Revolver vs Semi-automatic: Which is more reliable?

revolver vs semiauto

In the 1800s this was not a question, in fact, the invention of a firearm with a cylinder capable of repeated shots without having to reload was an unforeseen innovation.

Little did they know that this industry was going to become what it is today, from revolvers of many calibers and sizes to semi-automatic and automatic weapons, to sniper rifles that can shoot over 1,500 meters.

This raises the question, one of many, as to which weapon is the best option to carry for self-defense, considering there are many options that were not available 150 years ago.

Should I carry a revolver or a semiautomatic?

A survey conducted on 183 people by the community platform revealed that 79.8% of the surveyees prefer a semi-automatic firearm as their weapon of choice to carry, meanwhile, only 20.2% would rather choose a revolver to defend themselves.

The common answer as to why most people favored semi-automatic firearms over revolvers was because of the capacity to carry more rounds.

It is no surprise that people prefer to have more ammo and not have to use it than not having the ammo but needing it.

Semi-automatic firearms give you the opportunity to carry a magazine with many rounds, anywhere from 6 rounds up to 18 rounds for concealable handguns.

Nowadays companies are focusing on compact-size handguns with higher magazines capacity.

Firearms that used to be the first choice 10 years ago for everyday carry are now considered obsolete due to the fact they allow less than 10 rounds per magazine.

Compact handguns with high-capacity magazines are something that has revolutionized the industry and that is pushing the companies to come up with newer and updated versions of their previous best sellers.

Are revolvers easier to maintain?

Maintenance is always something to keep in mind when you decide to attain a firearm.

Being a tool that is put through hundreds of rounds can often lead to malfunctions and reliability problems.

Proper cleaning and lubrication of any firearm is very important but most importantly a revolver.

Revolvers are probably one of the most reliable handguns as long as they are properly taken care of; they have a cylinder mechanism that can lead to problems if not properly cleaned and lubricated.

If this is your duty or carry weapon, it is always a good idea to disassemble it at least once a week to make sure this mechanism is not compromised if you are using it heavily.

Firearms instructor and founder of Active Self Protection John Correia has addressed this topic before.

Throughout his years of experience, he has faced these issues in the past.

Correia mentions in one of his videos instructing that considering the weapon will be most likely in your waist most of the time, it can be exposed to body oils, change in temperature, and lint from the clothes which can all lead to malfunctions.

These are things that can be avoided by purchasing good quality revolvers.

It should not be a surprise that a good quality weapon from a well-known and respected manufacturer would not give these problems as long as it is well maintained.

Which is better for self-defense?

Revolvers were once the standard of concealed carrying, but that has changed throughout the years.

The U.S. Department of Justice published an article discussing the Police Handgun dilemma, this study focused on different scenarios in which the police officers had to perform different drills with both a revolver and a semiautomatic handgun.

Ninety-three percent of the officers said they preferred the semi-auto pistol over the revolver, some of the reasons being an increase in firepower, less recoil, and ease in reloading.

Even though there are modern and quicker methods to reload a revolver nowadays with moon clips; nothing beats a magazine with 10-15 extra rounds in your pocket.

And yes, it’s understandable that some people might still prefer revolvers due to the fact they “believe” they offer expanded calibers.

But these strong loads can only be helpful if you can hit what you’re intending to hit, as recoil will affect your accuracy and target acquisition.

Is a revolver or semi-auto cheaper?

Like every firearm, it does not matter if it’s a handgun, shotgun, or rifle when it comes to varying prices.

Smaller calibers like 22 long rifle can be found anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on where you decide to go shopping.

The same thing applies to semiautomatic pistols.

There are manufacturers out there that are known to produce low-cost firearms like in the case of Hi-point.

These can be found for $120 if proper research is done, but they may not be the most desirable.

Let’s not forget that just like there are expensive revolvers, there also are expensive semiautomatic handguns

It will all depend on the purpose of the firearm.

If you are looking for a high-quality pistol for competition shooting, then your costs are going to be higher.

If the purpose of this firearm is to be left in the farm truck or some other hard-use location, then you may want to search for a lower-cost option.

None of this includes aftermarket accessories and gadgets that can be added to the weapon; flashlights, custom triggers, custom slides, red dots are things that many people are looking for their personal firearms, and this will also raise the total price.

Why use a revolver over a semiautomatic?

Ease of use, ease of concealment, additional safety features, or just how fun they are at the range, are some of the reasons why someone would prefer a revolver over a semiautomatic handgun.

Revolvers consist of a pinned cylinder with a plunger in the front that can be depressed in order to push the extractor to the rear and thus emptying out any cartridges.

This is a very self-explanatory process, and it is one of the reasons why people like these firearms.

The other main reason people love revolvers is a simple fact that you can shoot many different calibers, anything from .22LR up to 44 Magnum and 500 S&W.

Even though the later calibers may be considered overkill and not necessary in a self-defense urban environment, they are the chambering of choice for many hunters.

And lastly, how fun they are to shoot, the weight and feel of any revolver are much different than that of a semi-automatic.

That combined with the double-action trigger is a big draw for a lot of folks.

Why use a semiautomatic over a revolver?

Hand Gun

There are many reasons why someone would choose a semiautomatic handgun over a revolver; from aesthetics and size to aftermarket support, but the most important reason in my opinion is ammunition capacity.

There is an old saying “If you can’t take care of the threat with 6 shots, you shouldn’t be carrying a gun in the first place”, but there are many wrong things with this piece of advice.

That statement is not taking into consideration the distance of the threat, the influence of drugs, multiple threats, and the physiological response of the body.

Having someone on the other end shooting at you or running towards you will affect your ability to put shots where they need to be.

There are multiple self-defense videos out there that show people being shot 12-14 times and still not being immediately stopped.

The Washington Post published an article about an incident in which Sergeant Frank Pruitt had to act in self-defense against Kevin Costlow on February 6, 2021.

A video was taken by a bystander showing the deputy backing away from Costlow while he’s walking towards him with a tree branch and slamming it down on the sergeant. 

It took 12 rounds to put Costlow on the ground, and this only raises the question of why?

Apparently, Kevin Costlow was going through a psychotic episode and his wife mentioned that he could hear voices talking to him and that he thought he was Jesus Christ.

This is only one of many self-defense cases out there in which more than 6 rounds were needed to neutralize a threat.


As with all things, choosing a revolver or semi-automatic is highly subjective.

Intended purpose, method of carrying, proficiency, comfort, etc., all impact the decision.

Your best bet is to try as many models as you can and make a decision based on your personal research.

When all else fails, buy one of each and call it a day.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

Recent Posts