Another Myth Exploded? Revolver vs. Semi-Automatic Pistol Accuracy

Over at gunnuts.net, Caleb reckons it’s time for someone to shoot holes in the idea that a revolver is inherently more accurate than a semi-automatic pistol. And that someone is him. “Back in the days before CNC machining, it was quite likely that if you took a brand new production revolver off the line and put it up against a brand new semi-auto pistol, the revolver would shoot more accurately. But now days, that’s not the case. To understand why, we have to look at the firing cycle of both guns.” And so he does . . .

A semi-auto pistol chambers the round, and when it is fired, the bullet engages the barrel’s rifling almost instantly. The barrel doesn’t begin its reward movement until the bullet has cleared the barrel. Additionally, most modern constructed semi-automatic pistols lock up quite a bit tighter than the old rattlecan guns of the 1930s and 40s. Thanks to the joys of modern CNC machining, we can build guns with tolerances that would have been unheard of for factory guns even a generation ago . . .

A revolver’s firing cycle starts with the cartridge in the cylinder, and depending on the gun/ammo selection, the bullet may have to travel a significant (for a gun) amount of distance before engaging the rifling. All revolver rounds have to travel some distance in the cylinder, pass through the forcing cone, and then engage the rifling. There’s a lot in those three steps that can affect mechanical accuracy in a wheelgun.

So . . . advantage semi? Caleb doesn’t say, concluding instead by highlighting the obvious variable: the shooter’s ability. Which is kinda right. For the average person, the semi’s lighter shorter trigger travel offers a large advantage in terms of control > accuracy. But there are significant differences in quality control amongst manufacturers. So, what about like vs. like fired by a machine? Hmmmm.

avatar

About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

95 Responses to Another Myth Exploded? Revolver vs. Semi-Automatic Pistol Accuracy

  1. avatarCameron says:

    I would say with comparable ammo ex. 22 o

  2. avatarWilliam Burke says:

    I never could understand how people could believe revolvers were more innately accurate than semi-auto pistols. Based on what data?

    • avatarTom says:

      No data. Just the interwebz/gun store chatter…

      • avatarDavid W. says:

        The semi auto came out like 40 or so years after the Revolver had massive market share. So when semi’s were in their infancy revolvers already had their bugs worked out. Add in how gun owners act when they get older and older. I still have people in gun stores looking at me weird b/c my idea of a hunting rifle is an AR15 with 2 or 3 different uppers rather than 2 or 3 different guns entirely. I’ve also had people complain that I prefer a nice pump over a single shot or a double barrel. Old gun owners TODAY complain. Can’t you see the turn of the century (the 19th one, not the 20th) old gun owner looking at that youngster’s Baby Browning and think that his 3rd model .32 S&W is obviously better?

        Also, a lot of stuff changed in the late years of the 1890s and early years of the 1900s. People went from whale oil lamps to electric power, from horse drawn carriages to the original Fords, from telegraphs to telephone, along with stuff like heavier than air flight and radio. There will probably never be another technological revolution that covers so many aspects of life like the one that happened in those two decades.

        Also think of it this way, people younger than me (and I was born in 1991) will probably never see a corded telephone and wonder why we “hang up” the phone. Or “roll” the windows up. Hell most people my age probably can’t use a standard transmission. They will wonder why we call it a “Standard” transmission when everything they can buy new always has an automatic in it!

        The whole Revolver is more accurate than a semi-auto probably comes from that time because people were trying to hold on to their pasts. I mean think about it, a gun is an expensive purchase, even back then, and people today bitch about phones and computers being outdated when you buy them. Can’t you see someone doing the same thing right around the revolver/semi-auto shake up?

        Also there was the whole Europe vs America when it came to revolvers and semi-autos. We only stopped using them for police around the 1980s where they stopped using them a long time ago.

        So to recap, old people being old, new stuff, newer stuff, everything changing, and Europe vs America rivalry.

        • avatarAccur81 says:

          Well said, sir.

        • avatarRich Grise says:

          Tricycle landing gear vs. conventional.

          And something I’ve never got, and it’s totally wrong – they call a forced-air oven a “convection” oven, and the kind that actually relies on convection, they call a “conventional” oven.

          Why do you park in the driveway and drive on the parkway?

        • avatarHank says:

          Well said. There are still people who think you get colds from going outside with your head wet. In 2013. In America. With college educations.

        • avatarJeffR says:

          Great post, but I became slightly depressed after you said you were born in 1991. I’m not that old, but that made me feel ancient. Kind of like the you must be born after today’s date in 1992 to buy alcohol sign in the grocery store.

        • avatarRuss Bixby says:

          @RG: As a pilot with tail-dragger experience, I can assure you that there’s a very important difference: ground loops.

          When coming in to land, wind shear can be countered by slipping — “crabbing” by use of aileron and rudder — but if you’re not perfectly aligned with the direction of travel, there’ll be a jerk as the rubber hits the road.

          With tricycle gear, the center of gravity is ahead of the main gear and the jerk is into the direction in which the wheels wish to take the aircraft. In other words, it’s self-correcting.

          With a tail-dragger, the C.G. is to the rear of the main gear and the jerk is against the proper direction of travel, a self-magnifying effect which can cause one to spin out unless correctly countered — a thing not always possible. This high-speed spin can overly stress the airframe and in extreme cases cause the aircraft to crash or flip.

