Revolver Vs. Pistol for speed and accuracy

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?


Unlike a rifle or shotgun, you have to get a “feel” for a handgun, and make it a part of you. Add in the confidence - or lack of it, plus the proficiency - or lack of it - you’ve gained or lost from past shooting experiences, and these might be your answer. Watching Jerry Miculek or exhibition shooters - even archers like Byron Ferguson or Lars Anderson - and it’s apparent that they OOZE confidence and proficiency.


P.S. - Another strong factor could be the utter simplicity of a revolver - load, aim, shoot - versus the extra motions you need to set up a pistol.


Thanks for sharing! In my experience, a lot of it comes down to how comfortable you are with the particular gun. I’m very comfortable, fast, and accurate with my own handgun. Any time I try a relative’s, though, I’m significantly slower and not quite as accurate, even when the gun in question is similar in size to my own. If you practiced more with the revolver than the pistol, I think that would be the primary contributing factor to your results.


I think the fact that you are mostly dry firing with the revolver is the key. I have had several instructors tell me that at least 80% of your practice should be dryfire. The live fire is mostly just to verify that your dryfire practice is working.

The pistol I have been doing the most dryfire with recently is usually the one I shoot best. I rarely dryfire my revolver since it is very low on my self defense option list and I am significantly slower with it despite the fact that it is a S&W Performance center revolver that is by far the fanciest handgun I own.


My 1st handgun was a Smith Model 10 - but my last and favorite was a Smith Model 25-9 in .45 Colt - I think a lot of us are wheelgunners at heart, but CAS rules don’t extend to the public or the street. One revolver I WOULD like to have is a Smith 586 or Ruger GP-100 in .41 Special, but I can’t nudge Nosler enough to go to SAAMI and standardize it with 180- or 200-grain bullets, the same weights in the .40 and 10mm. Just wait - on the day my orientation reverts from vertical to horizontal as I assume room temperature, these “self-appointed” missions of mine will magically become accomplished - ARRGH!

Thanks for the thoughts. I expect you all are correct, it’s the dry fire practice with the revolver, plus, as Kurt alluded to, for me, the revolver just feels like a natural extension of my hand. My index finger just about lines up with the barrel as I hold it, making it feel a lot like pointing my finger at the target, whereas the pistol feels more like I’m holding a tool. Both feel extremely familiar in my hand, and both have had a few thousand rounds down range, but I’m just surprised at how much better I am with the revolver. One other aspect that makes me favor it is the ammo choice. My Underwood SD 38+P ammo has plenty of testing to show 15" of penetration and full expansion with a 2" barrel like mine, where I still struggle with 380 ammo choice, and balancing expansion and penetration.

I’ll keep carrying the 380. I do like it a lot, its comfortable to wear and easy to conceal, and it’s a great little pistol overall. I feel like a competent shooter with it, but this just goes to show the importance of truly measuring your progress and abilities in order to improve. What I felt in my gut, that I was faster and more accurate with the semi auto, was exactly the opposite of the truth. Monday through Friday I’m forced to only have the little 642 in my pocket holster because of work requirements, so at least it’s good to know that I can really properly use it if I need to, God forbid.

And, Kurt, as for me, you’re right, I am a wheelgunner at heart, as I expect a lot of us are. The next gun for me, when I have “gun money” is a 686 Plus. 7 shots, beautiful classic Smith stainless L frame.

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I think speed and accuracy depends on the shooter more than the hardware.

This ^


“It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot”… :upside_down_face:

The choice is always on you. You carry and use whatever works best for you. That’s why we do have so many options we can choose from.

I like the pictures @Joseph488 posted. They actually perfectly show the difference of using different platforms in one hand shooting.
You either shoot where your trigger finger or thumb points.

I personally get a bad experience and even cannot accurately shoot with shooting hand canted like this one on second picture. It automatically removes revolvers and Glocks from my arsenal. :expressionless:

So … enough about science… The key is to choose the best platform for your body structure and practice with it. There is no reason to look for something else if you know it won’t be as good as the current tool.


I started training and shooting the Smith and Wesson 357 magnum. I started in 1983 and shot with it till after the Marine Corps when I got my 45. I love my 357 and I am very confident with it, but it is a hard gun to conceal while my 45 actually is not hard to conceal. It is a Kimber Ultra carry 2 which is the same size as a P365X but fatter just like me. I have found that training with it and being so familiar with it has made me very comfortable with having it as my EDC. So, I have nothing against “wheel guns” but I do say again, I love mine!


I couldn’t hit a barn with an empty revolver! :rofl: