I know that the revolver vs. semi-auto debate has raged for as long as there have been both platforms. This isn’t that. This is what I found at the range yesterday that honestly surprised me.
As I’ve mentioned on here in the past, I basically have two carry guns. One is a little SW 642, five-shot, concealed hammer (DAO) J Frame, the other is their 380ACP, SAO, hammer fired, locked breech EZ. It’s an 8+1 pistol. Both are compact, easy to conceal EDC guns.
I’ve had both for just about the same length of time (about 2 years), and shot both about an equal number of rounds, though I definitely do much more dry fire practice with the revolver because it’s possible to learn good, repetitive trigger control with no ammo, where with the semi auto it’s not as realistic.
I’ve always had the subjective impression that I shot the 380 much faster and more accurately than the revolver. It’s an incredibly easy gun to use: balanced feeling, nice trigger, and minimal recoil.
Yesterday I took them both to the range with a shot timer and did a head to head test on a bunch of different drills. What I found was, regardless of the drill, I was faster with the revolver in initial target acquisition (not sure why- maybe the dry fire practice), and much faster and more accurate in follow up shots on the same target, as well as transitions. It was usually by a factor of about 40%! I was shocked, and in spite of my subjective impressions, the timer didn’t lie. I just simply shot the revolver better, faster, and more accurately all the time, regardless of what I was doing. Some of that was even with my Underwood +P SD ammo that’s cooking along at 1050 FPS from the 2" barrel (according to tests I’ve seen, and it FEELS like it really is).
One drill I ran multiple times was 10 shots across five separate targets. This required a re-load on both. With the revolver I’m getting about 8 seconds from the 5th shot to the 6th (using speed strips). With the 380, about 2-3 seconds for a magazine change, but I closed half that gap in shot splits, to where I was only about 2 seconds faster overall with the 380, and that included a couple misses on each run of the drill (where I had no misses with the revolver). A miss was a shot more than 6" from the target center at 10 yards.
I think that most of this comes down to the geometry of the revolver and the pistol. I hold the revolver very high on the backstrap, and I wrap my support hand thumb around the back of my strong hand. I get basically no muzzle flip this way. The semi auto was taking what seemed like forever to bring back down to the target under the pressure of the timer, and that’s with a very firm, two handed grip as high as I can get it on the pistol.
This has caused me to re-think what I consider for carry, especially if I feel like I might need more ammo than the revolver can hold. I have two identical 642’s, and I’m actually thinking that an old fashioned New York Reload could be more effective in a multiple threat situation than the one 380 holding 9 rounds with a spare magazine in the pocket. They always say, shot placement is king, and if I can land shots faster and more accurately with one platform, why wouldn’t I carry that as my primary?
You can see in the pictures of my arm holding both how different the hand position is, and the relationship of the barrel to my wrist. Sorry about the pictures being mirror image of reality.
What’s your experience been with speed and accuracy of different platforms, and how does it impact your EDC choices?