What’s The Difference Between A Pistol And A Revolver? Has anyone ever corrected you when you used both pistol and revolver when talking about the same firearm?


Has anyone ever corrected you when you used both pistol and revolver when talking about the same firearm?

Benjamin Sobleck in his The Writer’s Guide to Weapons, writes “One of the most common mistakes in written fiction is calling a handgun a ‘pistol’ in one sentence and a ‘revolver’ in the next.

“Revolvers and pistols are both handguns, but they belong in different categories. Here’s an example: A car and a truck are from the same ‘family,’ but they are different.

“By historic usage there is a tendency to dictate that any handgun, as opposed to a shoulder firearm, is a pistol.

“By definition pistols are handguns with one or more stationary chambers. Revolvers are handguns that use multiple rotating chambers. Don’t use them interchangeably. When writing fiction don’t use ‘pistol’ and ‘revolver’ interchangeably. Pick one and stick to it.”

The first practical revolver, the Patterson, was invented by Sam Colt in 1836. Over the years there were several improvements, including the Navy Colt Model 1851 and the Colt Model 1860 Army. Both had more curves than a dance hall girl, until the Colt Single Action Model 1873. The Colt Single Action Army Model P has survived virtually unchanged for more than 140 years and claims the longest production run of any revolver ever produced.

Colt made another startling innovation in the Model P in 1878 when they chambered it to accept a Winchester .44 cartridge. Now a man didn’t have to pack more than one caliber of ammo.

The name Colt became synonymous with Old West revolvers but there were other popular handguns including Smith and Wesson, Starr and Remington.

While we’re on the subject, a rifle is not a gun. A rifle has rifling’s.  Rifling refers to the spiral (helical) grooves that are cut or swagged on the bore of a barrel which helps impart the spinning motion to a bullet when it’s fired. Such a design makes a bullet’s trajectory smoother and more stable as it sails through the air.

When I was in the Marine’s if we called our rifle a gun we would find ourselves running laps around the grinder with our fly unbuttoned, one hand toting our M1’s and the other hand……I’ll omit the rest and the little poem that we had to recite as we ran but it doesn’t take much imagination to figure it out.

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