          The effect can be simulated by driving in reverse and jerking the wheel to the side. The induced motion will seem much more violent than were the auto going forward, and if you let go of the wheel it will increase rather than decrease.

          I like tail-draggers, mind you, but like manual chokes and mechanical braking systems, they’ve been superseded for good reason.

    • avatarFred says:

      Semi-autos are better in pretty much every category, therefore revolver owners make things up or salespeople make things up to keep revolvers relevant and still selling. Reliability and accuracy are going to be pretty much identical these days, or even in the past ten years. Most people won’t get enough experience to compare or even try to compare in a controlled environment (and collect and analyze the data) to ever know which is more reliable or accurate.

      • avatarRich Grise says:

        A revolver is definitely better for freeway shooting – who wants hot brass bouncing around all over your leather upholstery? ;-)

      • avatarPat says:

        If you pull the trigger on a wheel gun and nothing happens (dud round), you pull the trigger again.
        If you pull the trigger on a semi gun and nothing happens (dud round), your dead.

      • avatarSteveInCO says:

        The only major modern category of firearms I have never owned: revolvers. A .357 magnum is on my list for someday, though.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Based on what you can do “out of the box” with a good quality revolver with a regular length (4.5 to 6″) barrel vs. a full-sized semi-auto with about the same length barrel.

      Your trigger on a good quality revolver, such as a Colt or S&W, in single-action mode, was much, much, much better than anything you could get in a semi-auto from the factory for a long, long time, basically until the custom-as-stock 1911 companies started up – I’m talking the 1911′s that are in the Wilson/Baer/Brown league.

      The factory spec for the single-action trigger weight on a S&W is 2.75 pounds, for example. That single action trigger is miles better, from the factory, than the vast majority of semi-auto triggers.

      The first requirement for most shooters to achieve good accuracy with any gun is a good trigger. If you gave the average shooter a match-barreled, match-chambered, match-ammo’ed gun (revolver, pistol, rifle) with an atrocious trigger (eg, say the trigger off a mil-spec AR-15, which are almost uniformly horrible), they will have a hard time making the gun shoot to its potential. Give an average shooter a gun with a great trigger and run-of-the-mill parts, and odds for that shooter maximizing the potential of that gun are much, much higher.

  3. avatarCyrano says:

    But here is the rub. The semi does not always have the lighter trigger pull and you can shoot a revolver in single action trigger as well. There is also the sight axis question. Revolvers can and do have a longer sight axis than their semi counterparts. There is also the fact that once the bullet engages the lands of the barrel things get stabilized and its the release of the bullet at the muzzle that matters not the entry except if the wheelgun is mistimed which is a quality control issue. Then there is the question of sights with a wide range of center post widths and rear notch widths which can mess up accuracy. A 38 special in 2.5 inch barrel and fixed front post and the poor excuse of a rear notch is not a reasonable comparison to the Glock with an actual front post and rear sight set up with a 3 inch barrel.

    • avatarCliff H says:

      It is very possible that modern machining has greatly improved accuracy of off the shelf semi-autos. I have had a Ruger P85 and a Taurus version of the military Beretta. I currently have a Ruger SR9c which shoots much better than either even though I and my eyes are quite a bit older.

      As for extreme accuracy I think if you’ve got the bucks for a custom semi-auto you will probably get all the accuracy you could ever want or use. If you’ve got the bucks.

      But in 1986 I paid $267.00 for an off the shelf S&W 686, pure stock from the factory. Firing single action with the factory sights and trigger I put all six in one hole at ten o’clock with the lower right edge in the X ring. Admittedly I can’t do this every time and in fact have not gotten that good a group again ever, but I have never even come close to that with any semi-auto I ever fired, no matter how hard I tried. FWIW & YMMV.

  4. avatarensitue says:

    There was a time, before many here were born that revolvers were more accurate than all but the finest autos (1911 vs Officer Model Match)

  5. avatarWPZ says:

    I would call myself pretty much a revo guy (ICORE match director, USPSA B-class in Rev) but it never occurred to me that revolvers were inherently, mechanically more accurate than selfloaders.
    And that’s an attitude that covers forty years of shooting both.
    I have more sixguns than semis, but the nightstand gun is a semi. No confusion there.

    • avatarSwarf says:

      Exactly. Different guns for different jobs; out in the woods I carry a .357 revolver, but my nightstand gun is a semi because 17+1 is hard to beat in a dark-of-night, stranger-busting-down-the-door situation.

      My EDC is a little semi because that’s what I can carry concealed, given the realities of my job, but when I go for a walk after work, it’s a hammerless revolver because it will function from a pocket for more than one shot if it ever had to.

      Additionally, I find the idea that there is any real world accuracy difference between semis and revolvers that is not purely a function of the physical differences between the guns to be laughable.

      Will an 8″ revolver fired single action from a rest get a better group than a 3.5″ semi? It’s likely. Will it be enough of a difference to matter in a shootout? Doubtful.

      Seems like a silly Fudd argument to me.

      Sure, whatever, Granpa. Would you like another Ensure?

  6. avatarCyrano says:

    A second not on space of bullet to lands is a moot point. For those in the accuracy game, its not the jump or jam to the lands, its whether the gun shoots well with either. I have a rifle that shoots well with 20 thousands jammed into the lands and I have one that jumps 20 thousandths of an inch to get to the lands. The one thing that affects the bullet most is the the last 1 inch of barrel where the bullet get’s its last influence from the gun. When a rifle barrel has lost some of its accuracy, it is common to lop off the last inch or so of the barrel, recrown it and it pops back to life.

