  9. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    In the legally-mandated training material for concealed carry in my state, the slides define revolvers as pistols.
     
  10. Jimmy Dean

    Jimmy Dean Member

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    I am with Whisper on this one, way back in the day, read old writing if you need to, revolvers were reffered to as pistols, and I think even black powder hand cannons were called pistols.
     
  11. rswartsell

    rswartsell Member

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    From Merriam Webster's online dictionary;


    Main Entry:
    pis·tol Listen to the pronunciation of pistol
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈpis-təl\
    Function:
    noun
    Etymology:
    Middle French pistole, from German, from Middle High German pischulle, from Czech píšt'ala, literally, pipe, fife; akin to Czech pištět to squeak
    Date:
    circa 1570

    it also list definition definition;

    1: a handgun whose chamber is integral with the barrel; broadly : handgun

    meaning in very specific usage-chamber integral with barrel, in casual usage any handgun.
     
  12. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Don't quote me on this, but I think that Jeff Cooper was one of the first to differentiate between revolvers and semi-automatic pistols as separate types of handguns.

    When I was a kid, back in the WW II era, any handgun was referred to as a pistol. Humphrey bogart's semi-autos were pistols. Hopalong Cassidy's six-guns were pistols. I don't even recall any use of the word, "handgun", for that matter.
     
  13. poor_richard

    poor_richard Member

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    I've long pondered this also.

    If pistols were around long before the semi-auto was invented, then how is it that what were once considered pistols are no longer?

    TBH, the idea that a revolver isn't a "pistol' sounds like something someone made up in order to make themselves think they were firearm savvy. No offense to the good, late Colonel intended.
     
  14. blackcash88

    blackcash88 member

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    Really? What about a derringer?
     
  15. Aguila Blanca

    Aguila Blanca Member

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    Pistol = handgun
     
  16. hksw

    hksw Member

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    Refering back to rbka net's definition,

    The barrel and chamber of a muzzle loader certainly were/are integral. nothing in his definition refered to semi-auto.



    When you hear or read of semi-autos being described as "assault rifle/weapons", do you believe them to be? It could be that early on that the term 'pistol' (as described as integral chamber and barrel) was mistakenly used to describe revolvers as 'assault rifle/weapon' is today. It could also be that the term was used purposely to describe handguns in general as revolvers entered the scene. Whether either of these is true or not I can't say. I've used 'handgun' and 'pistol' interchangably in the past. Today, I rarely use the term 'pistol' and just use 'handgun', 'semi/semi-auto', and 'revolver'.
     
  17. SamG.

    SamG. Member

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    1 - 1 = 0, absolutely nothing ( If not then ...................we have a big problem)
     
  18. LAR-15

    LAR-15 Member

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    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
     
  19. everallm

    everallm Member

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    This is purely semantics and grammar, from the perspective of the law and regulation I doubt there there is any differentiation.

    Unless of course you are in DC where a pistol can only be a revolver and all semi-automatics are de-facto assault weapons.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2008
  20. Jimmy Dean

    Jimmy Dean Member

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    haha Read LAR's definitions he pulled off the web.

    They don't fit together.

    By the definition of a pistol, revolver is not a pistol, but by the definition of a revolver, it is in fact a pistol.
     
  21. Jack2427

    Jack2427 Member

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    IIRC the question asked what the LAW defined as the difference between a handgun and a pistol.

    The answer to this is simple, whatever the law of the jurisdiction says it is. There being thousands of jurisdictions in the USA, and just about every one of them having a different approach in its language, the answer then gets complicated again. frequently the laws within a state will contradict each other, depending on what era they were passed in. Add in the counties and cities and other jusrisdictions and the answer is not only elusive, but may be impossibleto settle on.

    For practical matters, most of the above responses will suffice.
     
  22. waterhouse

    waterhouse Member

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    The ATF requires that guns be listed by "type" in the bound book, as well as on the multiple handgun purchase form. In fact, the name of the form is "Report of Multiple Sale or other Disposition of Pistols and Revolvers." Under "Type," a dealer may categorize a handgun as either a pistol or a revolver.

    While there may be an actual, correct, definition, and while revolvers may actually be pistols, be aware that the ATF considers them different entities.
     
  23. trickshot

    trickshot Member

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    "the idea that a revolver isn't a "pistol' sounds like something someone made up in order to make themselves think they were firearm savvy."

    For hundreds of years all handguns including single shot muzzleloaders and revolvers have been called pistols. George Washington called his muzzleloader handgun a pistol. The cowboys always called their revolver a pistol. I wish there was a sticky to explain this and inform the new gun owners who don't know any better. I would be glad to help write it.
     
  24. eruby

    eruby Member

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    "You gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?" - Josey Wales
     
  25. LAR-15

    LAR-15 Member

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    What I posted is right from Federal (US) law and regulations

    I am asking the difference between the two definitions
     
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