Spin the wheel or rack the slide: Revolver vs Semi Auto

Okay, would you like paper or plastic? How about manual transmission or automatic? Revolver or semi auto? How do guns factor into car talk? Well you might be surprised that the nomenclature used to describe automobiles is very similar to firearms. The term manual vs automatic can refer to the operation of the double action/single action revolver and the semi automatic pistols that are so common today. Lets delve into a brief history of the different types as we explore the revolver vs semi auto.

The revolver, a handgun capable of firing 5 to 6 shots per rotation of a cylinder affixed to the frame of the gun, hence the term “revolver”. The revolver has also been given the term “six shooter” by many referring to the amount of rounds in the cylinder. One of the very first revolvers was the single action revolver. The single action mechanism works because the shooter cocks the hammer of the gun in order to fire the weapon. If the weapon is not cocked the gunlo- will not fire. Fast forward to more modern variations of the revolver and we come to the double action revolver. Double action revolvers work two fold, first the weapon can be fired in double action mode which essentially means that the shooter can pull the trigger which cocks the hammer and releases it all in one motion. This mode has a longer trigger pull because the shooter is cocking the gun by trigger rather than thumbing back the hammer and decreasing the weight of the trigger pull. Now that we understand the basics of revolver operation let’s take a look at the semi-auto.

The semi auto handgun has become the evolutionary marvel of modern day handguns. Some of you may be thinking, the revolver was “revolutionary”! Pun intended. In all seriousness the revolver was revolutionary for it’s time; now the semi auto is more popular due to ease of operation and the ability to have a higher round capacity. The semi auto handgun has different modes of operation, first there’s single action only, then there are double action/single action and DAO (double action only). That might sound like a lot but they are very similar to the revolver operation minus the rotating cylinder. The single action pistol must have the hammer cocked in order to fire the weapon just like the single action revolver. The DA/SA mode allows the shooter to pull the trigger to cock the gun or thumb back the hammer for a lighter trigger pull. DAO refers to a constant state of heavy trigger pulls in this mode (which is popular with many police departments). So although there are similarities and differences between the two you may still be wondering what’s your best option when it comes to the revolver vs semi auto.


For the most part, the revolver and semi auto act similarly. If the shooter is more comfortable with a DA revolver, then switching to a DA/SA pistol is a natural progression. It all comes down to personal preference when choosing a revolver vs semi auto. From the time I have spent with customers, I have heard stories including everything from a first time gun owner, to those having little training, to those that know the gun industry inside and out but want something different. One of the most popular revolvers that I recommend to new shooters is the Ruger LCR. The Ruger utilizes a polymer frame and a stainless steel cylinder. This combination of materials and quality engineering by Ruger has created a revolver that stays current in the trend of plastic fantastic pistols while still adapting to a changing world. There is another interesting revolver that is worth noting, the Chiappa Rhino. The Chiappa Rhino is a futuristic revolver that has the barrel sitting at the six o’clock  position rather than the normal twelve o’clock position. The revolver is chambered in .357 magnum and doesn’t have much recoil due to the barrel’s position. When determining whether you are interested in a revolver vs semi auto it is important to consider how you will carry your firearm and for what application you will be using it as well. There are some equally impressive semi autos that include the DA/SA design, such as the Sig Sauer P226, P229, and P220 series. The Sig is an outstanding firearm that has the ability to decock the hammer via a lever on the left side of the frame. This allows the shooter to decide whether or not they want to stay in single action or go back to double action.  There are many other designs out there worth noting from manufacturers such as Springfield Armory, Taurus, Smith and Wesson and more. Check out our selection of semi-auto pistols and revolvers on armsdealshop.com!

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