    • avatarLarry says:

      “The one thing that affects the bullet most is the the last 1 inch of barrel where the bullet get’s its last influence from the gun. When a rifle barrel has lost some of its accuracy, it is common to lop off the last inch or so of the barrel, recrown it and it pops back to life.”

      You are pretty much correct, Cyrano. One of the critical parts of the barrel, regarding accuracy, is the muzzle crown. You ding that up and you totally screw up the shot. You will notice that most barrels have a recessed crown. There is a good reason for that. Check out these two links:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPS8KyYxuA4

  7. avatarLTC F says:

    I’m not a target shooting type. My standard of accuracy is “minute of bad guy” (or “minute of deer”). Speaking as an engineer I would think that in modern weapons the semi-auto should be more accurate (and by accurate I mean if I fired it from a ransom rest the bullets would hit the target close together) just because there are fewer variables. A semi-auto has one chamber, one barrel which are permenantly connected. In theory, given today’s much tigheter tolerances than those of say…pick a year…ahem 1911…the barrel should always be in pretty much the same position within the slide for every shot and the slide in the same position on the lower.

    With a revolver what you have is 6 (sometimes as few as 5, ocassionally as many as 9) chambers sharing one barrel. Those 6 (give or take a few) chambers may or may not line up exactly like the chamber that comes before or after it in the rotation. I would think (again talking as engineer, not gun guy) that the more variables in the equation, the more likely you are to get a different firing solution with each pull of the trigger.

    Having said all that, I don’t worry at all if I happen to be carrying the good old Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 Special instead of the G30 on any given day. Again, because from the distance I’m likely to need them, they’re both one minute of bad guy pistols.

    • avatarPascal says:

      YMMV, see the history of the Smith & Wesson K-38 Combat Masterpiece once the preferred gun of the FBI and many police departments and the precursor to the M&P line. In a rest, my 1955 K-38 can shoot one rather small ragged hole.

      If you visit the Smith and Wesson forum, modern technology and the rush of product has not always been kind to revolvers accuracy.

      At the end of the day, you must define accuracy. Is it shooting out a bulls eye, or minute-of-bad-guy? If minute-of-bad-guy almost any gun will do. Front sight on flesh is probably all most will need.

      Even in competition, you not shooting dime size targets unless you are bench resting a 22lr rifle. Even very new shooters as long as they have the basics of mastering recoil can do very well shooting bowling pins.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The variance between chambers in the cylinder can be handled by line boring the chambers through the barrel of the revolver. The cylinder is left un-drilled, but has the bolt stops machined in. It is mounted into the frame on a snug base pin that has been checked for straightness, a bolt snugly fitted to insure a slop-free lockup.

      Now the chambers are pilot-drilled, indexed to the next position, drilled again, etc. Then they’re line-bored, then removed and chambered.

      This multi-step process takes time, which increases the cost. But the results are there for all to see.

      This is how Freedom Arms gest their accuracy on their hunting revolvers, and it is impressive accuracy. At 100 yards, most hunting rifles would be doing OK to get the sort of accuracy that Freedom gets with their big single-action revolvers.

    • avatarpetie3 says:

      You nailed the biggest difference here. Many revolvers are 357 Mag and up, which completely outclasses the 9mm in power and bullet weight. The 44 spl when properly loaded exceeds the 45ACP and comes in a smaller package. (The Bulldog with a 180 gr at 1100fps is still a tiny 5-shot, and accurate).

  8. avatarS&WFan says:

    Why does it matter? Any quality firearm will be way more accurate than any human hand. Clamping two different guns in a vise will yield separate results, even if they are the same make and model. Just like ANYTHING that is car/gun/sports/shoes/gloves/clothing/just about everything there is no such thing as ‘best’. It all boils down to what works well for the idividual. Bragging rights is about all I can see here. I bet there is somebody out there that can shoot their Taurus revolver better than another shoots his Cabot 1911. We’re only human.

  9. avatarSkyler says:

    I’ve rarely fired a revolver. I don’t see the point in it. They are bulkier, have limited capacity, are difficult to reload, and don’t recock after shooting a round so you either have to recock manually or have a long trigger pull.

    The difference in accuracy is negligible for 99.99% of shooters, and is never a factor when faced with man or animal sized targets. If there is a difference, it could only be measured by competition level shooting, and those shooters don’t have much problem with semi autos either.

    The only possible advantage that many people cite is that revolvers are inherently more reliable. I would concede this point, but well maintained and well designed semi autos rarely have problems either.

    I don’t use a revolver and I don’t use a typewriter.

  10. avatarTheSleeperHasAwakened says:

    “The barrel doesn’t begin its reward movement…”

    I believe the oringial author meant “rearward”, but it’s kind of funny to read as “reward”.

  11. avatardwb says:

    I would not say this myth has been exploded. How can one actually settle this argument without taking two guns, from a sandbag rest (take ability out of it), and showing the groups? Anything else is speculation layered upon some assumptions and wrapped in personal preference. And while we are at it, how about a side-by-side of a modern revolver with a cap and ball? Have we done anything but made it safer and more convenient to load cartridges? I hear what you are saying about a rifled barrel and modern shaped bullets, but I have also seen people do some good shooting with old school revolvers.

