CCW: Revolver or Autoloader?

The Kimber SIS is one of the best looking .45 automatics on the planet and proof that looks don’t have to be only skin deep. The pistol is also a great shooter.

The Kimber SIS is one of the best looking .45 automatics on the planet and proof that looks don’t have to be only skin deep. The pistol is also a great shooter.

Semi-automatics, on the other hand, can be very sensitive when it comes to ammunition. A different bullet shape may alter feeding characteristics or a different powder charge may slow down or speed up the slide, thus producing anything from a “stovepipe” on the way out to a feeding jam on the way in. It is important that the ammunition which will be in the weapon when it is carried is the ammunition with which you do at least some of your practice. If, let’s say, you can get some really inexpensive ammo and you want to burn it up for practice, fine.

Just make certain that you have run enough ammo through your semi-auto of the type that will be carried on the street. The popular wisdom – and I wouldn’t dispute it – is that a minimum of two hundred failure-free rounds should be put through the weapon before carrying the weapon for defense.

A removable magazine, erroneously called a “clip” by some, even some who know better, is the ammunition delivery system for a semi-automatic pistol. They are called “automatics” because they “automatically” load the next round into the chamber in the barrel until the supply in the magazine is exhausted.

A removable magazine, erroneously called a “clip” by some, even some who know better, is the ammunition delivery system for a semi-automatic pistol. They are called “automatics” because they “automatically” load the next round into the chamber in the barrel until the supply in the magazine is exhausted.

In brief, if you are a gun knowledgeable person of satisfactory adult strength, either a revolver or a semi-auto will get you through.

The final question is, however, which type is more easily concealed? Because the semi-auto is flatter and the grip doesn’t flare outward, the semi-auto wins over all revolvers except the five-shot snubby .38. Full size revolvers are rarely concealed at waist level, these days; if carried concealed at all, they are more likely going to be worn in a diagonal shoulder holster. Full-size semi-autos, on the other hand, are worn concealed at waist level by droves of concealed weapons carriers.

Earlier in this chapter, we compared the two-inch J-frame with five shots to the Detonics CombatMaster with six or seven rounds. Comparing my old six-shooter version of the Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 Magnum to a full-size 1911 with seven round magazine plus one in the chamber, we see that both handguns are a nominal 8.75 inches long, the 686 revolver 5 inches in height while the 1911 runs about 5.25 inches. The 686, measured at the cylinder (the widest part of the revolver), goes 1.5 inches. The 1911, measured at the ejection port, is under 7/8 of an inch wide. The 686’s barrel is only 4 inches long and the 1911’s barrel is 5 inches in length.

I like a good revolver as much as the next guy – and maybe more. But in a package not much over half as wide as a revolver, I can have two more rounds, reload lots faster and still have an extra inch of barrel for enhanced cartridge performance and accuracy, all while being able to hide the gun on body more easily and more comfortably. If I shift to the slightly fatter large capacity semi-auto, regardless of manufacturer, I can have twice as many rounds as even the more modern seven-shooter revolvers.

If I were to compare capacities between a six-shot revolver loaded with light .357s or moderate .38 Specials and an ordinary Glock 17 9mm with the best possible ammo choice, the Glock would have three times the capacity and, depending on loads chosen, not identical but comparable useful oomph on the target. The facts speak for themselves.

This article is an excerpt from the book Armed for Personal Defense. Click Here to get your copy.


We recommend these concealed carry resources:
New! Gun Digest Buyer’s Guide to Concealed Carry Pistols

The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry

The Gun Digest Book of Combat Handgunnery

Effective Handgun Defense, A Comprehensive Guide to Concealed Carry

Find more resources at gundigeststore.com/tactical