The Virtues of the Semi-Auto Pistol

The Virtues of the Semi-Auto Pistol

If you read my last piece: “The virtues of the Revolver,” you probably concluded that I am a revolver devotee and that I’ve barely gotten past the Colt SAA stage.  Unfortunately that would be an incorrect conclusion on your part as I was simply stating the obvious attributes of the revolver.  And yes, I do own and carry pistols.  And I, like so many of us who enjoy the shooting sports, do not limit ourselves to one type of firearm over the exclusion of others.  I enjoy shooting rifle, shotgun, revolver and pistol. Each is appreciated for its uniqueness and its ability to do what each class was designed to do best.  It is for this reason that I don’t believe that one manufacturer/style/caliber is best for all.  One size fits all is a bad philosophy to preach, especially to the neophyte hand gunner.  Of course I am partial to one brand and action of semi-auto over all others (and it’s not the 1911…sorry bunko) but I don’t push my preferences upon others.  And that’s how it should be.

Please keep in mind that the following comments are of a general nature; that is, they might not agree with your experience or your particular semi-auto.  With that said, let me say that the biggest and most obvious virtue of the semi-auto is its ability to carry more ammo than the revolver but less than an AR15.  Still, more is definitely better than less. Whether you have a 7+1, 8+1, 15+1, 17+1, etc. shooter, its payload is superior to my J-frame or K frame or N frame revolver.  Yet I still do not feel under gunned when carrying my S&W Model 13 for reasons that I look forward to sharing with you at a later date.

I like the svelte lines of the semi-auto.  Its bulbous free sides make it comfortable to carry if you have to carry without a holster.  If you consider safeties, slide releases, decockers, ambidextrous controls, lasers, flashlights, bayonets, and a SAM launcher, then the svelte lines begin to fade, but generally speaking not excessively.  But for me this is of little concern since my semi-autos go forth unadorned…and I like it like that. (But you should see my shotgun.  It does carry a SAM launcher…well, almost).

The trigger pull on most pistols are generally better than those found on revolvers.  They are lighter, smoother and have a shorter distance to travel than those found on revolvers.  Although most triggers on revolvers can be improved upon, generally speaking, the semi-auto has the edge in this category.

The sights found on the majority of semi-autos are good to excellent; but when compared to what?  When compared to your typical snub nose revolver, then the sights on pistols are superior, but when compared to the sights found on a target revolver, then “good” is as good as it gets.

Let’s keep in mind that comparisons are tricky if you don’t keep things equal and on the same playing field.  It’s an obvious statement but often overlooked when people compare one “something” against another “something” of a different stripe.  There are those that walk among us that feel perfectly justified in comparing the advantages of their high capacity pistol mounted with a LaserMax to a three hundred dollar Stevens Security Model Bottom Ejecting 12 gauge shotgun. Yes. But under what circumstances?  Yet the sad part about this is that these same people VOTE.

What do you feed your pistol?  I feed mine whatever it can digest without choking itself to death (and taking me along with it).  Is this a virtue?  Yes. Once you fine tune its diet it becomes very virtuous.  Even the revolver can’t digest a poorly made round.  All my pistols run like a fine tuned Swiss watch…now, not then.

Fast reloads…some say that this is another positive for the pistol.  I won’t argue against a valid opinion, but I will say that it is not a major factor in my decision on what to carry on any given day.  There are other factors to consider other than ammo capacity or having the option to a quick reload.   But that too is a discussion for another day.

Based on years of shooting, talking to and observing other shooters, I would like to put forth a general statement about those who shoot revolvers or pistols to the exclusion of the other.   For those individuals who fall in the category of “I just want something for the nightstand” or I want a gun but I don’t have a lot of time to spend with it, or I want something simple and straight forward because I’m mechanically challenged, then the obvious choice for this type of person would be the revolver.  For those individuals who take the shooting sport more seriously, who are willing to spend more time with their gun on and off the range, who are willing to spend additional dollars on enhancing their purchase, be it revolver or pistol, are candidates that can appreciate the virtues of the revolver and the pistol and can live happily ever after with both of them if they so choose.

Happy Shooting,


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  1. Good for you, Carol. I went out on the shooting range last year with my ex-Marine son-in-law and he let me fire sevarel handguns. I would suggest you try out a few to see how they feel in your hand as well as how they feel when you fire them (the kick can be quite different in each one). Some are easier to load than others too. My son-in-law also recommended the .357 Sig for women, which your previous commenter bought.

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