    • avatarensitue says:

      I’m rather chagrined to see TTAG revive a Very Tired Meme that was used to sell Gun Rags decades ago (along with the 9 vs. 45, and 6 other publisher created controversy’s). This canard has been tested to death, consult NRA archives for definitive Facts

      • avatardwb says:

        as long as their new shooters this question will be out there. embrace the canard. I just want to see question s settled by putting lead down range.

      • avatar16V says:

        40 years on and there’s still some guys out there who are so deep in rose-colored-fantasy-history glasses, that they truly believe a carb can be better than EFI – let alone DI. Doesn’t matter how many dyno charts you show them, they don’t understand the basic science of combustion, so they fall back on old wives’ tales.

        This is kinda the same thing.

  12. avatarMatt in FL says:

    I never knew that revolver vs semi auto accuracy was an argument until I read this. I’m still not sure it is.

  13. avatarGunracer1958 says:

    IMHO I wouldn’t want to make a living on the difference in accuracy from a properly tuned 1911 platform or an older model S&W K-38. I own NRA Bullseye 1911s in .45 acp and .38 special wadcutter built by Clark as well as a stock K-38 and a Power Custom K-38 PPC gun and they will all shoot one hole 10 shot groups at 25 yards from a sandbag rest. The Power PPC gun will shoot 1/2 inch groups at 50 yards indoors (when I do my part)………….

  14. avatarmike says:

    Well everything in life is a tradeoff, even with a revolver vs SA debate. Wheelers may not have instant accuracy, but they’re helluva lot more reliable. Perfect for CC. Would I give up a little subjective accuracy for reliability? Yep.

  15. avatarSid says:

    I have to wonder if the navy officers had to quell this same argument when the sailors switched from cutlass to sabers?

    • avatarjwm says:

      Navy didn’t switch from cutlas to sabre. The last official cutlas of the navy was the 1917 model.

    • avatarSkyler says:

      Yeah, my cutlass is much more reliable, never needs reloading. I can’t understand these crazy new fangled contraptions.

      (Sarcasm off)

      I don’t use a typewriter or a revolver.

      • avatarjwm says:

        If you’re that narrow minded and set in your ways as a young man, you’re going to be a lonely old man.

        • avatarSkyler says:

          It’s interesting that you consider me a young man. And it’s bothersome that you would insult me.

          Did you know it’s been about two decades since the typewriter was obsolete, and that revolvers have been replaced as weapons by most militaries for about a century and most police for a couple decades?

          Revolvers have their place, to be sure. But I don’t shoot cowboy action competitions.

        • avatarjwm says:

          Skyler, true, I should not have insulted you. I apologize. I use revolvers and semis. I just happen to prefer revolvers. With the way gun laws are going here in California I may look into a cutlass for a house weapon.

        • avatarRuss Bixby says:

          In California, open sword carry IS legal…

      • avatarRuss Bixby says:

        Hmmm… I use both.

        A LASER printer is nice, but not for three-part alarm permit application forms, and my penmanship is atrocious thanks to a severed/reattached right thumb.

        My typer is an 1899 Oliver No. 2, by the way; it gives my desk some class along with the ’40s era Kellogg red bar dial ‘phone – with a home-brew TouchTone adapter (used only when needed for menus and the like) inline with the wall cord.

        There’d be a whole other debate about which has the best sound quality, new plastic or ancient Bakelite, were the difference not so obvious.

        To each their own.

  16. avatarBarry says:

    The author missed the point. The inherent accuracy claim rests on the fact that with a revolver the barrel and the sights never move…they remain in the same configuration from shot to shot to shot. However, with an automatic at a minimum the slide (with the sights mounted on it) move with every shot and with some autos the barrel AND the slide move. That means that with an auto the barrel and the slide with the sights must return to EXACTLY the same configuration relative to each other as with each preceding shot for consistent accuracy. With a tuned auto, they generally do, until they get fouled then they don’t. Service grade autos rarely do as there is always some wiggle room in the fit…there is a reason the service 1911s were so reliable -they were fairly “loose”…consequently not as accurate as a revolver where the barrel/sight relationship never changes. To me, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot as either is more accurate than I am…

    • avatarCyrano says:

      +1 on that. I was going to write the moving parts part but you beat me to it. The author needs to define accuracy. Is it minute of bad guy or subMOA. How about comparing two guns clamped in a vice like a SW 686 in 4 inch barrel to a Springfield XD in 4 inch barrel config. The SW shoots 38 Specials in Single action and so will the XD but 9 mm. Off the rack for both. Both from 5 years ago to avoid this stupid mess in quality lately. Both shoots the same brand of ammo in the closest to each other in bullet type and grain.

  17. avatarPulatso says:

    I know I’m more accurate with a wheel gun than my automatics, but I chalk that up to more experience with revolvers, I prefer to fire single action when target shooting, and the fact that both automatics I regularly fire are compact pistols with shorter barrels than my revolvers.

  18. avatarDon says:

    While I like the argument my opinion remains that they are equivalently accurate given equivalently good barrels and ammunition. Definitely so in the practical sense and most likely intrinsically so as well.

    Mostly because the recoil impulse that most affects accuracy begins way before the bullet exists the gun. The first few recoil impulses are small and mostly unnoticeable. A small impulse begins with the motion of the hammer or striker due to the acceleration of its mass. Another impulse occurs when the firing pin strikes the primer due to the negative acceleration of mass. The main accuracy-affecting recoil impulse is due to the acceleration of the mass of the bullet from rest to whatever speed it is going at the end of the barrel. This impulse is of the largest magnitude and occurs over the longest duration. When the bullet leaves the barrel that’s when (for a recoil operated locked breech) the rearward movement should start to unlock the barrel, but it turns out that very high speed gases exit before the bullet in almost all rifled barrels. This gas has low mass but tremendous velocity and on high speed you can see the initial stages of rearward movement of the barrel w.r.t. the frame.

