Semi Autos have ruled the roost for some time, but a recent resurgence of popularity in revolvers has raised the question of which is better. The answer is not easy, and may be different for different people. So let’s take a look at different elements of concealed carry and see where the chips fall.
Basic firing Operation
Revolvers are very simple to operate, the term “point and shoot” comes to mind. Most revolvers have only two real controls, the trigger and the cylinder release. On the other hand, Semi Automatics have many more, trigger, magazine release, safety/de-cocker, slide lock and the slide itself. Fewer controls and moving parts make the revolver easy to learn and less intimidating to new shooters. Because of this, I feel the revolver takes the point in this subject.
Advanced firing Operation (malfunctions)
In our classes, I spend a good amount of time teaching shooters what to do when they hear the dreaded “click” of a malfunction. For semi auto shooters, they need to tap the magazine, the ensure it is seated properly, then rack the slide to chamber a fresh round, then assess the situation, because the threat may have changed during the time it took to clear the malfunction. For the revolver shooter, the malfunction drill consists of pulling the trigger a second time, that is it. The fewer moving parts also tend to make revolver more reliable and less prone to malfunctions.
Due to the fact that there are comparable rounds for both revolvers and semi autos, we will consider stopping power of ammunition a draw. The amount of ammo carried onboard however is a different animal. The majority of defensive revolvers have a capacity of five or six rounds. The capacity of Semi Autos varies greatly, but most compact autos have eight to fifteen rounds. The speed of reloads and the sheer amount of ammo you can carry discreetly gives the semi-auto the upper hand. Many reading this will say, “if you can’t do it with five, you shouldn’t have a gun”. I challenge you to remember that when you need that 6th round to stop a threat.
Ease of Carry
This is a tough one. Revolvers are light and small, but so are many semi-automatics. The semi-auto is thin and flat, but the revolver’s grip can be small and round because it doesn’t have to store ammo making it easy to conceal. Carrying a semi-auto with an extra magazine gives you much more ammo and faster reloads, but revolvers can be shot repeatedly from inside of pockets and from contact distances without malfunctions.
Availability of Firearms and Accessories
Right or wrong, semi-autos have taken over the market. Because of that the market of both new and used firearms is flooded with semi-autos. This means that you can often get a better deal on a semi-auto then a revolver. I found this out a couple years ago when I was on a quest for a used J frame S&W. As far as accessories go, the Internet has put a lot in reach, but at least for now, the market is still mainly focused on semi-automatic. Holsters, sights and other gear for semi-automatics are made in great quantities and are sold everywhere. Quality accessories are available for revolvers, but they are more difficult to find and as a result can be a little more costly.
As you see, we once again have a draw. Both are very capable defensive tools. The difference comes down to the shooter and their commitment to training. I think everyone should do some training with both semi-autos and revolvers. While I prefer to carry semi-automatics due to there ammo supply and the fact that I carry one for a living, I feel the training I have taken with revolvers has sharpened my skills and made me a better shooter. When you only have five rounds, you really pay attention where each one lands. When training with revolvers, I find that I focus more on mindset then equipment and that is something we could all use.
If you are interested in attending some top-notch training with revolvers, I encourage you to take a look at my friend, Michael de Bethencourt’s training classes coming to the Range next month. He has a unique way of delivering information and a fun and exciting way. Whether you are a revolver shooter, or a semi shooter, you will take away a lot from his classes.