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.