    Under all of these other considerations, the distance to the lands argument is probably under the noise floor. Also,the springs in the semi-auto do not change the sum total of momentum involved, they just distribute the force over time differently. Ok… they don’t change it much, as the spring flexes it will transform some probably immeasurable the energy. A larger number of moving parts striking each other will transform some energy into sound as well. Again, insignificant.

    What I find less appealing on a purely aesthetic level is that the pistol has 3 distinctly noticeable sequential delayed recoil impulses, when the slide begins moving, when it changes direction, and when it stops forward again. But this doesn’t affect accuracy at all. It’s more about if you like the feel of your recoil all at once or divided up a bit. It’s purely personal preference.

    The distance to the lands argument is more of an influential consideration in rifles because you’ve already mitigated the larger contribution to inaccuracy (managing the recoil which starts upon bullet acceleration) by increasing the mass of the platform AND by bracing the platform better with your body. In handguns I think it would come out in the wash.

    For handguns it comes down to is a properly tuned action, revolver or pistol, a good barrel, and good ammunition. After that, anything else you’d see from springs and slides and cylinder gaps and forcing cones, your probably not seeing, it’s probably you.

    -D

    • avatarDon says:

      edit: ” as the spring flexes it will transform some probably immeasurable amount of energy into heat.”

  19. avatarMike B says:

    Grant Cunningham’s website has good info on this, both for revolver accuracy and reliability.

    For pure accuracy, like in American bullseye competition or international target shooting, it’s hard to beat a match grade 22LR blow-back action with a target-grade single-action triger shooting lot-selected match grade ammunition. There is no cylinder gap from the chamber to the barrel, which has a bore-to-bore alignment tolerance (which will also change from chamber-to-chamber) and which can lead to bullet deformation, and the barrel/chamber/sights are monolithic, so there are no issues with lockup tolerances.

    That said, I have picked up more than one revolver that I could shoot 95+’s too.

    Accuracy from defense oriented guns is another matter, but also carries with it the idea that you are less concerned with the gun’s ultimate accuracy in order to have a heavier trigger weight, a striker-fired or double-action triger, etc.

  20. avatarjwm says:

    This is just another twist on the stopping power debate. There’s no absolute answers. I prefer a revolver for most uses but I’m on record here as saying that if I was a cop or soldier I’d want a semi.

    In my younger days I could take a bone stock K frame Smith and shooting from a standing position double action I could put six rounds in one raggedy hole from 7 yards and do that more often than not. I was never able to do that with the semis that I had access to.

    I have a bone stock M10 from the 60′s that when I shoot single action I can usually out shoot any service grade semi with.

    For the record, I own both. I just happen to prefer the revolver.

  21. avatarRandallOfLegend says:

    Neither is more accurate at the ranges you are supposed to shoot a pistol. If you want to test true accuracy you would need to lock them in a vice and shoot at 50 yards. Take the human out of it. Regardless their are well made pistols and well made revolvers. If anything it would be an accuracy comparison against brands, and not type.

  22. avatarBig C says:

    Some of it may come from the fact that revolvers tend to be more amenable to longer barrel lengths. When was the last time you saw a semi with a 6 or 8 inch barrel? With modern manufacturing I would think semis hold the edge if barrel lengths are kept equal.

  23. avatarThomas Paine says:

    i heard nagant pistols shoot .5 MOA out to 300 yrds

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      While my Nagant is very accurate — especially with Russian military ball ammunition — it’s a revolver with a 4.25″ barrel.

      My Mosin-Nagant is certainly that accurate, of course.

      Were you complimenting the venerable M1895, making a joke about what is meant by “Nagant” or just pulling our collective leg?

      Any which way, I’m chuckling.

      • avatarS_J says:

        You must’ve gotten a really good one. My ’44 Izzy can do about 1.5-2.0 MOA @ 100 yards, not bad considering. Once it gets hot though it’s all over the place. A barrel float and channel sanding is in order but lately I just can’t be arsed.

        • avatarRuss Bixby says:

          ’37 Tula, floated by the previous (Russian) owner.

          All I’ve done is shave the bayonet such that it requires neither a pile driver to install nor dynamite to deinstall and to re-lacquer the beast.

          I left it sighted for use with the bayonet, as when hunting one just never knows. One time while waiting for Bambi I flushed a boar and that bayonet paid for all the ribbing I’d ever gotten at the range.

          A nice Mosin is often perfect from the arsenal, ’tis.

    • avatarDJ says:

      My Nagant revolver has a visibly bent front sight, and shoots a 4″ group at 7 yards. Heavy wear. ’33 manufacture and someone carried it for a looooonnng time. And it has the worst trigger ever, ever. Beavers could gnaw a better trigger from a log. Iz only for the shooting of the Nazis, and maybe the conskriptz.

      My wife loves it. We went to the range last Saturday because she wanted to shoot it. She calls it “my cap gun”. Watching her shoot it is hilarious, she is literally laughing between shots.

      That Nagant is worth every penny I paid for it. I’m never selling.

