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Revolvers vs. Pistols ( Semi-automatics)

The two of the most common types of handguns are Revolvers and Semi-Automatics, also known as pistols, semi's and auto's.


If you are already familiar with the differences of the revolver and semi-autos go ahead and skim thru the next couple of pages and continue on with the lessons.

The revolver operates with the use of a rotating cylinder designed to contain the cartridges. By squeezing the trigger or pulling the hammer this action rotates the cylinder and fires the handgun. The operation of the semi-automatic ( pistol) differs greatly from the operation of the revolver. In the following pages we will describe in detail the basic operation of both the revolver and semi-automatics (which will be referred to as "pistol").  Both types of handguns can be broken down to 3 basic components: the frame, barrel and action.


Revolver Components :Smith and Wesson 642 revolver parts presented by Centerfire Firearms Training Academy.

Frame:  Is the part to which all other parts are attached. 

The grip panels are attached to the lower portion of the frame. The grip panels are usually wood, rubber, molded plastic or animal bone and attached with screws.

The trigger guard is located on the underside of the frame and is designed to protect the trigger from accidental discharging the revolver.

Barrel:  The barrel is nothing more than a metal tube through which the bullet passes on its way to the target. Originally barrels were "smooth bore" where all modern handguns have rifling or spiral grooves cut into the inside of the barrels. The ridges between the groves are called "lands". The combination of the lands and groves make up the term known as "rifling". The advantage of rifling makes the bullet or projectile to be much more accurate by stabilizing the flight of the bullet. The front end of the barrel where the bullet exits is called the muzzle. The front sight is located on the end of the barrel.

Action:  The action is a group of internal and external parts attached to the frame that allows the revolver function.

The trigger is located on the underside of the frame and the hammer is on the rear of the frame. When the trigger is pulled it activates the hammer, the hammer strikes the firing pin which strikes the cartridge and fires the handgun.  There are two basic actions: Single and double. In single action only one action occurs when the trigger is pulled, the hammer falls to strike the firing pin. Therefore you must pull back the hammer each time you wish to shoot the handgun ( common in old style cowboy handguns). In double action two actions occur when the trigger is pulled. The hammer draws back and falls to cause the firing pin to strike the cartridge ( in a later section we will discuss the advantages ad disadvantages of each action).

The cylinder is the round junk of metal with holes in it (chambers) which holds the cartridges in a circular pattern. (Cylinders generally hold 5 to 8 cartridges) Each time the hammer is cocked back the cylinder rotates the next cartridge into position to be fired. The cylinder release latch found on the side of the revolvers frame releases the cylinder, allowing the cylinder to swing out for loading and unloading. The ejector rod can be found on most modern revolvers. It is used to aid in removing spent cartridges from the cylinder. Revolvers do not have external safeties, they do have internal safeties which reduce the possibility of accidental discharge should the handgun fall to the ground.




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