  24. avatarmediocrates says:

    so… in regards to absolute machine fired accuracy, what are we talking about? centimeters? inches? I’m still trying to get inside the silhouette at 10 feet. I’ll get back to you when my “hits” aren’t so random… ;-)

  25. avatarJoshuaS says:

    Ignoring trigger pull, which affects shooters’ accuracy differently for different people, I would bet that revolvers would be rated as more accurate. 1. Revolvers are more likely to have longer barrels. Longer barrel means easier to aim, generally easier to control muzzle rise, and flatter trajectory (all else being equal, more velocity). 2. Certain popular revolver catridges have higher velocities than popular semi cartridges. Compare the trajectories of a 357 to a 9mm. 3. Revolvers are more likely to be weightier, again helping with muzzle rise and recoil

    Nothing prevents a semi from having a longer barrel, or firing a higher velocity round, etc. But speaking of generalities of course/

    • avatarCyrano says:

      Yes lots prevents semis from having longer barrels. Its called a cracked slide. Thats why most stick to 5 inch barrels. You get that sowing machine action going enough and you will get a longitudinal failure in a semi.

      • avatar16V says:

        Only applicable to certain designs. Look at an AMT Hardballer Longslide. It wasn’t my favorite pistol, but it did work pretty well for a 1911 derivative.

        Besides, no reason the slide has to be as long as the barrel – See Desert Eagle 14″.

  26. avatarRalph says:

    This myth is so pervasive, so deep and so longstanding that I never heard of it. Maybe I haven’t heard of it since it’s not true.

    OTOH, I have heard that revolvers are inherently more reliable than semiautomatic pistols, and that I do believe.

  27. avatarBusa-20 says:

    Back in the early 80s I purchased a Colt 357 Python & a Colt Mark 4 45 (the one under the gold cup). At the Long Beach Pistol Range I would pick up the Python and put 6 in the black every time. Then I would pick up the Mark 4 – 45 shoot 7 shots and hope all were on the paper. Also with Factory Rem 45 ball ammo I would get at least 1 jam out of a box of 50 rounds. After shooting a 45 round in the hard dirt on a shooting trip one time I dug the slug out of the dirt, looked at the bullet and I could have re-loaded it, rifling groves being the only deformation of the slug………..last 45 I have ever owned !
    I did have a Desert Eagle in 357 & 44 that I regularly put 6+ in the X at 50 feet but they had a fixed 6″ barrel with a red dot scope.

  28. avatarTom in Oregon says:

    I think some of it may be attitude, or frame of mind. We had a guy who was vehemently anti “semi”. He refused to give up his 686. He couldn’t, (or didn’t want to?), shoot a semi well at all. That was in 1990. Today, he carries a G-21 and is an excellent shot with it. He laughs about it today. Admits he was a stick in the mud.

  29. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Let’s see:

    Are there any groups to back up this claim? ie, were groups shot out of a revolver and then out of a semi-auto, at the same range? No.

    Are there any groups that take the human factor out of the issue to do any testing (ie, was a Ransom rest used)? No.

    Just a bunch of postulation from someone talking about CNC machining, but one who I strongly suspect hasn’t any experience with manual or CNC machines. There’s a marketing trope in the US gun market that CNC machines “cure” everything that’s wrong with a gun.

    • avatarGunracer1958 says:

      DG

      It’s funny that you mention a Ransom rest………..in early ’91 I purchased a Nastoff 45 from a friend that was going through a divorce (good for me, sucked for him) and that pistol would never shoot a good group from my Ransom rest, but was an absolute tack driver from sandbags.

      No first shot flyers from either rest, just better groups out of the hand. Never could figure it out and Steve got out of the business before I had a chance to talk to him about it. It’s still one of the most accurate combat .45s I’ve ever owned or shot, finish and detail was unbelievable, it just didn’t like a mechanical rest I guess……..

  30. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Oh, one more thing:

    When one is talking of the potential accuracy of pistols and revolvers, here’s a tip, boys and girls:

    If your gun doesn’t group 2″ or less at 50 yards, from a Ransom Rest, you’re not in possession of an “accurate” handgun.

  31. avatarCrunkleross says:

    I suspect many on the forum are too young to remember this discussion when it came around every 6 months in the gun rags? From the 60′s to the 80′s it was kicked around many times in print.

    If you are talking about hand held accuracy many times the revolver shot single action will win out. Nothing in an auto is as light and crisp as the single action trigger on a SW or Colt revolver. Plus the 38 special and 44 special/magnum are more inherently accurate than standard ball ammo out of a auto in 9mm or 45acp. The 9mm ball bullet is lacking in bearing surface making accuracy difficult to start with. Qualifying LEO back when revolvers and auto’s were split about 50/50, the revolver shooters would outscore the autos by a good margin. Part of the reason was the auto’s shot full power ammo and the revolver shooters got to shoot powder puff wadcutters with much less recoil. Unless you are Jerry Miculek most of us will shoot the lower recoiling handgun better.

    Inherent mechanical accuracy is a completely different thing, but a small part of the hand held accuracy. People incorrectly equate CNC machining with more accuracy, CNC makes it possible to turn out good parts quicker, it is a production tool, but not necessarily to build more accurate firearms. For instance when the ways on a big lathe need to be trued it’s still done super accurately by hand scraping. As Dyspeptic alludes to the letters CNC are used as a sales tool to those who have no experience with what machining is really about.

    The most accurate handguns are neither. I had a Witchita single shot bolt action handgun in 7mm IHMSA that would shoot 1\4 minute hand held from the creedmore position. Between revolvers and autos….it depends. I’ve built and shot lots of accurate revolvers and autos. With revolvers the cylinder alignment and the throat size for the bullet have to be correct, I’ve shortened cylinders and saw no change in accuracy. With autos it’s mostly in the barrel fit.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Very true. The ways on just about anything super-accurate can be and are hand-scraped. Old tool & cutter grinders had lovingly scraped ways, and mills did too. The grinders used to hit sizes down to tenths of a thousandth of an inch on a regular basis.

      CNC machines typically don’t use scraped ways, they use recirculating ball ways and linear slides. These are quite good, but they overall effect isn’t really any better than a well-conditioned manual machine. They just wear longer (mostly due to their automatic lubrication) and, if the slides wear our or get damaged, you can probably replace them more quickly (and therefore be down much less time) than calling in the last of the guys who can hand-scrape ways with their camelback standards.

      You have to step up quite a bit in cost to obtain a CNC machine that has better ultimate accuracy potential than a manual machine in good condition. Something like a Kitamura MyCenter is in the class of CNC machine that has accuracy potential above and beyond even the best manual machines – and this is achieves both by high-spec bearings in the spindles, and temperature-controlled ballscrews, ways, etc. They’re very, very nice… and expensive. You’ll see some of the guys making benchrest rifle actions using Kitamuras for their machining centers.

      Most CNC machines are repeatable in positioning to 0.0002 inches, and with a typical spindle runout of 0.0002 inches, it means that you can hit sizes down to the 0.0005″ fairly reliably. A quality manual machine with a skilled machinist at the controls can do the same thing, and manual machine spindle bearings are just about the same level of runout as the common CNC machines’ are. Until one brings the dump truck full of cash required to buy the high-end CNC machines, the CNC aspect just improves production rates and lowers the salary expense for the business owner.

    • avatarRalph says:

      I suspect many on the forum are too young to remember this discussion

      Actually, I might be too old to remember this discussion. And where I put my eyeglasses. Also my keys.

  32. avatarGov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    0I don’t imagine the jump through the cylinder gap and into the forcing cone is any different than having a longer leade in a rifle, it gives the bullet more of a chance to shift before it engages the rifling. If it’s cocked a bit sideways it will deform the bullet and you’ll lose accuracy. That said, when it comes to handguns they are all far more accurate than most shooters. You could put two handguns in ransom rests and gun A might be more accurate but shooting unsupported might result in gun B being easier to shoot accurately. Odds of having a decent rest when the SHTF are pretty low, so I’d take gun B.

    The other thing that I think isn’t emphasized enough in making the auto/revolver comparison it overall size. It takes a 2″ barreled revolver to match the size of a 4″ auto.

  33. avatarRKflorida says:

    If I was to purchase a handgun right now for practical use, it would be a Semi-auto. I would prefer a revolver, I like them better. I would further prefer a Single Action revolver, I like them even more. But I did say practical, and if you are a news junkie as I am, you may have noticed over the last few years that the danger is no longer a single person. It very well might be a mob. So, it’s a 17+1 with an extra magazine. Gnats ass accuracy be damned.

  34. avatarDave says:

    This why I just stick to the good old blunderbuss.

    • avatarjwm says:

      A cutlass and a blunderbuss. Arrgh.

      • avatarRich Grise says:

        David slew Goliath with a sling.

        • avatarjwm says:

          From the readings I’ve done about the old Romans they used slings with lead projectiles of a uniform size and shape. From what I’ve read the effects on their targets were similer to musket shots, without the use of gunpowder. Nasty weapon, the sling, but probably a bit awkward at inside the house ranges.

  35. avatarRuss Bixby says:

    Hmmm… My TT-33 and Nagant are about equally accurate in the hand, but the Nagant was more so in a clamp — where it spent a short while as I yaw sighted it.

    My Colt Navy gun is, of course, nowhere near the other two as it’s a cap ‘n’ ball and the mortise/tennon attachment of barrel to frame isn’t exactly tight.

    That makes sense, as however nicely made the beasties are, the barrel of the automatic is not contiguous with the hande, and a Nagant has an advantage over most wheelies in that the bullet hits the rifling with no slop as the brass (extending into the cone) perfectly engages the barrel itself at the start of the rifling.

    ‘Course, revolvers differ and only a very few do the gas-seal bit and nowadays autos are as tight as modern engines.

    Never really thought about it, though. My machines work more than well enough to suit me.

  36. avatarJason says:

    I’ve never understood the craze over ‘accuracy’ of a firearm. Most quality firearms will out shoot the shooter. Plant them in a vice and test where they shoot, and differences in accuracy will be minimal. However, when people talk about how a Glock is ‘more accurate’ than the Beretta, or their revolver is more accurate than their pistol, they usually mean they have an easier time hitting the target. This is based solely on subjective properties like ergonomics, sight picture, and trigger feel (some like a stronger trigger while other like a hairpin).

    That said, the considerations brought by the article are rather one sided. Sights and barrels do not return to the exact same place every time on a semi, which will reduce accuracy. A revolver’s sights and barrel does not move. Also, there is play in any firearm’s barrel while being shot. This is why the Dan Wesson brand of revolvers had renown for accuracy, with tension on both sides of the barrel, flex and movement was minimized. Additionally, the actual distance between the bullet and forcing cone is very small in a revolver and the bullet spends longer in contact with the rifling than with a similar barreled pistol. Either way, the differences are going to be negligible for most shooters and applications.

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      With the exception of a few oddball carbines from the Civil War, revolvers tend to be pistols.

      • avatarJason says:

        No, pistol is a designation for a handgun in which the chamber is integral to the barrel. ie- a 1911′s chamber is part of its barrel.

        A revolver’s chambers are independent from the barrel, which is why they are not pistols. ie- a standard 686 has 6 rotating chambers which are separate from the barrel.

        There are a few oddball REVOLVERS that are also PISTOLS, ie- the pepperbox revolvers, but revolvers in general are NOT pistols.

        I think you are confusing pistol with handgun, pistol is a certain subset of handgun with a chamber integral to the barrel.

        • avatarRuss Bixby says:

          Well, I will be well and truly jiggered.

          I’ve oft stated that the day one stops learning is the day that they sart dying, and I just learned something.

          I doff my hat, sir.

  37. avatarLars says:

    What a dumb article. Whether a certain firearm is more accurate or not is almost always dependent on the skills of the shooter, and the skills of the shooter with each specific gun. In most cases the longer the barrel the more accurate, if the sights are setup properly. I can drill bullseye holes all day in .357 mag with both 4″ and 6″ with stock sight where as I cannot with most semi-autos with upgraded aftermarket sights.
    Where is the real argument here? Most of you are limited in shooting skills, so whether you have a revolver or semi-auto is meaningless. It’s all about the shooter’s skills. I’d say 80% shooter and the rest of the 20% can go to the gun itself, barrel length and the sights. Even the caliber.
    I’m a young shooter at late 30s, never owned a revolver until just 3 years ago. All .357 mags. A S&W 686, a Taurus Ti 627 and a gp100. I own a dozen or more semis, mostly glocks and rugers. One a RMR glock which I regret wasting money on. Talk about myths. I shoot more accurately and consistently with those three revolvers than I do with those dozen plus semis. Why? IDK. I just do. So I can understand where the revolvers are more accurate myth, I mean fact comes from. It comes from truth.

  38. avatarOut_Fang_Thief says:

    I’ve been an avid gunner all my life, but I never heard that myth.
    At least, I don’t recall anyone I know putting forth such a claim.
    I went straight from a Ruger .22 match pistol to a Beretta 92F.
    I sold the Beretta almost immediately after Lethal Weapon for
    the Sig 226. I’ve been a hopeless Sig-aholic ever since.
    As the saying goes, ” There’s no such thing as too much ammo.”

    • avatarRoadrunner says:

      The first Sig I ever fired was a P226 in 9mm a generous guy at the range let me try out years ago. That was all it took. So far nothing’s come close, at least in my hand, to a Sig. Cheers, fellow Sig fan. And in keeping with the post, it’s certainly as accurate as any revolver I’ve ever fired, including the beloved 686.

    • avatarDJ says:

      +1 on the Sig endorsement. With a Sig, it’s not the weapon – it’s you.

      My first semi was a P220 I bought in 1993. I carry a P250 compact 9mm. My wife carries a p250 subcompact 9mm (hey, she’s got man hands).

  39. avatarMartin B says:

    I have yet to hear of any modern shootist emulating the feats of Wild Bill Hickock in public displays of marksmanship, particularly riding full speed firing two Navy revolvers with both hands at targets on posts either side of the riding track.

    The hand-eye coordination task is immense, requiring years of training, and enormously useful in the days of combating hostile Indians on the plains.

    Of course, this was well before the days of semi autos – who would attempt this today?

  40. avatarneolocke says:

    It really doesn’t matter weather a pistol or revolver is more accurate. The data shows that in the crisis of a gunfight everyone shooting any handgun is almost always inaccurate. 60% of shots fired in close (< 21 ft) quarter gun fights are misses (an entire human target). I don't know the exact % but read that in bear charges inaccuray is also the norm. In other words we should all expect to be VERY inaccurate when firing any handgun in a crisis. LEOs miss 60% of the time with their service pistol.

    I read the results of a very extensive study and my memory is pretty good. Somewhere between 1 n 10 or maybe 1 in 5 LEOs that survive a gunfight have no memory of: how many shots they fire or ever having seen much less used their sights (they probably never bothered to use them – which explains the horrendous hit ratio). One fact I remember crystal – those using a revolver had a much better chance of using there sights – the author (experienced firearms instructor) deduced this was because of the much larger front sight on the revolver. They (revolver users) also had a better hit to miss ratio. After collecting the data he (author) added – somehow made his front sight larger ( maybe tape I don't remember) but he painted it in florescent pink.

    In my experience the auto pistols I have used I do not consider accurate ( except for blow back design). I mean the weapon not me which I know that my accuracy is questionable but improving and no longer embarrassing. I don't rate weapon accuracy based on rounds fired from my stance. I always shoot a new weapon 1st from a supported position. From a supported position I am more accurate than any pistol I have ever fired. I always deduced this was the result of the inherent instability of pistol barrels. Currently my supported and off hand groups from my Glock are getting pretty close to the same size. I consider the off hand groups reasonable considering I know that I'm moving/shaking. But the supported groups are much to big because I know I'm dead nuts steady.

    I don't have enough experience with a revolver (some) to speak from experience but always assumed that the stable barrel would produce smaller groups at least from a supported position. I do have considerable experience with blowbacks including a Rugar 22 Mk III and a custom 45 APC. Both shoot much more accurate than my Glock and my other pistols especially from a supported position. From my blow back autos the supported groups are clearly smaller.

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.